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Archive for May, 2008

Neutral Rooms Work for Sellers but Colors are the Hot Topic for Buyers

Practically every real estate agent and staging professional I know suggests neutral (if not white) colors for a ‘fast sale.’

It makes rooms look bigger, imperfections fade and, most of all, it allows perspective buyers to envision their own furniture, their own tastes and their own personality in your space.

But what happens once the contract is signed? Just as neutral facilitated the sale, so color will help anchor new roots and owners. For some, picking colors is second nature but for many of us it can be a crippling, “oh my gosh am I making the right choice” process. Fear no more!

A number of internet sites devoted to paint and color have surfaced recently and two of our favorites are Kate Smith’s and Rachel Perl’s. Smith is a color trend forecaster working on her own line of paint and Perl is a former pet portraitist who now advises residential and commercial clients.

A third site we like, although not specifically about color, asks the bold question: “Black walls: Would you dare?”

Paint is still considered one of the easiest, quickest and cheapest ways to transform a room or a whole house so don’t let your lack of color savvy get in the way – explore, study and just go for it!


P.S. – The only ‘neutral’ room in my house is the bedroom. A color tour includes forest green, butternut squash, yellow, blue, orange, red, and light green. And yes, it all works thanks to my spouse and managing partner.

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

National Association of Realtors and Justice Department Reach Major Antitrust Settlement

This just in from the New York Times – A deal reached today by the Justice Department and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) will allow Internet brokers and discount brokerages to use the same multiple listing services. The Justice Department sued the NAR in federal court in 2005 on antitrust grounds, charging that its policies hurt consumers and stifled competition. Scheduled for a July court date, the settlement opens the door for more efficiency and more competition in the market.

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Coldwell Banker Reports April Increase in Northern Virginia Home Sales

Coldwell Banker offices across Northern Virginia saw a 17.5 increase in homes under contract during April 2008 compared to April 2007.

This is in comparison to across the board home sales which were down 11% from April 2007.

At the same time, this represents a steady overall improvement in month-to-month comparisons from 2008 to 2007.

Another positive note – almost 37% of April homes sold in Northern Virginia were on the market for 30 days or less. Overall, homes settled in April sold for approximately 97% of the listing price and appropriately priced home ARE receiving multiple offers.

MRIS data also showed a decrease in inventory in all but one price range with the total months to absorb dropping to 7.4 months in April. This continues a four-month decline from 12.4 months in January. “Months to absorb” suggests the time it would take to absorb the current inventory at the present rate of sales vs. the number of homes coming on the market.

The continuing balance in inventory suggests that buyers are starting to recognize the values in today’s market and sellers are responding appropriately.

Is this the time for you to make a move? For more information about today’s changing market, call me at 703.927.4554.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

Stable Mortgage Rates Are In; Double Height Ceilings Are Out

With the official start of summer behind us, it seems the Federal Reserve is done with lowering interest rates as indicated in the recently released minutes of their last meeting.

If anything, the Fed’s next move would be a rate increase. That however depends on already existing inflationary pressures in the market and the government’s effort to stimulate the economy.

Bottom line – we may spend the entire summer waiting for some clear economic direction. Second bottom line – current mortgage rates make buying a home a very doable proposition.

Rob Clark, my go to guy at Preferred Mortgage, also offered the following tidbit: builders across the country are reporting that great rooms with double height ceilings are no longer in high demand for three reasons –

Ummmm, does this mean real living rooms might make a comeback?


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Amazing Places to Live the Rest of Your Life

In today’s debut Book Report, we’ll take a look at the latest offering by uber real estate tycoon, Barbara Corcoran, founder and CEO of the Corcoran Group.

Appropriately named Nextville, Amazing Places to Live the Rest of Your Life, Corcoran identifies 8 trends – and 100 places – that are changing the way people think about their ‘next’ house, whether making a life style change or in retirement.

As part of her research, Corcoran conducted an on-line survey through the Trulia Web site to establish what baby boomers were looking for in their ideal retirement location. Their top priorities:

Not satisfied with these generic guidelines, Corcoran conducted another survey on whatsnext.com and asked what people dreamed about.

