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Archive for February, 2009

Where Every Child Can BE GREAT – the Alexandria-Olympic Boys & Girls Club

The Alexandria-Olympic Boys & Girls Club (BGCGW) has a very simple credo – every child has the potential to BE GREAT!  And they work to fulfill that credo every day.  As part of the larger national network, the Alexandria-Olympic Boys & Girls Club is committed to providing:

A few months ago I had a chance encounter with Del Ray neighbor and AOBGC Board Member Mary Burner.  After learning that we write as much about community and neighborhood as we do about real estate, Mary invited us to write about BCGC of Alexandria and especially about their building program.  I knew about the clubs from my time at America’s Promise, so the answer was an easy yes.

Currently located at 410 North Payne Street in the heart of the historic Parker-Gray neighborhood, the original Alexandria club was built in 1936.  Having long since outgrown its physical capacity, while continuing to offer more programs and serve increasing numbers of children, the  Board of Directors authorized a $2 million capital campaign in 2002 .  Ground breaking ceremonies were held on Nov. 30, 2008 with Mayor Bill Euille and U.S. Congressman Jim Moran in attendance.  The club is on track to reopen in July and as Mary says, “We need to get our kids back in the club.”

With an annual budget of $475,000, the club has almost 300 registered participants and serves an average of 45 children a day.  “Membership” is $25 a year per child but no child is ever turned away for lack of funds.  The budget is supported by grants, city earmarks and a volunteer board committed to fund raising.  The club is open M-F from 2:30pm to 7:00pm during the school year and from 7:00am to 6:00pm during the summer months.

Jim Almond, an 18 year veteran of the BGCA system, has been the Executive Director of the Alexandria club for the past 8 years.  Despite the absence of heat on the day we met, Jim’s enthusiasm for his work quickly warmed the room.  Jim fully embraces the idea that every child has potential and that it is up to all of us to support and nourish that potential.  In addition to Jim, there are two additional full time staff and 3 part time staff.

Now, about that building – while the exterior of the building will not change dramatically, the interior has been gutted and will be completely restructured.  The two biggest changes will be a full size kitchen with industrial appliances for vocational and educational instruction and increased program space.

The updated kitchen will  offer an early introduction to careers in the food services industry and highlight the issues of childhood obesity with classes in healthy, nutritional cooking. The increased program space will help support the after school programs that are at the heart of the Boys and Girls Clubs. Basketball is a mainstay at the club and counts among its alumni Keith Boganis, an NBA player for the Milwaukee Bucks, Mike Heisley, owner of the NBA Memphis Grizzles, and Anthony Winbush who was the MVP on the 2008 T.C. Williams state championship team. Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille is also a veteran of the Alexandria club.

Other after school programs include photography classes, fitness training, financial literacy programs, and perhaps most important, tutoring.

On the national level, famous BGC alumni include Bill Cosby, Michael Jordan, Brad Pitt, President Bill Clinton, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Martin Sheen, Neil Diamond, Denzel Washington and Big Russ, father of political commentator Tim Russert.  Tim Russert served on the board of the Greater Washington organization and was an indefatigable supporter of the organization, philosophically and financially.

The Alexandria-Olympic Boys & Girls Club – and the people who support it – just another reason why living in Alexandria is a good thing.

Virginia Amos

P.S. Thanks to my spouse, and managing partner in all things, for this terrific article.  MB

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 8 Comments »

January Sales in Zip Code 22301 Show Slight Rise in Prices

January house sales in zip code 22301 (Del Ray and parts of Rosemont) show a slight rise in prices even though the number of houses sold was down by 25%  – which in this case was one house.  The average list price increased 2% from January 2008 to January 2009 and the sold price increased 5% during that same time period. 

If you would like to know more about properties that are currently available in zip code 22301, call me at 703.927.4554


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Waiting Till Spring to Sell Your House is an Urban Legend

A long held “urban legend” is that if you want to sell your house you should wait until spring to put it on the market.  One of the reasons given is that the exterior of the house shows better.

So, every other house in your neighborhood will show better too.  No competitive advantage there!  Another reason is that buyers with school age children will not buy until it’s near the end of a school year.  For some folks, yes.  But what about the very large segment of the population who don’t have school age children?  Besides, relocating families – civilian and military especially – move at all times of the year.  Bottom line – the two major reasons for listing your property in the spring are, overall, not significant factors.


