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Archive for September, 2010

Art on the Avenue 2010 – What You Need to Know

Art on the Avenue, Alexandria’s premier arts festival kicks off Saturday, Oct. 2 at 10:00am on Mt. Vernon Avenue in the heart of Del Ray.  Over 300 vendors and some 40,000 visitors are expected for the 15th annual celebration of art, music, and food.

Look for fabric art, furniture, fused glass, jewlry, metal, painting, photography, pottery, stained glass and more.

DelRayBannerIn addition to the artists, many of whom live and work in Del Ray, the 3/4 mile venue will feature local food vendors, children’s activities, musical performances, a pie baking contest and a dog wash.

The dog wash, a new “event” is a collaboration between the T.C. Williams High School Orchestra and Nature’s Nibbles.  Members of the TC orchestra will wash dogs (of all sizes) from 10:00am  – 6:00pm for $10.

Half of the fee will go directly to the orchestra, as will those always thoughtful tips.

Orchestra members will also offer a “string instrument petting zoo” on the sidewalk in front of the Del Ray School of Music (2405 Mount Vernon Ave.) Children of all ages can try out a string insturment for free, and have a mini private lesson from a member of the TC orchestra.

Parking on Del Ray side streets is extremely limited and visitors are urged to use the Braddock Road METRO.

It’s a 15 minute walk or you can take the free DASH bus that will run every 30 minutes starting at 10:00am between the Metro and the corner of Bellefonte/Mt. Vernon Ave.  Just look for the sign that says “Ride Me to Art on the Avenue“.

For a video of the festival  – and some other interesting tidbits about Del Ray, click here.

Virginia and I are volunteering so we’ll see you there, RAIN or SHINE


Michael

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No Smiling at the DMV

Maybe you’re new to Virginia or haven’t needed to renew your driver’s license recently.  So please, be forewarned when you do go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) –  NO SMILING is allowed.

Yes, that’s right, NO SMILING at the DMV.

Oh, you can smile at the clerks, at the small child playing on the floor beside your chair, you can even smile at the security guards.  But when it comes time for your picture, NO SMILING at the DMV.

Baby crying
According to the Washington Post, the DMV, as part of an effort “to develop super-secure driver’s licenses and foolproof identification cards, the agency has issued a smile ban, directing customers to adopt a ‘neutral expression’ in their portraits . . . the agency is working on a facial recognition system that could compare customers’ photographs over time to prevent fraud and identity theft.”

DMV spokeswoman Pam Goheen said, “To prepare for the possibility of future security enhancements, we’re asking customers to maintain a neutral expression.”

Virginia is not alone in this NO SMILING policy.  Arkansas, Indiana and Nevada have similar rules.

Fix your hair, put on your makeup and earrings, adjust your glasses, wear a flattering color but NO SMILING.

Michael

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Fall Garden Tours and Workshops in Northern Virginia

A few weeks ago we gave you a long list of things to do in Northern Virginia from now until the first of the year.  Lots of festivals and art shows, corn mazes and pumpkin patches.

Today we’re going to focus on fall garden tours and workshops.

Fall is a great time to plant and/or start planning for next spring.

X Fall FoliageWith incredibly hot and dry weather behind us (we hope), it’s time to assess the damage and perhaps readjust existing garden plans.

Whatever you need to do in your garden, these tours and workshops are a perfect launching pad for your imagination.

Oct. 2 – Green Springs Garden, Fall Garden Festival

Oct. 3 Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Potomac Valley Native Plant Collection

Oct. 7 – Turkey Run Park, work with the Nature Conservancy to remove invasive plant material.  703.732.5291

Oct. 9 – Green Spring Gardens, drought tolerant natives for water-wise landscaping.

Oct. 9-10 State Arboretum, Arborfest

Oct. 19 – Green Spring Gardens, “Select Natives and Control Invasives”

Oct. 23 – Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Ornamental grass tour

Oct. 23Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, “Fall Colors at Dyke Marsh”

Oct. 30Riverbend Park, 60th anniversary hike to Great Falls, call 703.759.9018

Nov. 4 – Turkey Run Park, work with the Nature Conservancy to remove invasive plant material.  703.732.5291

For a complete list that includes Maryland and the District of Columbia, click here.

And if you don’t have a garden?  Call me at 703.927.4554 and we’ll find you one  – and a house to go with it.

Michael

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Alcova Heights in South Arlington

In part of its ongoing “where we live” series, the Washington Post this week highlighted Alcova Heights in South Arlington.  Aside from it being a good profile, we were interested because we also own property in Alcova Heights.

