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National Night Out 2011 – Be There or Be Square

National Night Out 2011 is just around the corner and in our part of Del Ray, its Be There or Be Square.

National Night Out was originally created to combat drug and crime prevention and to foster better citizen/police relationships.

All those things are still true – and still the mission of the organization – but in our neighborhood it has developed into a much anticipated community event.  The entire block takes part – from getting city permits to block off the street, to pitching tents against the heat, pulling out coolers and cookers, setting up tables and chairs and, perhaps the most important part, contributing to a giant pot luck dinner.

In fact, our block is so well known for it’s good food – particularly the fried fish – that we routinely get visits from the mayor, the mounted police, the entire squadron of motorcycle police, the special forces unit, the sheriff, etc. etc.

It’s a great opportunity to meet individual members of the force and to thank them for all they do.  In turn, the kids pat the horses, sit on the motorcycles and climb all over the armored vehicles.

It’s not hard to get started and the National Night Out site has lots of great ideas.  If you’re new to your area it’s also just the best way to meet your neighbors.

For more on what a National Night Out Event can look like, here are some stories from past years:

My guess is that one big topic of conversation this year is going to be the local election and the increased traffic on East Howell.

You don’t want to miss a thing, I promise!

Michael

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High Balance Conforming Loans Set to Change

Rob Clark, our go to guy at Preferred Mortgage tells us that the high balance conforming and FHA loan limits that are presently $729,750 will be reduced to $625, 500.

Mortgage Calculator
The DROP DEAD date for closing is September 30, 2011 but the big question is when the loans need to be locked in.

Rob says he has seen varied information – some say August 1, others August 15 and still others are pushing lock in to August 30.

My advice?  If you are ready to write a contract or just starting to seriously look – act decisively, you won’t be sorry.

At the same time, a bipartisan bill was introduced last week that seeks to leave the current loan limits in place for another two years.  But considering that Congress is preoccupied with another problem at the moment (and not making much headway) I’m doubtful if the bill will get much traction.

We’ll keep you posted.

Michael

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Top “Lifestyle” Factors When House Shopping

We’ve been away for a few days and thought we would kick off our return with this article from Melissa Tracey at Realtor® Magazine.

Melissa makes the point that home buyers today are not just looking for the “least expensive house in the best neighborhood” but they are looking at an entire lifestyle.

ParachuteUrban loft, Cape Cod cottage, classic center hall colonial – yes, those things are important but so are these top life style priorities as reported by survey by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate:

Now I can’t honestly say that Alexandria or Northern Virginia falls into the “ease of commuting by car” category but we do really well with all those other areas!

Let me tell you about some of the great neighborhoods where you’ll find some great lifestyle choices and a great house.

Give me a call at 703.927.4554 . . .

Michael

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Ceiling Fans – What You Need to Know

We bought into the ceiling fan craze years ago.  First it was high ceilings in a vintage Old Town apartment and then the fans moved with us to our three story townhouse in Del Ray.

Ceiling FanLike many town homes, the lower, basement level, is an ice box but the third floor bedrooms suffer in the summer heat.  Sound familiar?

But hey, don’t take our word for it.  Check out what you need to know in this article from the Washington Post about buying and installing ceiling fans.

Two big take ways?

  1. You can feel up to 8 degrees cooler sitting under a ceiling fan
  2. Fans cool people, not rooms, so don’t leave the fan on if you’re not present

Michael

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Real Estate Word of the Day – Imperative Necessity

Real Estate Word of the Day*

Pointing fingerImperative Necessity – the ability of an (real estate) agent to take initiative in times of emergency, including disregarding instructions from the principal, when it is clearly in the interest of that principal.

Example:  When one of John’s listings was damaged by flooding, he quickly employed a crew to fix the damage and get the home ready for showing.  Although there was nothing in the listing contract that authorized this, the owner was not available, so he employed the doctrine of imperative necessity to justify his actions.

Michael

*Dictionary of Real Estate Terms

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City of Alexandria Celebrates 262nd Birthday on Saturday, June 9

In a long standing tradition, the City of Alexandria will celebrate it’s own birthday (262 years) and the nation’s birthday (235 years) this Saturday, June 9th.

We’re not exactly sure how this post Fourth of July celebration got started (or why) but it’s been going on for as long as we have lived in the area,

So, if you missed the Fourth or just didn’t want to fight the crowds downtown, make your way to Oronoco Bay Park along Alexandria’s waterfront between 4:00 and 10:00pm.  The celebration includes children’s activities, community exhibits and birthday cake.

X SparklerThe highlight of the evening is a concert by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, topped off with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”  and fireworks. “Cannon support” will be supplied by the United States Marine Corps, Basic Training School, Quantico, VA at 9:30 p.m.

In the event of inclement weather, fireworks only will be rescheduled for Sunday, July 10 at 9:30 p.m.

Oronoco Bay Park has lawn seating, and visitors are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets. Ice cream, hot dogs, hamburgers, shaved ice and kettle corn will be available for purchase or bring your own.  (No is grilling allowed however.)

Visitors to the historic district are encouraged bike, walk or take the Metrorail Yellow or Blue lines to the King Street Station and take King Street Trolley to the unit block of King St., a short walk to Oronoco Bay Park. The King Street Trolley will operate until midnight for individuals wishing to return to the King Street Metro following the celebration.

Michael

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Real Estate Market Report for Alexandria and Northern Virginia June 2011

With the traditional spring selling season behind us and vacations well underway, what is really happening in the Alexandria real estate market?  Don’t believe all the doom and gloom reports on the national news.  The reports aren’t necessarily inaccurate, they’re just not telling the whole story.

