Alexandria, VA

This week’s Q&A column is written by McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant market news, contact Mary Ellen at 703-472-5454. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Say yes to this fabulous historic home in Old Town!

Take a sunny tour of 217 S Fairfax Street with local Alexandria resident and owner of Salon Monte, Monte Durham and Mary Ellen Rotondo of McEnearney Associates. This incredible home is one of Alexandria’s most exclusive properties! To learn more, connect with Mary Ellen by phone 703-472-5454 or visit FineLivingRE.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 written by Ann McClure of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant market news, contact Ann at 301-367-5098 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Inspecting? What should I expect?

Answer: Home Inspections. So beneficial — even in a very tight inventory market. I get it, sometimes to get a house a buyer might feel they have to waive the inspection. However, I would encourage this buyer to still do a home inspection, post-closing or at least have some experts out to check major systems (HVAC, roof, chimney, electrical and plumbing). Making the most of this time and these experts is key to successful home ownership.

Buyers, this is your opportunity to learn about your future property — the biggest investment you will likely ever make. Won’t your parents feel better knowing you inspected? All kidding aside, home maintenance is critical to both enjoying where you live and your prospects for resale down the road.

An inspection may also reveal current defects or, at the very least, items needing attention in the future. For instance, did you notice the tell-tale signs of water intrusion along the baseboards in the lower level? Or the mold-like substance on rafters in the attic? Are these signs of a current issue?

Inspectors are great resources for prioritizing projects: Needed updates, ideal upgrades and critical maintenance. Take advantage of their knowledge — learn where to spend money and where you may be able to wait, at least for now. You may even learn of alternate solutions you might not have considered or even known about, otherwise. What? You can open those painted windows with a pizza cutter? And, sealing your air ducts can increase the energy-efficiency of your home by how much? That might really save on your energy bills! You’ll find out, if I install a UV light on the furnace, does it really help with allergies and other bacteria?

Get your questions answered… Why is carrying the water away from the house so important? Why does your gas furnace need a certain amount of air flow around it? Why are the expensive furnace filters maybe sometimes not as good as the cheaper ones?

What if you are buying a new construction property? Many times, I have heard of buyers forgoing inspections on a new home, but experience has taught me, just because a home is new does NOT mean it is defect-free. I once saw an independent inspector find an issue with a gas furnace that both the builder’s inspector and the county inspector missed, that could cause a potentially deadly carbon monoxide issue!

A good home inspection offers a baseline. God forbid you have an insurance claim — at least you would have written documentation of the condition your home was in should you ever have to prove it. Like the Farmers Insurance commercials, but with my twist, “Inspectors, they know a thing or two because they’ve seen a thing or two.”

Let’s play devil’s advocate… Suppose you spend several hundred dollars and have a great home inspection and very few issues are found. No, you didn’t waste your money! Congratulations — you were just validated! You made a sound investment. Isn’t that peace-of-mind worth a few hundred well-spent dollars? Your realtor must have taught you well!

Buying a property “AS IS”? Don’t you still have to know what IS is? Learn about the home and its issues and then decide if you still want to move forward. Perhaps there’s a cracked foundation. Just like leaving spoiled milk in the fridge — it won’t get any better if you just leave it. Depending on how your contract is written, you may be able to void following an inspection, so you don’t have to inherit someone else’s problem.

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Peter Crouch of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Peter at 703-244-4024 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Should I stay or should I go?

Answer: When the punk rock band The Clash put a song with this title on their 1981 album release, they surely never imagined the classic lyric being used in a Senior Housing context.

Senior Services of Alexandria (SSA) along with the Alexandria Bar Association is proceeding with its annual Senior Law Day — only virtually this year. Instead of the usual half-day program, it will be broken into three virtual panel discussions. The overall theme, “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” addresses housing for older folks, financial concerns around housing and care, and estate planning. Experts from these fields will speak on three successive Fridays beginning September 11.