The real issue for not waiting for spring is how the real estate market worksReal estate is a commodity  – when inventory rises, prices go down.  Belief in the fallacy of waiting until spring causes an influx of homes on the market at one time.  With more inventory buyers have more choices and can open their bid with a lower price than when inventory was lower and choices were fewer.

As you study the graphs provided here:

you will notice in most areas that the number of new listings rises during the spring months and goes down in subsequent ones.  You will also see that houses going under contract rise to some degree in the spring (giving rise to the fallacy) but the difference between new listings and sales in those months is much wider than in other months.

That difference is the reason that homeowners who plan to sell – and who want the highest dollar possible – should put their house on the market NOW.

And for buyers, with the combination of incredibly low interest rates and government incentives – your time is NOW too.

If you want to know more about the realities of the Northern Virginia and Alexandria real estate markets, and not the urban legends, give me a call at 703.927.4554.

Thanks for stopping by,


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

How to Get a Loan Modification

Are you or someone you know having trouble making your mortgage payments?  Do you think that selling your house or even facing foreclosure is the only choice?  It’s not.  Consider a loan modification or “loan mod”.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development a loan modification is “a permanent change in one or more of the terms of a mortgagor’s loan . . . and results in a payment the mortgagor can afford.”  There are companies that you can hire to help make this change or you can do it on your own.  Too hard you say? Too complicated?  Not any more, thanks to an absolutely terrific book that is just hitting the market place.

I would love to take credit for the straightforward, step by step, reassuring book that is How to Get a Loan Modification but I can’t.  That acknowledgment goes to father and son real estate investors/agents Ryan and Mike Rockwood of Southern California.

Using their own experiences, Ryan and Mike have crafted one of the best do it yourself workbooks I have ever seen.  Trust me, the folks who do the “Dummies” guides could take some lessons! Why do I like this book so much?  The Rockwood’s focus is empowering, affirmative, pragmatic, and practical.  There is no theory here – just plain fact.  The authors want you to know that if they did it you can too  – and not pay someone else to do it for you.  Everything the authors write is from personal experience – they have been successful with six of their own loan modifications and are working on another five.

They use actual letters and phone scenarios, fill in the blank to do lists, insider tips, action items, eye catching icons, etc. etc.  In addition, the Rockwood’s offer valuable advice on how to repair or maintain a solid credit rating and what lending institutions are really looking for in those reports.

So, if you or anyone you know is having trouble making a house payment do yourself a favor and check out How to Get A Loan Modification.  Oh, did I say there is a 100% money back guarantee?

Hats off to the Rockwoods for this valuable addition to any home owner’s arsenal of must have reference material.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 18 Comments »

Alexandria Celebrates Washington’s Birthday with Annual Parade

Despite temperatures in the mid 40’s and gray skies, Alexandria residents and tourists alike turned out to celebrate the birthday of home town hero George Washington with a parade through Old Town.


Now truthfully, Alexandria’s are parade happy.  We like to trot out our city council members, school board members, police chief, police cycle units, fire Marshall, firetrucks, Boy Scouts, Smart Car owners, local bands, drum and bugle corps, pipers, re-enactment groups, former U.S. Presidents, and anyone else who wants to dress up, ride a horse, or drive an old car.  It’s all good fun, the kids love it and, after all, it’s a federal holiday!

Even the houses in Old Town get dressed up!

Chatting with Del Ray neighbor and Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille

Mr. Lincoln


First Virginia Regiment, Continental Line


Sharing a laugh with U.S. Congressman Jim Moran – former Mayor of Alexandria and one of the founders of the Del Ray Citizens Association


Quintessential Alexandria – Old meets New

Thanks for stopping by,


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

2009 Heart of Del Ray Award Goes to Favorite Local Shop, “A Show of Hands”

A favorite local shop, “A Show of Hands” has won the 2009 Heart of Del Ray Award.   Situated at 2204 Mt. Vernon Avenue in the heart of Del Ray, A Show of Hands is the brainchild of Maria Wasowski and Pat Miller.


Maria and Pat opened in November 2005 with a commitment to represent a diversity of local artists.  Offerings include prints, jewelry, textiles, food stuffs, glass, paper crafts and more.  Each item is unique and completely hand crafted.

