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Archive for May, 2009

First Time Home Buyers Can Turn Tax Credit Into Cash

The first time home buyers tax credit which was increased from the $7000 high in 2008 to $8000 in 2009 has just gotten even better.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan has announced a change in federal policy that will allow first time buyers to turn that tax credit into cash.

Essentially, first time buyers eligible for the credit who apply for mortgage insured by the FHA will also be eligible for bridge loans or cash advances – up to the $8000 limit – to use for down payments, closing costs or other loan expenses.

According to the secretary, the idea is to “monetize” the tax credit, e.g. turn it into immediately spendable cash.

Under the guidelines drafted by the FHA, all lenders approved by the agency will be authorized to provide bridge loans secured solely by the tax credit at closing.

A small but growing number of states have started bridge programs to stimulate home buying and this announcement from the federal government is welcome news.

For more information on the first time (not within the last three years) home buyers tax credit, click here; or for information on Fannie Mae’s refinancing program, click here.

To find out who is an approved FHA lender in the Northern Virginia area and how we can help put you in your first home, give me a call at 703.927.4554.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

Do You Know the Difference Between a Note and a Mortgage?

Real estate is filled with terms that are often used 1) interchangeably and/or 2) erroneously.  The terms loan, mortgage, deed of trust and note are among those terms frequently used and misused. Our thanks to Mid-Atlantic Settlement Services for this easy to understand tutorial on the true distinction between a note and a mortgage.


A note or promissory note is a contract whereby a party makes a promise to pay a sum of money to another party under specific terms.  In real estate, the party is typically a borrower who agrees to make monthly payments of principal and interest over 20 or 30 years to a lender.

“The note has virtually nothing to do with the property itself and can technically exist without any collateral at all.  If the borrower doesn’t pay, the lender can sue ‘under the note’ and obtain remedies for breaching that contract.”

Mortgage or Deed of Trust

For the purpose of this explanation we are going to use mortgage and deed of trust interchangeably.  A mortgage is a transfer of an interest in property.  Mortgages are tied to the debt created by a note, but a mortgage in and of itself is NOT a promise to pay the debt. 

In fact, it is not a promise to pay anything.  “Instead, it contains ‘granting’ language  – like a deed – which gives the lender the right to take the property if the borrower goes into default and doesn’t pay under the terms of the note.”  (And if you really want to know the difference between a mortgage and a deed of trust, click here.)

Key Differences

Questions?  Want to sign a note and a mortgage for property in Northern Virginia?  Give me a call at 703.927.4554 and let’s talk.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 49 Comments »

Stories Linger on at Arlington National Cemetery

As we come to the end of the Memorial Day weekend, sated with star-studded concerts, solemn services, the raucous camaraderie of Rolling Thunder, a barbecue with friends, perhaps a day off from work, it is easy to move on, to slip back into our regular routine.  But what about those whose routines and stories ended at Arlington National Cemetery?

Yesterday in the Washington Post, Mark Berman wrote about his two years of covering funerals at Arlington.   A young man, Mark has never served his country and had, in fact, never been to a funeral when he received this assignment at the tender age of 23.

At first concerned that he would become numb to the sadness or that families would resent his asking questions, he soon found that it was the stories that made his job doable.

I invite you to read Mark’s article and share in the stories that live on at Arlington.  You’ll be glad you did.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Rolling Thunder 2009 – Up Close and Personal

Today, like every other Memorial Day Weekend for the past 22 years, Rolling Thunder – an eclectic band of cyclists from every walk of life –  paid tribute to the men and women who serve their country in war and in peace.

Started in 1987 by Ray Manzo, a USMC corporal who wanted to call attention to military personnel still classified as Prisoners of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA) in the Vietnam conflict, Rolling Thunder has become a Memorial Day tradition.  The rally takes its name from “Operation Rolling Thunder” – the constant bombing of North Vietnam in 1965.

Hailing from around the country – and even from around the world – some 500,000+ cyclists followed a route from the Pentagon parking lot, across the Memorial Bridge, up Constitution towards the Capitol and back down Independence to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial or The Wall.

Alexandria, with its close proximity to the Pentagon, is a natural staging ground for many of the cyclists and we had a chance to talk with a group from Texas wh0 were staying near-by.  First up we had the father and son team of Jim and Chris Parson.