The first panel will address the big picture of housing, from Aging in Place to Downsizing and Home Modifications to Senior Communities — plus the legal documents that go with such options.

The second panel will address financial concerns such as long-term care, Medicare/Medicaid, what the different housing options may include, as well as tax breaks and funding home modifications.

The third panel will cover Estate Planning, from basic documents, powers of attorney and other “agents,” and the impacts of such documents — or lack thereof.

The first panel on September 11, features Rachel Baer, Esquire, to address legal documents related to housing, Heidi Garvis of Caring Considerations to address the costs of home care vs. community care, and myself — Pete Crouch, Seniors Real Estate Specialist at McEnearney Associates, Inc. to speak to housing options.

As for housing options, there are many, many choices to consider as we age. The first is clearly Aging in Place, which, as the name implies, means staying put in your current housing. It does require, however, making a plan for potentially changing health and financial considerations. Houses, condominiums and apartments can be modified to make them more compatible with such considerations over time, and a well-thought-out plan can make all the difference.

We are also very fortunate in our area to have many options for housing. A large number of older Alexandrians have chosen to move to condos and apartments. The idea is to lessen the maintenance burden of single-family dwellings, provide one-level living, and enhance social interaction, among other benefits. In fact, almost half of the members of our local Senior Village — At Home in Alexandria — have downsized to condominiums and are Aging in Place there.  Again, financial and estate planning considerations can be crucial.

Another option is our local Senior Communities. These range from Independent Living to Assisted Living to Memory Care to Life Plan Communities (also known as CCRC’s — Continuing Care Retirement Communities). Each has its strengths and its appeal.

I encourage you to register for Senior Law Day(s), so you can learn about all of the topics covered in this article and more. Registering once gives you access to all three panel discussions, starting September 11 from 2-3 p.m. Take in your housing education from the safety of your home! Please join us!

Register here for 2020 Senior Law Day.

Pete Crouch is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, which means he is well-versed in all aspects of moving as we age. His own downsize gave him tremendous insights into what is involved, from emotional matters to real estate considerations. Pete is a Board Member of At Home in Alexandria (AHA), our local Senior Village, and was the 2018 National Recipient of the “Outstanding Service Award” by the National Association of Realtors for his work with Senior Moves. Text 703-244-4024 or email [email protected] for a copy of his Downsize Alexandria! Booklet about living more simply in Greater Alexandria.

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: How can buyers use bridge financing to position themselves to purchase a new home without first selling?

Answer: Ask any real estate agent doing business in the D.C. metropolitan area, and they will tell you it is almost impossible to make a competitive offer to purchase a home if you must sell your existing home first. Contract offers contingent upon the sale of an existing home are often dismissed right out of the gate. And why wouldn’t they be?

If a seller has multiple offers to purchase, at or above asking price, and some of the offers are not contingent upon the sale of any other property, the seller would generally not give much — or any — consideration to a contract offer which is contingent. So how do buyers position themselves to purchase without first selling? Bridge financing may be the answer. Many lenders do not provide bridge loans, but some of us do.

Bridge financing is any type of borrowing that allows the purchaser to buy before selling. It could be a home equity line of credit on the existing home, a traditional short-term bridge loan secured by the existing property (or the new property), or temporary loans secured by each property.

It can even be financing provided by Great Uncle Fred. The type of bridge financing sought, to some degree, depends upon the borrower’s needs. The first thing consumers should understand is that while some people qualify for bridge financing, many do not.

Bridge financing is generally needed to provide the cash to meet the down payment and closing cost requirement associated with the purchase of the new home; the remaining financing is provided in the form of a traditional permanent mortgage loan. In some instances, purchasers plan to hold no financing associated with the new home, but the funds which would allow them to pay cash for their new home are tied up as equity in their existing property.

Bridge financing, more often than not, is the means of tapping into the existing property equity to generate the cash needed for the new home. So significant equity in the existing home is the first thing the borrower needs to qualify for a bridge loan. The maximum combined loan-to-value (CLTV) allowed under most institutional bridge loans is between 70% and 80%.