And that’s when the fun part started. Over 80% of respondents dreamed of pursuing a passion or engaging in something they loved to do and a majority also expressed a desire to be part of a like-minded community.

Corcoran notes that, for her (and I would imagine for many of us) the guts of the real estate business is matching up the right person with the right place based on his or her unique needs and personality. Using that premise and what she learned from the surveys, Corcoran establishes 8 trends that are determining factors for that next house and lists corresponding locations.

Admittedly, Corcoran’s list of corresponding locations is not all inclusive but it’s enough to make you start thinking – and dreaming – and it’s a great marketing resource for agents.

Check your local Barnes & Noble store or online for availability and dream your own next place.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 3 Comments »

Rolling Thunder Honors Veterans in 23rd Annual “Ride to the Wall”

Today, as on 22 previous Memorial Day weekends, literally hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists honored veterans of all generations with their traditional “Ride to the Wall” as a part of the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally in Washington, DC.

Gathering under a cloudless blue sky in the Pentagon parking lot, the ride moved north past the Lincoln Memorial, up Constitution towards the Capitol and back down Independence, to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial or, as it’s known to most veterans – The Wall.

Started in 1987 by Ray Manzo, a USMC corporal who wanted to do something to bring attention to military personnel still classified as Prisoners of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA) in the Vietnam conflict, the rally has grown into a Memorial Day tradition as well as a political force for veteran benefits.

Riders – men, women, and children – travel from around the world and from all 50 states to pay tribute those who have died in service to their country.

Rather than diminishing over the years as some early detractors hoped, this annual statement of support simply continues to grow.

Roll on . . .


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

On Memorial Day Weekend, A Flag at Every Grave Site is an Arlington Cemetery Tradition

For some, Memorial Day means the beginning of summer, a long weekend, the beach and maybe a cookout. Here in Washington, as much as anything, it means honoring those who have given their lives for this country.

Today marked the start of the annual “flags in” ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. In preparation for Memorial Day, soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry place American flags at the foot of each and every grave. Like all things in this historic place, it is done quietly, reverently and with great appreciation.

The 3rd Infantry is also known as the “Old Guard” and is one of the oldest and most respected Infantry Regiments in the United States Army. In addition to their regular duties around the world, Old Guard members bear the responsibility of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and escorting deceased service members to their final resting place at Arlington.

I am proud to have served as a member of the Old Guard and proud that my father’s grave bears one of those flags.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 4 Comments »

49th Annual Hunt Country Stable Tour is a Perfect Memorial Day Escape from the City

No big plans for Memorial Day weekend? Staying close to home but got the itch to do ‘something’? Then pack a picnic, put your jeans and walking shoes on and head about an hour west from Alexandria to Middleburg, VA and the 49th Annual Hunt Country Stable Toura great, leisurely day trip.

Sponsored by Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, VA in support of their outreach programs, the tour is open Saturday and Sunday, May 24-25 from 10:00am to 5:00pm. It doesn’t matter whether or not you ride or even know much about horses, this is an extraordinary opportunity to see the Virginia hunt country from a very special perspective.

Start at Trinity Episcopal Church, an adaptation of a 12-13th century French country church where a Country Market will take place with dog treats, ice cream, native plants and herbs, and horse themed crafts. The 10:30 church service on Sunday morning is open to all.

In no particular order:

Trappe Hill Farm, a large conglomerate, is home to thoroughbreds, yearlings, foals, race horses in training, show horses, and a 100 mile endurance race.

Fox Hill Farm is a 30 acre horse farm centered around a large pond with 9 horses in residence. It is also home to Sandra Conchar, 2006 National Side Saddle Champion and 2007 Reserve Champion.

Rokeby, the jewel of the hunt country, is the home of 1993 Kentucky Derby Winner Sea Hero. Rokeby will also host beagle demonstrations on both days. DON’T MISS THIS STOP!

Heronwood Farm was a successful Thoroughbred breeding operation for many years and now boards horses, hosts a successful polo team and is home to a colorful herd of Huacaya Alpacas.

Stone Bridge over Goose Creek is a four arch bridge built sometime between 1801 and 1803. Visit with Civil War re-enactors, local historians, a fife and drum corps and see an artillery demonstration.

