Alexandria, VA

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: What’s the 20/20 on 2020?

Answer: A year ago, all indications were that 2020 was going to be a good year for the real estate market in Northern Virginia. We started off strong, then COVID-19 hit, massive shutdowns followed and the market fizzled. For a few weeks in late March and early April, no one knew what to expect. Then, rather quickly, the market began to rebound, and by the beginning of June 2020 amidst so much strife and uncertainty, Northern Virginia experienced a full-fledged “spring market effect.” That active market continued to the end of the year.

Why so strong, and for so long? There are several reasons.

  • A strong economy: Even in the face of the pandemic, the U.S. economy was strong. The stock market reached record highs, and savings account balances actually increased as many individual expenses declined — such as daycare, transportation costs and entertainment expenses.
  • Changes to the way we live: In the past several decades, many people who chose to live within walking distance to work, restaurants, fitness places and entertainment found that during the pandemic those benefits were no longer available. Instead, they started searching for more space in which to live, cook and exercise — all at home, of course. To this effect, we saw a 211% increase in condo listings from December 2019 compared to December 2020!
  • Low interest rates: The drop in the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage from December 2019 to December 2020 was over 1% (from 3.72% to 2.67%), translating to an increase of 14% in buying power. This allowed more buyers to enter the market, and their dollars went further.

In light of these factors, our market became a seller’s market quickly, as inventory was limited. It became the norm to see an “offer deadline” when listings were launched. The “new normal” scenario looked a bit like this: A listing goes active on Thursday, showings are scheduled and open houses are held throughout the weekend. A pre-offer inspection or two might occur in the same first weekend, and there was often a Monday 6 p.m. offer deadline. It was busy and interesting if you were the listing agent and sometimes torture for the potential five to eight buyer agents hoping their clients had the successful bid. Price escalations, contingency waivers and pre-offer home inspections became standard. This was true even through the last days of 2020 and has thus far continued into 2021.

As we compare December 2019 to December 2020, we see a 44.9% increase in the number of contracts in Northern Virginia. Fully available listings have increased by 22.2% over last year, largely due to the significant increase in condos under $500,000 coming on the market. The inventory for detached and attached homes is well below what it was at the end of last year, which will drive an increase in competition for these properties.

You can see by the graph below that at the end of December 2020 the months’ supply was significantly below the end of 2019. Months’ Supply is calculated by dividing the available inventory by the number of contracts for that month. A monthly supply number for normal markets is around 5 or 6, so with the current number being between 0.5 and 2.0, inventory is scarce!

What can we expect in 2021?

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s not to make predictions. However, we can make a few observations. The market is still strong, and while interest rates crept up a bit toward the end of the year, many believe that they will remain around the 3% mark for many months to come. Finally, with the pandemic still very much impacting the global outlook and our way of life, there are still many people hoping to make the jump to homes with additional space and home offices. We don’t anticipate the market cooling off in this area any time soon.

In conclusion, if you’ve been thinking about selling, please reach out. I can help you determine what the market value of your home could be and if selling in 2021 is right for you.

Rebecca McCullough has built a successful real estate business in Alexandria and Northern Virginia by providing excellent service to her clients. If you would like more information on selling or buying in today’s complex market, contact Rebecca today at 571-384-0941 or visit her website RebeccaMcCullough.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: How did the challenges in 2020 affect the real estate market in Alexandria?

Answer: It is a good thing I had my two-week winter vacation in St. Martin right before the lockdown, because surprisingly enough it was extremely busy from the minute I got back in town.

Everyone, both in and outside of the industry, speculated about whether the market would take a nosedive, be similar to 2019 or increase over the year prior. With record breaking low interest rates as one of the motivating factors, it turned out to be an incredible year.

The year-end numbers in the City of Alexandria showed us that, for the most part, detached homes and townhouses were very much a seller’s market, with continued lack of inventory and more buyers in the mix. Multiple offers were not uncommon on properties under $1 million. Condo sales were more of a balanced market, with some price points dipping into a buyer’s market. Some say condo dwellers were motivated to move away from residences where they would need to share common spaces, especially elevators.