If the existing home has a value of $750,000 and the bridge loan lender will allow a 70% CLTV, the maximum bridge loan would be $525,000. If there is already a mortgage in place on the property, the maximum bridge loan would be the difference between that amount and the $525,000 number. For example, if the existing mortgage had a balance of $300,000, a bridge loan could be obtained in the amount of $225,000. If the purchaser was seeking to buy a new property at a price of $1 million, the bridge loan proceeds would provide the 20% down payment needed with some additional funds left to help cover closing costs.

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Ann Duff of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Ann at 703-965-8700 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What happens when your ducks won’t stay in a row?

Answer: Some of us are planners, and some of us are part-time planners and part-time “Winging-it”-ers.

Even planners have been thrown for a loop by 2020. This past spring/summer has made the most organized people I know distracted and upended by events.

The strategic thinkers in the rental world today are a good example. They are the ones looking ahead and getting “their ducks in a row,” for the next stages of life — a different rental or possibly even an eventual purchase. They have tracked and improved their credit scores, made sure to have a good relationship with their landlords, paid rent on time and kept their pets calm and quiet. What could go wrong for them? They have “The Plan.”

Well, how about the recent rain and wind storms? Flooding in their apartment three times in the last three weeks made M & C’s* apartment uninhabitable and they had to move immediately. Landlord relationship intact? You bet, he even put them up in another property he owned and let them out of the existing lease. With the immediate help of a realtor, a great new place was found, though there was competition for the property.

The flood meant they could take the lease in days, not weeks, so they prevailed, but couldn’t get a mover — during these COVID-19 times, end of the month and packed schedules meant all hands on deck. We had everyone calling everywhere and, at last, found a small company suggested by a big company willing to work on their normally off day of Sunday.

Not so lucky were R & T*, who learned they really did not know each other well. He had stellar credit and was proud of it, but learned that she, shall we say, had a rocky financial profile. True love was being tested when they applied for their rental and they were turned down by the owners based upon her very poor credit.

Those owners were worried about getting into “issues” with non-payment down the line. Lesson learned, R & T changed course and leased a smaller place using only his income and started working to raise her scores. A larger place will have to wait, but, by then, they may be able to purchase because a great loan is based on high scores for both buyers.

Meanwhile, recently recorded leaps of faith — two families rented big townhouse listings in Old Town and Arlington, sight unseen, except for FaceTime. Walking around with my iPhone and relying on professional online photos, these normally cautious people connected from California, went way outside their comfort zones and leased them using our online application system. Whew, luckily, they were delighted when they showed up with their moving trucks.

Finally and briefly, cash-strapped but gainfully-employed potential tenants, held significant, though low-paying jobs, turned down twice for not meeting the magical criteria for a rental, they were stressed. Doing noble work wasn’t enough to get them over the goal line, but they called and we started brainstorming. Lo and behold, they shared that their $35,000 savings account had never noted and was calmly sitting there. It made a huge difference in our try with their next application.

Again, lesson learned, remember to note proven savings in accounts, retirement plans, etc. so the processor or owner can see the whole picture. (Or put that “duck” on the menu!)

Alternatively, as Herman Wouk reminded us in The Caine Mutiny — “When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!” (Though that won’t get you anywhere, Karen.)

Ann Duff — Your positive advantage for Residential and Commercial properties throughout the area. Experience and Energy, Negotiations and Knowledge — All with a splash of fun! Let’s Get Busy!

*Note: Names have been changed.

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 written by Ann McClure of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant market news, contact Ann at 301-367-5098 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How do I get rid of a backyard swamp?

Answer: We’ve all heard that Washington, D.C. was built on a swamp. And, unless you live under a rock (maybe one that’s been exposed by erosion), you’ve heard that a certain someone was going to “drain the swamp.” But, what do you do when your swampy backyard really needs draining? If backyard mosquito breeding grounds aren’t your thing and worrying about your foundation has been added to the current list of woes (along with what to do with the kids this school year and how to carve out home office space in search of a peaceful existence), maybe I can help.