Alcova Heights is officially bordered by Columbia Pike to the south, South Glebe Road to east, Arlington Blvd. to the north and George Mason Drive to the west.  Schools in the area include Barcroft Elementary, Jefferson Middle and Wakefield High.

The neighborhood got its start as a farm owned by Virginia State Senator Joseph Cloyd Byars.  Byars named a farmhouse ALCOVA, an abbreviation for Alexandria County, VA and then formed the Alcova Improvement Co.  Under the improvement company, lots were sold for 5¢ per square foot.

House styles range from center hall colonials to bungalows to Cape Cods with arched entryways.  A suburban feel with an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants within walking distance makes the area highly desirable.

BroilerThe Broiler, a neighborhood institution, is a great example of the small shops in Alcova Heights.

There is an active Citizens Association and they successfully fought the proposed relocation of the Columbia Pike Library earlier this year.

Future plans call for streetscape improvements and redevelopment improvements including a Columbia Pike Trolley.

Nine houses and 10 condominiums have sold in Alcova Heights in the past 12 months.  The houses ranged from $415,000 to $745,000 and the condominiums from $135,000 to $370,000.

For more information on properties available in Alcova Heights, give me a call at 703.927.4554. It just might be the right place for you.

Michael

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A Cooling Idea at the Elipse Condominiums

Tucked away from the street, this unexpected fountain of water at the plaza adjacent to the Elipse Condominiums is a lovely surprise.

X Fountain


Michael

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First It was Bedbugs, Now It’s Stinkbugs

A few weeks ago I wrote about the infestations of bedbugs that are seemingly catching a ride in every suitcase in the country.  And then this morning I opened the paper to read about stinkbugs!

On the bright side stinkbugs are harmless – they don’t bite, they don’t sting and they don’t carry harmful diseases. They DO reek havoc on fruits and vegetables and ornamental shrubs and trees.

Stinkbug

Stinkbug

But the Washington Post noted “There is no easy way to kill lots of the bugs at once. They have no natural predators in the United States. Pesticides don’t work effectively. The insects travel easily – hitching rides on buses and construction material – and adapt to winter in homes.

As a result, they have flourished, spreading to 29 states since they arrived in Allentown, Pa., in 2001, likely stowaways in a shipping container from Asia. They are native to Japan, Korea and China, where they are known as “stinky big sisters.”

Experts say homeowners should prevent them from coming indoors by sealing cracks and openings around doors and windows.

For more, click here.  In the meantime, I’m going to start caulking.

Michael

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Five Mistakes Home Buyers Make – Making Arbitrary Offers

For the past week of so we’ve been sharing the ‘bones’ of an article by Sarah Max of the Wall Street Journal called Five Mistakes Home Buyers Make – and adding our own local perspective.

Today we hit number five on the list, making arbitrary offers.

Making arbitrary offers – With housing inventory running high and sales at record lows in most markets, there’s no shortage of houses for sale and sellers desperate to get out from under them all – all the more reason to hold out for the right house and the right price.  But when you find that perfect house, don’t assume you can lob a lowball offer or make unreasonable demands.

Even in hard-hit markets, nice houses in desirable neighborhoods are fetching multiple bids.  If the house has been on the market for months, you probably don’t need to worry about other buyers lining up behind you.  Make an offer based on recent sales for comparable homes, foreclosure activity and market trends, and don’t be afraid to start the bidding low.  If the house is fresh on the market (or recently foreclosed) and other buyers are circling the block, put your best foot forward but don’t be suckered into a bidding war.”

Low ballThis last mistake that home buyers make really hits home.  If a house is priced well it sends a signal to serious buyers.  In many ways it is an invitation to start a conversation about that price.

Just like an outlandish list price, an arbitrary or lowball offer is similar to a one word answer, it doesn’t allow for the conversation to go anywhere.   Instead, a well priced house and a considered offer, based on recent local comparisons, can be the basis for a short round of negotiations and a quick trip to the closing table.

Remember mistake number one – snubbing the real estate agent?

You can look at all the houses you want on your own, but when it comes to making an offer a good local Realtor® will help you avoid mistake number five – making arbitrary offers.

Questions about the Five Mistakes Home Buyers Make?  Ask me at 703.927.4554.