Remember that real estate is a VERY local business.  Most recently, positive activity has been report in multiple Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage offices, and there are signs of unit growth in almost every market.

Real estate is also very cyclical and ever changing. The spring selling season started off strong and then suddenly dipped as a spike in gas prices, rising unemployment claims, and severe weather hit the nation.

coldwell-banker-logo
Essentially, home sellers shouldn’t be disheartened by the late spring reports. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia just released the Livingstone Survey which summarizes the forecasts of economists from industry, government, banking, and academia.  According to the 35 participants, they raised their estimates of output growth for the second half of 2011 and revised the unemployment rate downward throughout 2011, which is very positive news.

It is also anticipated that reluctant buyers will finally jump into the market before FHA loan limits are decreased on October 1, making it difficult for some to secure a loan.  Loan limits determine what types of mortgages may be FHA secured or insured. Loans that fall outside of the limits face tighter credit requirements, higher interest rates and larger down payments.

With home prices at their most affordable, and mortgage rates still at historic lows, a serious buyer would be very wise to make their move now.

If you want to understand what is happening in the real estate industry as it directly impacts your buying and selling decisions, look to the linked graphs below and then call me at 703.927.4554.

Alexandria

Arlington

Fairfax Country

Faquier County

Loudoun County

Prince William

Washington, DC

I will provide you with facts and the current market conditions that are relevant to you, in your local area. It’s my job to dissect those national headlines and give you the right kind of information you need to make the right decisions.

Let’s do this together,

Michael

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Alexandria and Northern Virginia in Top Ten Highest Rental Markets in the US

In a article published today by MSN Real Estate, Alexandria and Northern Virginia were cited as being in the top ten highest rental markets in the US.

The government and a higher than average employment rate in the greater Washington area puts landlords firmly in the drivers seat when it comes to rents.

Rent vs BuyJust a year and a half ago, the national rental-vacancy rate sat at a peak of 8%, its highest level in nearly a decade, with economic conditions driving tenants to move in with family or friends.

“The apartment market really turned around though in 2010,” says Axiometrics* President Ron Johnsey, who expects rents to continue to rise through 2013 at a national average of 5% to 7% a year. “In some markets, you’re seeing double-digit increases in rent.”

What does this mean for you?  If you are looking to invest in rental property the signs point to excellent opportunities for solid rental income.

If, on the other hand, you are tired of paying as much for a rental as you could be paying on a mortgage then this is a perfect time to start looking.  In particular, the condominium market in Northern Virginia is where you might want to start.

In either case, I’m here to help you find the perfect solution for your pocket book.  Give me a call at 703.927.4554 and let’s make it happen.

Michael

*Axiometrics is an apartment research firm

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Family Memories Come Together in The Fourth of July, Iceland and the Chesapeake Bay

The Fourth of July, Iceland and the Chesapeake Bay may seem like disparate elements for family memories so let me give you a bit of background.

1 – After my father retired from the military he and my mother moved to Scientist’s Cliffs,  a small private community on the Chesapeake Bay.  The community  is composed of some 300 cabins and sits on 276 acres of the Calvert Cliffs, which rim 25 miles of the Bay’s western shore.

2 – My mother was from Iceland. She and my father met and married when he was stationed in Reykjavik and my brother and I were born there.  (Yes, I have dual citizenship.)  My sister, who came a bit later, was born in Richmond, VA.

3 – My mother was born on the Fourth of July!


Now, put those three things together – plus my mother’s unabashed love of this country – and you have the beginning of a long, wonderful family memory.

For as many years as I can remember, the entire family gathered at Scientist’s Cliffs every Fourth of July to celebrate my mother’s birthday and the official birthday of the United States of America.  The day started early with games – sack races, an egg toss, turtle races, softball – and ended with the all important scavenger hunt.  It should be noted that the Bergin family took first place in the hunt at least 6 years in a row.

After lunch it was off to the beach or, if the jelly fish were too bad, straight to the swimming pool.  But the main event, and the one everyone waited for, was dinner that night.

Sitting on the back deck overlooking a glen filled with azaleas, rhododendrons and towering trees, the picnic table spread with newspaper, we tucked into bushels and bushels of steamed blue crabs.  It didn’t matter what else we had, the crabs were all anyone cared about.  It didn’t matter how hot it was or how annoying the mosquitoes, the crabs were irresistible and we picked until the last one was gone.

By then it was dark and it was time for sparklers, birthday cake, tucking little ones into bed and talking long into the night.  Even today, with family scattered to California, North and South Carolina and even Europe, the memory of our very special Fourth of July celebration lives on.

Thanks to my daughter Taite, who with a simple entry on her Facebook page, sparked the reminder of what we all shared.  If I left anything out, or if any of you have spent time at Scientist’s Cliff, I’d love to hear from you.

Celebrate, enjoy and be thankful.  Happy Fourth of July everyone!

Michael


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Celebrate the Fourth of July with a Dress Rehearsal

New to the Washington, D.C. area?

X FireworksBy now you’ve probably heard all about the grand Fourth of July celebration on the Mall – you know, the one that is televised every year, the one they call a “Capitol Fourth“.

The one that ends with the William Tell Overture and fireworks to beat the band.  The one that attracts hundreds of thousands of folks to the mall.

But have you heard about the dress rehearsal on the Third of July? Same time, same music, same performers*, same security checkpoints but with much smaller crowds.   The only thing missing is the fireworks – that is a one night only event.

It’s a great way to experience Washington.  Give it a try.

Michael

***A caveat – some of the performers choose not to be present at the rehearsal and a staffer lip synchs instead.  Jimmy Smits is always there though and pokes gentle fun at those artists who pass on this fun tradition.

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