I want your biggest investment to remain sound and ensure that, unless it’s coming through a faucet, water does not get into your home. Property maintenance goes beyond appearances and a long way toward maintaining your home’s value.

Recently, I’ve been hearing of flooding backyards, and worse, water intruding into homes. That tends to happen this time of year when we get quick-moving storms that dump lots of water in a very short period of time. That water needs dirt and ground to absorb it and if there isn’t any, it becomes an invader. Think about how much blacktop we have in the Metro region.

In fact, I read somewhere, that one of the worst polluters of the Chesapeake Bay is Tysons Corner because of all of the impervious surfaces (pavement, garages, parking lots, etc.). So, how do you know if you have a problem and what can you do if you are experiencing issues?

Look for tell-tale signs of poor drainage around your home: standing water, dreaded mosquitos, erosion, exposed surface roots from trees or maybe roots pushing up driveways, walkways and foundations, surface depressions, an inability to grow grass, a change in water patterns during heavy storms (has your neighbor’s property changed?), rotting wood, or water stains on baseboards.

Don’t let these issues go unchecked. Something must be done to improve the situation before there is foundation damage, water in the home or a myriad of related issues, such as drywall or flooring needing to be replaced, mold, mildew, funky smells, etc.

I recently asked a home inspector what is the biggest issue he sees related to poor drainage. He replied, without hesitation, that the number one issue is a foundation problem. Foundation problems can be VERY expensive, think tens of thousands of dollars.

Finding the cause of the drainage problem will often lead to a fix that is quite simple.

  • Are gutters and downspouts secure and free of debris? They should evacuate water easily. Blast a drain with a pressure-washer (carefully), or as my Dad used to use, a high-powered leaf blower.
  • Is water directed away from the house? Downspout extenders may be needed.
  • How is grading? Does it slope away from the house?
  • Are any water management systems, like a French drain, inoperable or perhaps failing? Are discharge/evacuation points clear?
  • Is water run-off coming from unexpected/unnoticed areas?

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This week’s Q&A column is written by Karisue Wyson, Director of Recruiting & Agent Support at McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article, contact Karisue at 703-615-0876 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Coronavirus took my job. Can I turn what I know into a career in real estate?

Answer: The Coronavirus pandemic has led to many professionals unexpectedly reevaluating their current career paths. Jobs in the hospitality, travel, retail and education industries are in peril as unemployment reaches double-digit figures due to containment measures that have restructured so much of our lives.

Real estate offers an attractive option for those with excellent customer service, managerial, education and sales skills as these are the building blocks to becoming a successful agent. If your current industry is undergoing upheaval, here are ways to translate what you do well to cultivating clients and becoming a trusted advisor in real estate.

Hospitality: Working with the public has taught you how to listen to guests and anticipate their needs. You’re a multitasker who knows how to prioritize your day and adjust as needed when confronted with a challenge — or an opportunity. You have an attention to detail that ensures nothing is left to chance for the maximum enjoyment of your guest. You know that you will only get the job done well with the assistance of others and collaborate easily.

You are comfortable assisting a wide range of guests with diverse backgrounds and needs and thrive on the unpredictable nature of working with new people. The opportunity to learn something new every day keeps you going and ensures your guests recall it was you who helped create that memorable stay, meal, or event that they will never forget.

Travel: Logistics and deadlines are your native language! You are a planner who does your research based on the dreams, aspirations and experience of your clients. You are managing many moving pieces at once and know that your carefully crafted plan can be upended with one missed connection, so you’re prepared to assist at a moment’s notice and are ready with back-up plans.