The concerns for the health and safety of buyers, sellers and agents required significant modifications in the sales process. Virtual and 3D tours and videos replaced the traditional Sunday afternoon live open houses. Social media, agent networking and alternative advertising became key components of a property’s marketing strategy. If a live open house was held, they were either by appointment or scheduled in a way to provide social distancing with everyone wearing masks, taking off their shoes and using wipes to open doors and cabinets.

For McEnearney, and for me personally, 2020 was an excellent year! The company as a whole exceeded the $2 billion mark in sales, while the Alexandria office was up 22.7% over 2019. Alexandria City increased by 15%, with ZIP code 22314 up 24%. Listings in the Alexandria office ranged from $137,000 to $4,825,000.

When I evaluated my numbers for 2020, I was thrilled to have achieved my best year yet by tripling my volume over 2019. Buyers made up 39%, sellers 61%,and townhouses made up 72.7% of my business. While in most years, referrals from past clients, friends and neighbors make up over 75% of my annual sales — my friends and neighbors themselves were the buyers and sellers of over 50% of the transactions in 2020.

Special thanks to McEnearney for providing the support, guidance and training needed for agents to modify their marketing plans as the months accumulated. Even with the offices closed for a good part of the year, we had access to the management team, marketing and support staff, and tools required to continue to exceed our clients’ expectations.

Lisa Groover is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town Alexandria. As an active member of the community since 1989, Lisa specializes in Alexandria and is thrilled to have the opportunity to work closely with her friends and neighbors in Old Town Village.

In addition to enjoying the Old Town lifestyle and the art-related events and activities, she is a member of a number of volunteer organizations. Having had eight golden retrievers, she is 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 Kim Peele and 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 The Peele Group at 703-244-5852 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: Is this a good time to buy an investment property?

Answer: Happy 2021! We are all hopeful that it will be a very different year than 2020 and that the pandemic will be coming to a close. We are looking toward the future, and for many people interested in growing wealth that could mean buying a new home or investment property.

We have witnessed an extremely strong market for single family homes and townhomes in the D.C. metro area. Condos, on the other hand, have not sold quite as well this past year. While condos further out from D.C. are doing better, we currently have an excess of condos on the market closer in — probably due to people wanting more space. This translates into good news for investors.

For those who are looking for smart investments, owning a condo in the D.C. metro area is a dream investment, and this is the time to do it! David Howell, Chief Information Officer of McEnearney Associates, reports that while contract activity for condos is up in the entire D.C. metro area compared to this time last year, condo inventory in Alexandria is up 433% and condo inventory in Arlington is up 500%. Yes, those numbers are correct! There are a lot of condos on the market right now. We fully expect the condo market to come back strong at the end of this year; however, at the moment, this is a huge opportunity for cash buyers to take advantage of immediate rental income and long-term appreciation.

We have worked with many investor clients recently, and here is a recent example of how you can put your money to work for you: Buy a condo with cash for $175,000. The likely rent would be $1,550, less a condo fee of $421 a month, and 7% ($108.50) to a property manager. A property manager will manage your condo for you, reduce headaches and simplify your investment. This translates into an income of about $1,020 per month. Where else can you get that kind of return on your investment?

Another strategy that some investors are using is to buy a home outside of the metro area and rent it out with companies like Airbnb or VRBO for short-term periods. Some HOA and condo associations have rules against these types of rentals, but that is mostly closer to D.C. It is, of course, important to completely understand regulations before you make your decision to purchase. However, those who are willing and able to put in the effort have seen some amazing payoffs. Mountain and lake areas within 100 miles of D.C, are rising in popularity, and there are many great investment opportunities.

And for those still renting, this is the year to buy! Interest rates are still fantastic and down payments are much lower than most buyers realize. According to the 2021 Housing Forecast with Realtor.com, interest rates will remain low throughout the year but will rise toward the end of 2021. Why not put that rent money to work for you?