Jim, a spry 70yr. old, served with MacV (Military Advisory Command) in Vietnam and is here for his second “Ride to the Wall”.  Son Chris will graduate this year from the University of Texas, Tyler and is making is first trip.

Tracy McCarver, also here for her second year, rides in honor of her father.


Our second father and son team, Christopher and Carl Crisco, represent our most recent veterans.  Carl served in the Navy in Desert Storm and Chris was with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan and Iraq.

When I asked all of them why they came, why they rode thousands of miles, why they took the time, the words varied – respect, remembrance –  but the sentiment was the same – Duty, Honor, Country.

Unfortunately Christopher also asked me a question, a question I couldn’t answer.  “When,” he asked “is there going to be a memorial for the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan?”

Thank you Jim, Christopher and Carl for serving our country. Chris and Tracy, thank you for supporting your loved ones. Thank you for being here and for riding to remember those who still serve and those who are no longer with us.  And if you come back next year, give me a call and we’ll raise one together!

Roll on, roll on . . .


P.S. – Be sure and drop us a comment to let us know you got back to Texas safely.

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 3 Comments »

‘Flags In’ Ceremony Marks Beginning of Memorial Day Activities at Arlington National Cemetery

Today at 3:30 pm, under clear skies, some 1500 soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment walked through the upper gates of Arlington Cemetery carrying rusacks full of American flags.  Their mission?  To place a flag on each and every grave site, leaving no soldier forgotten.

Known as ‘Flags In’, this decades old ceremony marks the beginning of Memorial Day activities at

Arlington National  Cemetery.

The 3rd Infantry Regiment, fondly know as the “Old Guard”, was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit in 1948.  That same year, non-commissioned officers began the practice of placing flags at each grave site on Memorial Day.  Old Guard members also guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, escort deceased service members to their final resting place at Arlington and serve in regular billets around the world.

Still lead and coordinated by 3rd Regiment NCO’s, the soldiers were joined today by representatives from the Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marine honor guard units.

Command Sergeant Major David Martel noted that it would take his soldiers about 3 hours to place over 250,000 flags.  With due reverence, each flag is centered approximately 12 inches in front of the grave.  Because soldiers use their individual foot gear as a measure, a single service member begins and completes one row in a section to insure uniformity.  The flags will stay in place through Monday, May 25th but will be removed before the cemetery opens on Tuesday, May 26th.

SPC Sara Walton

[SPC Walton moved just two weeks ago from Ft. Campbell, KY  to Ft. Meyer to be part of the 289th Military Police Company.  Originally from San Antonio, TX, Walton served in the Air Force before joining the Army. ]


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. Ten-hut!


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 82 Comments »

Walking in Del Ray

We have been a one car family for the past few days and it has just served to remind me what a great walking neighborhood we have here in Del Ray.

Whether you choose one car (or even no car) for personal or economic reasons, you’ll find almost everything you need here with just a bit of shoe leather.  In fact, in real estate lingo, its what they call “walkability” and I’d like to share what a recent day looked like for me.

Michael took me to work at the B&N store in Potomac Yard in the morning but when I got off that afternoon I was on my own.  I changed shoes and headed out for a 15 minute walk home, down Rt. 1 to East Howell Avenue.

The sidewalks on the east side of Rt. 1 that border the Potomac Yard development are really more like the Mt. Vernon bike trail  – wide curving swaths of asphalt with green on both sides that makes the highway less daunting.

Once home, I changed clothes and walked two blocks to the gym – or YMCA.  On this location since the early 40’s, the current building dates from 1996 and is a huge draw for us with a swimming pool, yoga and pilates classes, personal trainers and three areas for working out.

Just across the street from the “Y” are a bakery, a Giant grocery store and CVS drug store for more convenience.

After several rounds with the elliptical trainer and free weights, it was time for home and another change of clothes.  This time my destination was up Howell and down Mt. Vernon (a total of four blocks) to the Anne Welsh salon where the fabulous Elizabeth Klebaur tackles my untidy and numerous cowlicks.


Never one to turn down a dinner invitation, Michael came down to meet me when I was done and we walked another two blocks for our favorite fish tacos at Taqueria Poblano.