Clients appreciate your clear communication skills and will return to your company year after year and refer others to you because you gave them an experience they will remember forever. (Being paid on a commission basis doesn’t scare you and you know what it’s like to do the work upfront without payment. You know how to have conversations about commission because you know how much value your services bring.)

Retail: There are a lot of people who claim to be great salespeople, but you have what it takes to make great deals come together. You are a natural connector because you are naturally curious about others. You ask questions, probe deeper, listen for what is not being said, ask more questions, offer alternatives and help your client narrow their choices. You know how to apply your professional knowledge and not your personal opinion when a client asks, “What do you think?”

You guide your clients through the decision-making process so that they feel empowered in their choices and not stuck in “analysis paralysis.” As a manager, you know how to create a team that maximizes the strength of all its members and increases the bottom line. You earn the trust and repeat business of your clients and the loyalty and respect of your colleagues because you listened, cared and delivered exactly what they needed.

Education: It’s not easy to take something complex and make it understandable to everyone, but you do it with ease. You are patient and can adapt your lessons to the level of the student you are working with. You have excellent leadership skills and can command the attention of even the most distracted minds. You are organized and have a plan that works, but you also know how to adapt it as new tools and information become available. You are also creative, finding new ways to solve problems and bring fun into what can be an unfamiliar and unnerving process.

Most importantly, you are empathetic and don’t take it personally when someone gets frustrated that things aren’t going the way they expected. As a result, you’ve got a wide network of people who trust you and count you as one of the most important people in their lives.

There are many paths to becoming a realtor and every agent started with their own unique story about what led them to real estate. What’s your story? Visit www.joinmcenearney.com and then call me at 703-615-0876 to see how McEnearney Associates can help you write the next chapter.

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 written by David Howell, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant market news, contact David at 703-738-9513 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How did the real estate market for the first half of 2020 compare to 2019 in the City of Alexandria?

Answer: As was true across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic had significant impact on Alexandria’s real estate market. From January 1 to March 15 of this year when the COVID-induced shut down orders began, total new contract activity in Alexandria was almost identical to that of the equivalent time period of 2019. The market was off to a solid start and would have been even stronger had there been a greater inventory of available homes. More on that in just a moment.

Beginning in mid-March it became more challenging to physically show homes, and consumers were correctly concerned about going out. The chart below shows the significant drop in showing activity (2020’s activity is the green line) that reached the bottom of the trough in mid-April and began to reach “normal” levels by mid-May as phased re-openings began.

In June, reflecting the pent-up demand, showing activity eclipsed last year’s activity. And contract activity unsurprisingly reflected the drop in showing activity. From mid-March through the end of June, there was a 13% drop in the number of newly ratified contracts in Alexandria. Condos — almost half of Alexandria’s market — were hit a little harder with a 14% drop, while attached and detached homes were off 11%.

The other big story in Alexandria is the shortage of inventory. In the first half of 2017, there was an average of 412 available homes on the market at the end of the month. In the first half of 2018 that had dropped to 378 and after the Amazon HQ2 announcement inventory plummeted to an average of just 178.

Inventory has not rebounded, as the average month-end inventory is now just 173. That means the market has essentially half of “normal” inventory levels, and buyers are returning to the market more rapidly than sellers.

Despite the market contraction brought on by COVID-19, we expect to see very tight supply for the foreseeable future, which is great for sellers and a bit challenging for buyers. That tight supply will keep upward pressure on home prices.

For more in-depth, local real estate news and to search for your next home, please visit our website.

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 written by Rebecca McCullough of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Rebecca at 571-384-0941 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: How hot is the summer real estate market?

Answer: Like the weather, it’s really HOT!

The last time I wrote an article about the market, it was March, and we were at the beginning of closures due to COVID-19. We were all very nervous about what lay ahead for our health, wealth and employment. For some, it has been a very challenging and heartbreaking time; for others, it has been okay.

Here we are, four incredibly unusual and stressful months later. So what happened in the real estate market? And what does it look like now?

