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Archive for January, 2011

Do You Need a New Dishwasher?

Do you need a new dishwasher?  We do.  Our 20 year old (!!!!) noisy, average priced Sears model finally bit the dust.  We’ve been doing our research, asking friends and neighbors and have just about settled on a brand, if not the model.


Just in time for our research, the Washington Post has started a series on appliances and they kicked off with a handy guide to, yes you guessed it, dishwashers.

It pretty well confirms our decision but we still found the “what’s new” and “operating tips” useful.

According to Post writer Jura Koncius there are three things you should not put in a dishwasher:

  1. insulated travel mugs
  2. wooden spoons
  3. wooden cutting boards.

But, you can put these things in the dishwasher:

Ready to start shopping?  Click here for the full article – whether you need a dishwasher or not!


P.S. – We’re going for VERY quiet

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 1 Comment »

Upfront PMI vs Monthly PMI

Most of us are familiar with paying some kind of PMI – or private mortgage insurance.

PMIToday, let’s look at upfront PMI – mortgage insurance paid on a conventional loan where the premium is all paid at closing as part of the closing cost and no monthly premium is required.

When is upfront PMI available?  Upfront PMI is available if the borrower has a credit score greater than 680 and is putting 5-20% down for a loan of $417K or less OR if a borrower has a credit score of 720 or greater and is putting down 10-20% for a loan of $417,001 – $729,750.

Now, what are the advantages?  The following example assumes:

On an FHA loan, the cash down payment needed is $14,000 down and the seller subsidy covers all closing cost.  The total PITI (principal, interest, taxes, insurance) is $2702.

With a conventional, monthly PMI the cash down payment is $20,000, the seller subsidy covers all closing costs and the total PITI is $2573.

Using an upfront PMI, the seller makes a $20,000 cash down payment and the seller subsidy covers most of the closing costs.  At this point the buyer will still need to cover approximately $4500 bringing the cash total to $24,500.  The total PITI is $2360 – $213 less than the monthly conventional loan and $342 less than the FHA loan.

The break even point happens at 21 months when comparing two conventional loans and at 31 months when using the FHA example.

Be sure and talk to your mortgage broker about the advantages of an upfront PMI when buying your house – it may be the right thing for you.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 18 Comments »

The Four Components of a Mortgage Payment

If you are buying your first home or property, it’s wise to acquaint yourself with some of the financial terms you will hear as you begin discussing what you can afford.

Mortgage RatesFor instance, do you know the four components of a mortgage payment?

In financial jargon it’s know as PITI principal, interest, taxes, insurance.

Principal – The amount borrowed or the part of the amount borrowed with remains unpaid (excluding interest); the part of a monthly payment that reduces the outstanding balance of a mortgage.

Interest – The fee charged by a lender to a borrower for the use of borrowed money.  The rate depends on the time value of money, the credit risk of the borrower and the inflation rate.

Taxes – A fee charged or levied by a government on a product, income or activity – in this case, property taxes.

Insurance – A promise of compensation for specific potential future losses in exchange for a periodic payment – in this case PMI or private mortgage insurance.  Lenders require buyers who have less than a 20% down payment to purchase PMI.

Call me at 703.927.4554 and let’s work together to find a home that fits your PITI requirements.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 3 Comments »

Waiting for Your House to Sell

This morning, in the newly revamped Real Estate section of the Washington Post, there is an excellent article on home sellers who wait months – not days or weeks – to find a buyer.

X Michael FacebookThe article features four different home owners in the greater Washington D.C. area.

Only one is from Northern Virginia where “days on the market” have decreased over the past year but it still presents a realistic picture of what home owners may expect when listing their home.

FACT:  In the third quarter of 2010 it took about 61 days to sell a house in the Washington area compared with 87 days in 2009.  But where you live also makes a huge difference.  Those same third quarter statistics show that days on the market ranged from 52 in Northern Virginia to almost 62 in the District to nearly 76 in suburban Maryland.

Two things stood out for me.  One – buyers are still expecting to get “fire sale” or foreclosure prices.  While those conditions do exist in some cases, this area has been cited for rising home prices and rising employment rates.  Buyers should understand and judge the market accordingly.

Second, I was bothered, although not surprised, at the comments about real estate agents.

Whether not telling a family what to do (painting, cleaning, pricing, etc.) to agents not respecting a “call ahead” notice for showing, the article points to the need for an agent who is an active participant in readying the house for sale, has a comprehensive marketing plan (including a strong internet presence) and is grounded in facts.

For the complete story, click here.

And when you are ready to put your house on the market, give me a call at 703.927.4554.

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

MV Big Flea Shop and Drop – The Best Thrift Store in Alexandria

Are you ready?  This Saturday, January 22 signals the grand opening of the MV Big Flea Shop and Drop – the Best Thrift Store in Alexandria!

Shop and DropThe brainchild of Del Ray resident Joseph LaMountain, the MV Big Flea is a yearly fundraiser for the Mount Vernon Community School PTA.

Started just three years ago, the “Big Flea” has grown into an almost year round extravaganza with permanent storage for donations, an Ebay site, corporate partners and a host of volunteers.  Last year the Big Flea raised over $25,000, exceeding all expectations.

And the MV Big Flea Shop and Drop?  Your chance to donate and buy, all at the same time!  The storage space for the Big Flea doubles as a store where you can browse and buy any of the donated items.  It’s cash and carry only so be prepared.