Buying real estate is an important part of building wealth. Whether it’s your first home or a long-term investment, real estate can be one of your most important purchases. For information on buying or selling investment properties or your own home and for making informed decisions, call The Peele Group today!

We will be hosting a Virtual Buyer Happy Hour on February 2, 2021. We will be joined by a lender and a home inspector and will answer all of your questions on the home-buying process. For an invitation, please send an email to [email protected].

For a professional, confidential evaluation of your home, please call or text us at 703-244-5852. We have a Dream Team of experts — contractors, staging advisors, photographers and more — to help make the right preparations, minimize stress and maximize profits!

Kim Peele is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc., lives in Old Town and works in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland. She and her daughter Hope Peele are The Peele Group. Kim is a second-generation Realtor and fourth-generation Washingtonian and is dedicated to helping owners through the challenges of 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 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 Alexandria city real estate market finish in 2020?

Answer: Each quarter we take an in-depth look at contract activity in the City of Alexandria compared to the same quarter of the previous year. Not surprisingly, the impact of COVID-19 in the spring months resulted in a decrease in contract activity compared to 2019. The first half of the year saw overall contracts decrease 7.4%, but the third and fourth quarters tell a completely different story, and the year ended with an overall increase of 12.2%!

The charts below break down fourth quarter contract activity for 2019 and 2020 by price and by property type. Alexandria has seen increases across all categories, including the condo market, which has not been as strong in some other metro areas compared to townhomes and detached homes.

  • Overall contract activity in the City of Alexandria increased 40.9% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.
  • Contract activity in the condo market increased 43.0% and attached homes activity increased 44.1%.
  • The number of detached homes, the smallest part of the Alexandria City market, going under contract in the fourth quarter of 2020 increased 28.4% compared to 2019.
Data derived from Bright MLS
Data derived from Bright MLS

For more analysis of the real estate market throughout our area, please visit McEnearney.com/market-in-a-minute.

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 column, sponsored and written by McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria, is a bit of a departure from our usual Q&A format. To learn about 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.

Because of COVID-19, there has been a significant increase in cases of hunger.

This year, McEnearney Associates has partnered with the Capital Area Food Bank to help provide good, healthy food to people struggling with hunger and food insecurity. We have committed to a matching grant of $20,000. If we raise $40,000, it will provide 80,000 meals for people in need.

Now more than ever, they need our support. Please re-post and share. You can donate online now.

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 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 did life look like for a realtor in 2020?

Answer: Oh, you could write a job description for realtor, and it would be pretty enthusiastic and likely glowing, but it would miss so much of the “fun!”

“Lean on me” never had so much meaning as it did this year as we worked around the unusual circumstances of 2020.

Chasing tortoises’ paperwork: You may have seen it in the news, but I tried to help our former CAPS’ goalie get his family’s two little dinosaurs across the border into Canada by sending photos of shipping documents. Even then, he was still stuck in Billings, Montana, for a few days with a full truck and turtles before getting home to Vancouver.

Trying to move a Tesla: Out of town, my clients also needed their car stored, and I don’t know how to drive a Tesla. The technology is vastly different from my vehicle, and I feared I’d run into a telephone pole, so I chased around town to find a seasoned owner of that spaceship-style car and, HOORAY, we found a friend who got the car tucked away safely.

1-800-GOT-JUNK: Just like the ads where the actress hops around looking at stacks of unwanted stuff, I played that role for some sellers and WOW was that fun. The power of the pointer is real; I was able to fill an entire truck without flexing a muscle and simply pointing. Two strong fellows did all the real work.

Previewing while taking videos: Fewer in-person visits this year meant creativity with an iPhone; now I just need advanced tech advice so I am not sending 10 videos per house. Spinning around in living rooms, back yards, climbing into attics, etc. and taking the extra views to explain the flow of the house, while providing some commentary, we’ve been able to streamline the places on the tour list and test how a place might “live.”