The Northern Virginia real estate market saw a very quick slowdown at the end of March. The bottom of the market for contract activity over the same week the year before occurred during  the week of April 5 to April 12 in the D.C. Metro area with a drop of 44%. The following week, NOVA contracts bottomed out with a 40% drop over the same time last year. Surprisingly, only three weeks after the shut down, the market started to show signs of rebounding. This made sense, as the beginning of 2020 started strongly.

Since the beginning of July, we have seen an incredibly active and extremely competitive market. The biggest part of the story is the lack of inventory. Active listings are down 35% from this time last year and a whopping 52% down from same time in 2018. With spring level demand and exceedingly low summer inventory, we have ourselves a very strong seller’s market. In some pockets, we are seeing 15 or more offers on a property. Contingencies are being thrown out the window. It’s very challenging for buyers.

So what to do? Sellers thinking about listing, PLEASE do! We know there are still some sellers nervous about their health safety and therefore are holding off putting their homes on the market. Our industry has done a fabulous job of trying to make seeing properties as easy and as safe as possible through such avenues as online showings, virtual showings, 3D floor plans, FaceTime Live and more. If you search through previous McEnearney posts on ALXnow or visit our company website, you will see all the wonderful things we are doing as a community to keep you safe.

Buyers, buckle up! It’s going to be rough. Here are a few things you can do in order to put yourself in the best position to make an offer.

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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: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a real estate agent?

Answer: Over the past few weeks, two of my neighbors have asked me about getting into the business.

They were interested in exploring the types of skills and experience required. How to get started? How to build their business? And, of course, the big one… what sort of income should they expect?

In my case, I had wanted to be an agent right out of college, but my father said something like… “Absolutely not! No one is going to trust a 22 year old to help them buy or sell a house!” At that time, he was probably right, but now we are seeing more and more students majoring in real estate and using their technology and social media skills to market their services. It’s a good thing the excellent training at McEnearney has helped me keep up with the times!

Having been in sales, service and marketing for my entire career, the transition into real estate was natural for me. As an event planner and a promotional products consultant for many years, I am skilled at managing multiple projects simultaneously, tight deadlines and developing creative ways to achieve my clients’ desired outcome. Some of my colleagues were bankers, lawyers, dog trainers, travel agents, teachers, nurses and contractors before hanging up their shingle and have successfully brought those experiences to the field.

I will be forever grateful to a number of agents and brokers who took the time to discuss the business in length before I took the class to get my license. Their guidance was tremendously valuable in helping me determine what type of business model would work best for me. I went to open houses every Sunday for six months to learn about the types of homes available in various neighborhoods. Not only was I able to learn from the agent holding the open house, but I  experienced what it was like to be a potential buyer in that situation.

Developing clientele has been extremely rewarding for me. My first year, I held open houses 39 out of 52 Sundays. Some were for my own listings, however, a large percentage were for other agents at McEnearney. I met potential buyers that became clients, received referrals from my friends and neighbors, and remained active in my neighborhood, my volunteer organizations and throughout Alexandria.

I am honored to say that referrals from my past clients, friends and neighbors continue to be my number one way of growing my business, and I am grateful for the trust that has been placed in me.

Annual income is the question that is the one that is best answered by… “It depends!” Do you want to work part or full-time, during the evenings or on weekends? Would you feel more comfortable being part of a team or as an independent agent? Would you rather be paid a salary or on commission? What is the price range of the homes where you are best known? How far are you willing to drive to show or list houses? Would you prefer to work with a full-service brokerage or one offering limited services?

There are many variables to creating your business model. My suggestion would be to sign up for a class and see how you like it. If you do… start talking to people and develop an initial game plan. The good thing is… you can always change it!

Good luck!

Lisa Groover is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. As a resident of Alexandria since 1989, Lisa is thrilled to introduce her clients to such a dynamic place to live, and to market homes based upon their unique features, communities and neighborhoods. Having had seven Golden Retrievers, she is also dedicated to helping other dog owners through the challenges of renting, buying and selling their home.