Michael

Five Mistakes Home Buyers Make – Focusing on the House, not the Hood

Five Mistakes that Home Buyers Make – Letting Charm Cloud Your Judgment

Five Mistakes that Home Buyers Make – Guesstimating How Much You Can Afford

Five Mistakes that Home Buyers Make – Snubbing the Real Estate Agent

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Five Mistakes Home Buyers Make – Focusing on the House, not the Hood

We’ve been using a Sarah Max article from the Wall Street Journal called Five Mistakes Home Buyers Make to illustrate some of the things you can do to make a smart buying decision in today’s market.

We’ve talked about subbing your real estate agent, guesstimating how much you can afford, and letting charm cloud your judgment. Today we are going to talk about focusing on the house, not the hood.

Focusing on the house, not the hood:  “In hindsight, many buyers say they wish they’d taken their due diligence a few steps further to really get to know all the perks, quirks and hassles of living in a particular place.  You can always fix up the house but there’s no easy remedy for annoying neighbors, oppressive homeowner association rules and marathon commutes . . . . Spend as much time as you can in your future neighborhood, ideally on different days and times.  Eat in the restaurants, drop in a yoga class, test drive your commute.”

This is absolutely great advice for home buyers who currently live in at least close proximity to the area where they want to buy.

X CheestiqueBut what about folks who are relocating from overseas or across the country and have limited opportunities to visit the area?  This is where a good local Realtor® can help, especially if they maintain a site like GWSleptHere.

If you’ve ever noticed, we go out of our way to bring you information about how people live, work and play in Northern Virginia.

We talk about the issues around development and mass transportation. Things to do, local businesses, farmer’s markets, walking, schools, shopping, etc.

You may also want to check out the walkability score of properties that interest you, it’s a good way to gauge accessibility.

Questions about the Five Mistakes Home Buyers Make?  Ask me at 703.927.4554.

Next:  Making arbitrary offers

Michael

Five Mistakes that Home Buyers Make – Letting Charm Cloud Your Judgment
Five Mistakes that Home Buyers Make – Guesstimating How Much You Can Afford
Five Mistakes that Home Buyers Make – Snubbing the Real Estate Agent

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2010 National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington, DC

Do you love books? Do you read to your children at night?  Is a good mystery or thriller the perfect anecdote for a rainy afternoon?  Then the 2010 National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington, DC this Saturday, September 25 is where you want to be.

Me with Press Pass

Me with Press Pass

Conceptualized by former First Lady Laura Bush and organized by the Library of Congress in 2001, the National Book Festival has taken on a life of its own with corporate sponsors, full time staff and volunteers, and a whole coterie of satellite events.

The first year there were 30,000 people in attendance (including yours truly).  Last year there were over 130,000 lucky book lovers.

Last year we had press passes (thanks to this blog!) and were lucky enough to meet the likes of Paula Deen, Craig Johnson, Lee Child and Michael Connelly.

Me with Lee Child

Me with Lee Child

This year authors will be grouped in:

Authors appear for approximately 30 minutes, speaking first and then taking questions.  There is a short break between speakers but lots of folks (like us) never leave their seats.  The sound system is great, the tents are comfortable and the whole day runs like clock work.

YouTube Preview Image

The 2010 National Book Festival is free and open to the public from 10:00am to 5:30pm and books are available for purchase (or buy them ahead of time at you local book store).  For more information and the full schedule of authors, click here.

Wear comfortable shoes, take the Metro, pack a lunch and be prepared to spend the day in book paradise!

See you there –

Michael

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Five Mistakes that Home Buyers Make – Letting Charm Cloud Your Judgment

We’ve already talked about snubbing real estate agents and guesstimating how much you can afford as two of the Five Mistakes Home Buyers Make. Today we’ll look at what has probably happened to all of us – letting charm cloud your judgment.

The idea for this series was taken from a Wall Street Journal article by Susan Max – we’re just adding our own twist.

Letting charm cloud your judgment: no one will fault you for falling hard for a charming older house.  But, unless the house has been ainstakingly remodeled or you’re prepared to pay for repairs and upgrades, an old house can quickly loose it’s allure . . .  don’t let the inspection be your last line of defense . . . negotiate a long due diligence period that gives you time to get real estimates from contractors and back out if need be. . . . Of course new homes aren’t without their drawbacks.  Recently many newly built homes experienced serious problems with Chinese-made drywall . . . proceed with caution whatever the home’s age.”

"Ocean Front"

"Ocean Front"

A good inspection is an essential for any home buyer.  Unless you have money to burn or are planning a complete rehab, never, ever, buy without an inspection.

Questions about the Five Mistakes Home Buyers Make?  Ask me at 703.927.4554.

Next:  Focusing on the house, not the hood

Michael

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