All pieces are taken on consignment and include well known artists as well as others who are just starting out.  More than 200 artists are currently represented and include such names as Patrick O’Brien, Alice Kale, Leah Sturgis, Paige Ireland and Ginny Steinhauer.  The inventory changes constantly and half the fun is exploring for that next great find.

Maria and Pat share a life long involvement  with the arts and each brings a unique perspective.  Maria graduated with a commercial arts degree and has worked in clay, photography, silk-screening, calligraphy and, most recently, jewelry, selling at craft shows and local shops.

Pat comes to the arts from the business side and is the founder and organizer of the hugely successful Art on the Avenue festival.  Together it works – so much so that in 2007 they were named as Retailer of the Year by the Virginia Retail Merchants Association.

In March the duo will move just down the street to space being vacated by another popular retailer, Eight Hands Round ( stay tuned for that story).

Sponsored by the Del Ray Business Association, the Heart of Del Ray Award is determined by a popular vote that makes use of the ever active and always popular Rosemont and Del Ray list servs.

Thank you Pat and Maria for contributing to the health and vitality of our city and especially, our Del Ray community.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 3 Comments »

Real Estate Tax Base for Alexandria, VA Declines in 2009

Real estate tax assessments from the City of Alexandria for 2009 have just landed in local mail boxes with predictable results.  Bottom line – the total real estate base (including commercial properties) for Alexandria declined 2.1% in 2009 as compared with 2008.

Average home prices in the Washington, DC area have dropped some 15% over the past year while in Alexandria the drop comes in at  4.7%.  According to the letter from the City that accompanied the assessments, the 2009 average assessed value for single family homes is now $637,154 representing a decline of 3.5%.  The average assessed value for condominiums is $301,714, representing a decline of 7.6%.  (Yet, interestingly, we reported yesterday that condominium sales were up 4% in 2008.)

The letter from the City goes on to say “these are averages and do not reflect the circumstances of any individual property.”


Assessments can, of course be appealed and if the emails I’ve seen on our local neighborhood list serv are any indicator, the City will be hiring extra people just to keep up with the paper work!


P.S.  The City should also hire a new writer/editor, the newsletter was really badly done . . .

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Low Unemployment Rates Boost Housing Sales in Alexandria, VA

In a USA Today article, Christine Dugas writes that low unemployment rates are boosting housing sales in Alexandria, VA and concerns about gas prices and gridlock traffic have sparked interest in city living.

“Workers can rely on four Metro stations within Alexandria’s city limits  to ride trains to work  . . . . and many Washington, DC employers subsidize Metro passes.”

John McClain, senior fellow at the Center for Regional Analysis, George Mason University, noted that the Washington, DC metro area has the lowest unemployment among the country’s top 15 metropolitan areas. That figure has Alexandria experiencing only a 5.0% drop in housing sales in the past year while the U.S. average is 14.8% and the average for the commonwealth is 20.%.

Condominium sales are holding up better that single-family home and are seen as an affordable alternative for first time buyers.  In fact, condominium sales were up 4% in December from a year ago.

For more, click here.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Uncertainty of Stimulus Package Has Direct Impact on Mortgage Rates in Northern Virginia

From Rob Clark at Preferred Mortgage:

Attached is this week’s mortgage update.  Rates increased a bit last week and closed the week at 5.375% with 0 points for a conforming loan of up to $417k.  The rates have been steadily increasing now for the past 3 weeks as Wall Street tries to determine the impact of the in-the-work stimulus package on the economy and on mortgage rates.

I expect volatility to remain fairly high until we have a definite idea on the terms and conditions of the package and will report an update once the results have been announced.”

Thanks Rob,


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 4 Comments »

Shop ‘Till You Drop – Alexandria Boutiques Host One Day Warehouse Sale

Looking for a stimulus package a little closer to home?  A good reason to shop ’till you drop? Then look no further than the one day  “Great Warehouse Sale” hosted by a collection of Alexandria boutiques on Saturday, February 7, from 9:00am  – 4:00pm.

Leslie Pietrzyk, a neighbor, author and fellow blogger tells us, ” I went to this sale last year and it was excellent – but VERY crowded, and we had to wait outside in line for at least an hour . . .  and parking can be tight so if walking over is an option, you might want to do so.”


What: Deep discounts on shoes, clothing,  jewelry, and more (up to 80%).

When:  Saturday, February 7, 9:00am – 5:00pm.

Where:   George Washington Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive.

Have a great time,


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

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