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 Kate Crawley of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Kate at 703-888-8141 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Why do design trends become popular?

Answer: As a realtor, I see a lot of the same features in the homes I visit. Sparkling white subway tile — check. Main level powder rooms — check. Ooh, a porch? Check, check! No, wallpaper really isn’t a feature that buyers are looking for — please remove it and paint your walls a light, soothing color. Walking through my community, I see more and more Adirondack chairs being planted in front yards and porches are dressed as outdoor rooms. So, how did these designs become so ubiquitous?

Disease did it.

Subway Tile

In the 19th century, as germ theory was developing amid deadly tuberculosis and influenza epidemics, the most effective way to stop the spread of a disease was through cleanliness. Wall paper and paneled wood absorbed moisture and odors and were made to hide the dirt. Hospitals and public buildings and shops installed the tiles as dirt was easy to see and material easy to clean. A butcher shop or fish market would have the tile to communicate how clean and fresh their product was.

In 1904, designers George C. Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge created the 3″ x 6″ tile for the very first station of the brand new subway system in New York City. As often happens, the commercial design was transferred to the residential.

Plumbing and manufacturing advances meant the end of the coffin-like tub encased in wood and lined with tin and brought in shiny ceramic tubs, sinks and toilets that didn’t need to be placed in backyard privy. The new linoleum products replaced wood floors and were considered a modern, easy to clean esthetic. Tile was installed along the walls of kitchens and baths alike.

Have a seat

Upstate New York saw the construction of the sanitarium industry to house and treat the patients suffering from tuberculosis. At least by Victorian standards, there were large and unadorned buildings and cottages set out in the dry healthy air of the mountains. Sunlight and fresh air were the treatment, so daybeds and chairs that were light enough to be moved out onto open porches or glassed in sunrooms provided comfort. With tilting backs and seats, wide arm rests for belongings or a rest to elevate the feet, these were the forerunners of the Lay Z Boy and of course, the Adirondack chair.

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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: When is the best time to sell?

Answer: If you are considering selling for the first time, you may find yourself debating, when is the best time to do so?

In Northern Virginia the number of homes on the market at the end of May 2020 was down 31.3% compared to the end of May 2019. For roughly the last 5-7 years we have experienced a seller’s market, but now more than ever, we are in need of inventory for buyers in the D.C. Metro area. Demand for housing proves to be strong as we enter the second half of the year.

As long as interest rates remain historically low and consumer confidence is high, we should expect to see these trends continue. If you are considering selling, now is a great time to reach out to a professional real estate agent to discuss your options. We’d be thrilled to interview for the job!

Question: Should I make updates prior to selling?

Answer: If you are considering beginning a major renovation, stop. Renovations can be costly and time consuming. However, homes that are positioned well in terms of price and condition will tend to move faster with an accepted offer upon hitting the market.

First impressions are important. We always recommend hiring a professional photographer for marketing materials. If you own a condo in a high-rise building, preparing for the market may be as simple as neutralizing paint colors and decluttering your closets. While a single family home may want to spruce up its curb appeal with new shrubbery, mulch and freshly cleaned windows. It would be wise to consult with a professional, free of charge, before making any moves.

Question: What is my home value?

Answer: It is important as a seller to remember that memories and emotional feelings of attachment toward a property are not seen as valuable to a buyer. If you want to meet with a realtor to discuss your home’s value, begin collecting any and all documentation you have in advance of that meeting.

Examples of documentation are as follows: age of systems, maintenance records, service contracts and a list of upgrades. Providing these details upfront will help give a buyer peace of mind knowing the home had a great caretaker and add value in their eyes.

If a buyer is using financing to purchase your home, they will likely need an appraisal inspection as a condition of their loan approval. In order to gain an estimate of what a buyer may be willing to pay for your home and an estimate of the appraisal value, you will want to review the home sales that have closed most recently and are the most similar to your property.

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 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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