Gently full, we sadly bypassed dessert at the Dairy Godmother and headed home.  The sounds of a high school baseball game called from  Eugene Simpson field, just across the parking lot from the “Y” but with an early morning on the schedule we opted out – this time.


It was a great spring afternoon/evening – and all because I went walking in my Del Ray neighborhood.


Thanks to my spouse and managing partner for this take on living in Del Ray.  And if you want to know more about what walkability means as a seller or a home buyer, give me a call at 703.927.4554.

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 11 Comments »

Home Valuation Code of Conduct Influences Mortgage Lending in Northern Virginia

The Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) is in full swing in Northern Virginia and we are now required to order appraisals on conventional loans through a panel of appraisers as determined by each lender.

The process is fairly similar to VA loans where we are no longer able to choose the appraiser.  FHA is the only loan type still available where the lender can specify the appraiser.

Mortgage rates remain volatile with conflicting economic data a heavy influence.  I expect it will be months before a clear trend become apparent.  As of Monday, rates look like this:

For my complete market report, click here.

Rob Clark, Preferred Mortgage.

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 1 Comment »

Celebrating Mother’s Day in Alexandria with Clematis, Roses and Peonies

Mother’s Day in Alexandria was spring at its finest with an abundance of clematis, roses and peonies.  Just enjoy . . .


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

Not Even Rain Could Stop Del Ray’s First “First Thursday” of 2009

Despite day long rain that alternated with periods of sunshine, Del Ray’s First “First Thursday” of 2009 went off as scheduled.  A few things were canceled but as soon as there was a break in the weather the sidewalk tables came out to welcome the dogs, kids, and baby carriages that soon followed.

Congressman Jim Moran was seen greeting former City Council member Justin Wilson and Larry Altenburg, immediate past president of the Del Ray Citizens Association (DRCA).

A Show of Hands welcomed visitors to their new location at 2103 Mt. Vernon; the Blueberry, an art gallery, was showing off their new space next door to St. Elmo’s; and the Neighborhood Pharmacy of Del Ray handed out information about their new space at 2204 Mt. Vernon Ave., coming June 2009.

I have to say, I am really excited about this new pharmacy.   They will offer free delivery in Del Ray, one refill date for all medications, and pet meds as well as human prescriptions.  When was the last time you shopped at a neighborhood pharmacy?  Just another reason to love living here.

Mark your calendar  – June 4 is our next “First Thursday.”

And if you want to know more about living in this great neighborhood, call me at 703.927.4554.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

Tweet? Text? Talk? How Well Do You and Your Realtor Communicate?

How do you and your Realtor communicate?  Do you Tweet?  Text?  Talk?

An article in Monday’s Washington Post about how high tech options can short-circuit a romance got me to thinking about how complicated our communication world is these days.

[The article noted that 20 years ago the process of asking someone on a date was either done face to face or you picked up the phone.  Actually, 20 years ago, folks still wrote letters and party invitations were sent by snail mail!]

High tech options in real estate transactions are equally vulnerable with just as many opportunities for failure.  A missed phone call, an email that doesn’t go through (yes, it does happen), an ignored text message – all can lead to a missed opportunity, a disappointed client, a frustrated agent.

The key is figuring out what works best right at the beginning.


My young clients are totally responsive to text messages since they are rarely, if ever, without a cell phone or some form of Blackberry.  Clients in my age group are pretty attached to emails and phone calls.  And my ‘senior’ clients?  It’s a phone call followed by a visit.

I also work with a lot of military who are transferring here from another state or even another country.  Time zones play a huge role in getting things done and expectations on both sides need to be shared.

And then there were my clients in France.  I kept a French dictionary on my desk and found a French speaking mortgage banker to smooth out a very rocky financial situation.

Bottom line – it doesn’t really matter how you and your Realtor communicate, it just has to be mutually agreeable, mutually effective, and mutually satisfactory.  Remember, your Realtor works for YOU.  If you aren’t getting the service and the communication that you want and need, then you aren’t working with the right person.

Don’t let bad communication short-circuit your housing plans, I’m always here if you want to talk, or tweet, or text!

Michael – 703.927.4554

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

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