Long distance rentals, sight unseen: Seriously, two military families leased large townhouses I had listed relying only on photos, FaceTime calls and descriptions. Yikes, they didn’t even have a friend or relative visit, but whew, they love their choices.

Research by phone: I’ve advocated digging deeply into the history of homes and neighborhoods, but little did I know how helpful librarians working from home could be with the libraries closed. Great thanks goes to Patricia Walker, the Local History and Special Collections Branch Manager of the Alexandria Library, for going beyond the call of duty when helping me this past spring.

Photography from afar: Like a movie director, I like to oversee the professional photography taken for sales and rentals, but the pro’s rules rule! The very best real estate photographer, Peter, takes bright, helpful photos, and I rely on him. But with immune-sensitivity issues, no one else can be in the house while he is working. Oh, I can sit in the car and come back in to lock up, but luckily I deeply trust his talent, and I will have run through in advance to move those ubiquitous items clouding the vision.

Picking the colors: Out-of-state investors need their properties spiffed up for selling, and they often grant me the power of the palette. With Jason, my favorite, experienced local painter and his team, we get the ultimate decision for which shade of hip new, trending color to paint the walls. Gleefully satisfying.

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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 The Peele Group 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: Is it important to stage my home before listing it?

Answer: Everyone thinks they have good taste, but honestly, no one’s taste matters more when selling your home than the buyer’s. The goal is to showcase your home’s many features, while allowing the buyer to create their own vision for the home and to see a future for themselves in it.

Staging can seem overwhelming. In my experience, one of the main misconceptions about staging is that you need to be entirely moved out for someone to come in with new furniture to stage your home in boring colors and design. The fact is, stagers can offer a range of services, and the majority of my clients who sell their homes use mostly their own décor, just less of it and rearranged a bit. Many of my clients who sell their homes also choose to live in it while it’s on the market — so, of course, they still need their furniture. Many realtors are partnered with stagers who can stage the home with the owner’s existing belongings.

Typically, when someone decorates, the aim is to make their living space a reflection of their personality and lifestyle. Home staging is different from decorating in that it is actually DE-personalizing the space, so a wider range of personalities (buyers) can imagine themselves enjoying the space.

One of the biggest mistakes a seller can make is waiting too long to consult a stager. According to Kelly DeMaso, owner of Simplified Organizing and Staging, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and that’s the key to a quicker sale… The best time to stage your home is BEFORE you put it on the market.” The cost of having your home sit on market for too long could far outweigh the cost and energy of having a stager come over for an hour or two to offer advice — or even having them spend the day to do the work.

Your home is one of the biggest reflections of who you are, and if you’re like most people, you’re proud of it! You’ve probably curated the artwork on the walls with love and to suit your tastes. The fridge is covered in magnets you’ve collected, holding up shopping lists, sweet notes and drawings by your kids. You found the perfect area rug — large enough for your dining room with the perfect shade of red that matches your chair cushions. On your windowsills, tiny potted plants are proudly on display and you tend them daily.

How can someone else picture raising their family in a home that is filled with you and your style? The goal is to have potential buyers imagining themselves seated in the adorable breakfast nook with their art adorning the walls.

Imagine you walk into a house with a gigantic statue in the middle of the living room. What will you notice first — the beautifully redone kitchen or the gigantic statue in the middle of the living room?

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This week’s column, sponsored and written by McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria, is a bit of a departure from our usual Q&A format. To learn about 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.

Instead of taking your real estate questions this week, we wanted to share details about an upcoming blood drive McEnearney Associates is supporting.

On Tuesday, December 15, stop by 301 King Street to donate blood for the Old Town INOVA Blood Drive. It’ll run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Go ahead and schedule your appointment online, and don’t forget to bring your photo ID and a face covering!

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

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: Should I list my home during the holidays?

Answer: At this time of year, we have many people asking if they should list their home now or hold on until after the new year? As always, if you need to sell, list it.