Northern Virginia Animal Swim Center is a stable and training facility that uses swimming rehabilitation for horses and dogs who are recovering from injury or surgery. The largest indoor heated pool is 12ft deep and promotes lap swims from 100 yards to 1 mile.

PeakeWood Pharm is a private farm that has undergone extensive renovation over the past two years. The 12 stall log barn has beams over 100 years old.

Locust Hill Farm is a working farm whose primary products are Thoroughbred racing horses, Angus cattle and horse quality hay. With a total of 1037 acres, 339 acres are dedicated to wildlife and trails for riding and fox hunting. The original property line between Locust Hill and neighboring Grass Lands Farm was surveyed by George Washington.

Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center (MARE) was donated to Virginia Tech by the late Paul Mellon with a mission to advance the health and well-being of the horse. 22 mares currently in residence are ‘expecting.’

A special treat this year – and available only on Saturday – is an actual polo match on the Upperville Polo Field. Visitors are cordially invited to take part in the time honored tradition of half time ‘divot stomping.’

The weather man is calling for a picture perfect weekend so treat yourself to something special – the 47th Annual Hunt Country Stable Tour.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

Pack Your Sleeping Bag and Go Museum Camping. Oh, Take the Kids Too!

Looking for something a bit different to do for a birthday party, graduation or other special occasion? Museums in neighboring Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, Richmond, VA, Philadelphia, PA and even a bit further up the road in New York, all offer some kind of organized activity for overnight guests.

It will take a bit of planning on your part, with reservations often made months in advance, but how often do you get to sleep with the fishes and live to talk about it?

Here is a brief rundown of some of the available programs:

In Washington, The National Zoo, under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution, offers a “Snore and Roar” program April through September.

The overnight features a two hour exploration of an animal house or exhibit led by a zoo keeper; a late night flashlight tour of the zoo; and lodging in a four person tent (provided by the Zoo) on Lion/Tiger hill.

Wake up with the animals, enjoy breakfast and a morning activity before departing. Snore and Roar is open only to FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) members.

The Science Museum in Richmond, offers a “Camp In” with a Segway ride inside the museum, a snake show and an IMAX movie.

Baltimore’s National Aquarium focuses on specific themes like Australia or sharks and includes a behind-the-scenes-tour, crafts and dinner. Campers sleep under the tank of stingrays or dolphins and or beneath the glass pyramid that overlooks the harbor. Breakfast is followed by fish-friendly games.

No enlistment is required to board the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney or the submarine USS Torsk at the Baltimore Maritime Museum. On the Cutter Overnight honorary sailors are assigned watch detail and learn about navigation and the inner workings of the steam room. The floating, not submerged, Submarine Program follows a similar itinerary.

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michael’s. MD is open to guests who want to sleep in a lighthouse. There is an interactive lesson on life in a lighthouse, a picnic dinner by the Miles River and a firm sleeping spot on the wooden floor inside the 19th century structure.

“Roar ‘n Snore” at the Maryland Zoo sets up tents in the Waterfowl Lake Pavilion and campers gather round the campfire for pizza, songs and s’mores. Morning means breakfast for both man and beast.

In Philadelphia, the Zoo offers a “Night Flight” program with a hike and animal encounters.

Overnight on the Battleship New Jersey in Camden, NJ, begins with a tour of the ship which served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam and is now permanently retired.

Guests ride a simulator over Iwo Jima before tucking into the sailor’s bunks. Dinner and breakfast are served in – what else – the mess hall.

Is mountaineering your interest? Visit the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City where the Himalayan art museum transforms into Mt. Everest complete with Tibetan gruel and real Sherpas.

There is even a Peak Experience up the gallery staircases, a puja ceremony and trust exercises.

And finally, A Night at the Museum in the venerable American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Campers have the run of the museum with time to actually READ the exhibit material, look for clues in the dinosaur and fossil rooms and take in a planetarium show before mandatory lights out at midnight. A favorite sleeping space beneath the big blue whale fills fills quickly.

Anyone ready to go ?


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 8 Comments »

Scenic Sunday – Pictures Are All You Need

Del Ray Artisans


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