The Shop and Drop, at  719 North St. Asaph, will be open this Saturday, January 22 and Saturday from 2:00 – 4:00pm and Saturday, February 12.

Then, starting in March, the Shop and Drop will be open every Saturday until the big, one day sell off on April 30th at the Mt. Vernon Community Center.

What a great opportunity to support a neighborhood school and clean out your basement all at the same time!

And if you need a new house for all the bargains that you’ll find at the Shop and Drop, give me a call at 703.927.4554 and we’ll do a bit more shopping.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 6 Comments »

Winter Safety for Seniors – Part Three

We’ve been pretty lucky so far this year with snow (or the lack of) but yesterday’s ice storm was a real corker and reinforces the need for winter safety.

Snow-Emergency-Road-Traffic-SignsSo far in our series on winter safety for seniors we have looked at setting up a communications plan with family and friends and what you need in the way of supplies for safety and comfort.

Today, in Part Three of Winter Safety for Seniors we’re going to define the many terms and designations that are applied to winter weather conditions:

And we’re going to wind up with four useful utility tips in the event of a storm warning:

  1. Keep numbers for the electric, gas and water companies posted near the telephone
  2. Notify the electric company if you or a loved one uses a respirator or other life-sustaining equipment.
  3. Fill the bathtub with water.  It can be used for drinking, bathing and flushing toilets.
  4. Clearly mark turn-off switches and valves for electric, gas and water and have appropriate tools on hand.

Thanks again to the Mount Vernon Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for letting us share this terrific information on winter safety for seniors.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 6 Comments »

Learn Who You Can Trust When Buying or Selling a House

As an excellent article in the Washington Post recently noted, it’s important to learn whom you can trust when buying or selling a house.

to tell the truthLots of people can be involved in the transaction of buying or selling but for our purposes we are going to take a quick look at just three –  the listing agent, the buyer’s agent and the sellers agent.  In each case, it is fiduciary responsibility that dictates legal responsibility.

Very simply:

The listing agent is the agent who lists and represents the interests of the sellers and has no legal obligation to the buyers.

The buyer’s agent works strictly for the buyer and has no legal obligation to the sellers.

The selling or cooperating agent is a hybrid, working for the buyers but as a sub-agent of the listing agent.  Legal responsibility?  To the seller.

Whether you are a buyer or a seller, it is important to know all the players in the game and how their actions will impact your real estate transaction.

For more on the subtle details and differences and what they mean to you, click here.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Real Estate Market Report for Alexandria and Northern Virginia December 2010

As we kick-off the new year and make resolutions to keep our resolutions, one question is still at the forefront. Will the housing market and the economy improve over all in 2011?

coldwell-banker-logoDepending on what you’re reading or who you’re watching, the opinions of economists and real estate industry watchers are varied.  It’s not easy to predict what the market will do in the coming year, especially without the help of a crystal ball.  However there are some key indicators to follow.

Most agree that the housing market recovery is largely based on the recovery of the job market.  Consumers will make a down payment and purchase a home when they feel financially stable and secure.

According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report released in December, 28 states and the District of Columbia posted unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier although the national jobless rate approached 9.8 percent in November.



Fairfax Country

Faquier County

Loudoun County

Prince William

Washington, DC

In December, the Labor Department issued statistics that showed applications for jobless insurance payments fell by 3,000, sending the average in December to the lowest level since August 2008, and fewer workers filed claims for unemployment – signaling that the U.S. job market is improving, if only slightly.

Another indicator to watch is pending home sale statistics. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), pending home sales jumped in October, showing a positive uptrend since bottoming in June.  The NAR Pending Home Sales Index rose 10.4 percent to 89.3 based on contracts signed in October from 80.9 in September as buyers rushed to meet the Tax Credit deadline in 2009.  On the downside, the index remains 20.5 percent below when compared to the same time last year.

Overall, these numbers are positive, but we still have some way to go before a full recovery is realized.

“It is welcoming to see a solid double-digit percentage gain, but activity needs to improve further to reach healthy, sustainable levels,” said  Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “The housing market clearly is in a recovery phase and will be uneven at times, but the improving job market and consequential boost to household formation will help the recovery process going into 2011.”

At Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, we are looking forward to at 2011 that brings a revived economy and a stable housing market.  Let me help you be part of that improving market.

For a free, confidential comparative housing analysis for your neighborhood, call me at 703.227.4554.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Winter Safety for Seniors – Part Two

Yesterday in Winter Safety for Seniors – Part One – we looked at establishing a communications plan for friends and relatives, both local and out of town.

Snow-Emergency-Road-Traffic-SignsToday in Winter Safety for Seniors – Part Two –  we are going to look at what you need in the way of supplies for safety and comfort.

A severe winter storm may mean that you or a senior member of your family will be alone for several days.

The following items will go a long way towards making the situation safer and more comfortable:

And if the situation warrants:

Tomorrow, in Winter Safety for Seniors – Part Three – we’ll look at some quick utility tips and the many terms and designations applied to winter weather conditions.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 3 Comments »

Winter Safety for Seniors – Part One

Earlier this year the Mount Vernon Nursing and Rehabilitation Center put together a terrific report on Winter Safety for Seniors.


Whether you live near a senior family member/friend or must help navigate these issues from a distance, developing an effective communications plan is most important.

With temperatures in the low twenties, severe winds and more snow in the forecast, it’s a perfect time to start planning.




Tomorrow we’ll talk about what supplies to have on hand when severe weather hits in Winter Safety for Seniors – Part Two


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

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