However, in most years, if you have flexibility, we would be inclined to wait until the new year. Many potential buyers may be thinking there will be more to choose from in the new year. This is generally true — we often do see an influx of listings and buyers in January. There is definitely a cycle of January shoppers that bring February contracts and March closings. Then the cycle is repeated in April, May and June.

However, 2020 — the year of COVID, working from home and social distancing — is truly a unique time. We have seen unusually high holiday season demand for detached homes, and decreased inventory. While not quite as “hot” as the pre-Covid market, there are more buyers than sellers leading this strong seller’s market. Multiple offers, while never assured, are not out of the question, and well-priced homes are selling quickly. For buyers, this is tough. For sellers, this is truly a “merry” circumstance. This year, in so many ways, is an anomaly.

So you decide to list… If you decide to list during the holiday period, you might wonder about holiday decor. Do you go full-bore holiday style, or keep the seasonal decor packed away? The answer lies somewhere in between: nobody expects sellers to ignore the season, but this is likely not the year to go all out.

Keeping decorations simple and somewhat restrained, while still honoring your family customs, is perfectly acceptable. Subtle and understated is the way to go, always keeping the staging guidelines in mind. Remember: accent the best features in your home. So, don’t put the Christmas tree in front of the window with the best view, or cover up beautiful mantles and railings with too much greenery. Use the décor to accent areas of the home that you want the buyer to see.

This time of year is fabulous to emphasize the warmth in a home. The smell of fresh baked cookies, glowing flameless candles and seasonal floral arrangements contribute to the ambience to make them want to linger.

Also keep in mind if you are launching your listing during the holidays when your home is decorated, photographs will include the seasonal items. If your home does not sell before the holidays are over, consider having new pictures done to promote the property. Note that seeing holiday decorations in mid-January will indicate to buyers that the home has been on the market for a while.

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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: Do you have any recommendations for ways to give back to other Alexandria residents during the holiday season and beyond?

Answer: As we all know, this holiday season is unlike any other. Many families are not able to travel to be with one another, group gatherings are out of the picture and dining in restaurants is not comfortable for most. But a common thread with this holiday season and previous ones is the importance of giving back.

As a member of the McEnearney Associates team in Alexandria, I am proud to live and work in a community that I love. You see, there is an important difference at McEnearney… “It’s not about us, it’s about you.” Not only when working with our clients, but also in giving back to the community.

This is the year to toss aside the “this is the way we have always done it” standard and think of different ways we can help. McEnearney’s long-standing support of the holiday event at Hopkins House will still include fun gifts for the children, but instead of sitting on Santa’s lap, he will be speaking to them via video. Target Gift Cards for The Boys and Girls Club of Alexandria will provide an opportunity for purchasing gifts of their choosing.

Between delivering Meals on Wheels, holding community coat and food drives, supporting of organizations that help with home repairs, and getting involved with stopping child abuse, women transitioning from prison, homelessness, and feeding the hungry… There are so many opportunities to make a difference.

Check out sites like ACT for Alexandria, Volunteer Alexandria and ALIVE! for a sampling of the types of ways you can volunteer your time or money. Or Google a cause you are passionate about and reach out to see how you can help.

As a TWIG, it is my pleasure to be on the fundraising committee in support of INOVA Alexandria Hospital. With the need to cancel the Annual Homes Tour and to have the thrift shop closed during the pandemic, our annual fundraising has been drastically reduced.

Are you familiar with SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now)? Started by a local Alexandrian for a very important cause and like so many other organizations, their annual fundraising gala was cancelled this year, and they can use your help. For more information about SCAN, please visit scanva.org.

What about random acts of kindness? Do you know of someone who has been ill or could use a surprise? Drop off an unexpected little gift — you can always leave it on their front porch. The feedback I receive from my neighbors, friends and clients when I do this throughout the year is one of sincere appreciation no matter how small the gesture.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions about any of these organizations or for help finding one that best fits your passions. I am also readily available to connect you with like-minded individuals in our community where you can make a difference.

Lisa Groover is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. in Old Town Alexandria.  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.

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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