So I turned 50 recently…

Yeah, I turned 50 years old recently (January 16); I know BIG FUCKING deal right? I didn’t think much of it, as I just looked at it as another birthday–WHOOPEE! Ever since I was little I never celebrated much. I never had many birthday parties, one I do remember at 7 yrs old, must have meant something seeing as 43 yrs later that’s the only one I recall.

I do recall turning 18 and going to Benihana in New York (where I lived at the time), it was fun. A few friends and I really looked forward to the food quite frankly. I was never much for hanging out per se and drinking. The few times I did was just going along with my friends, but not really my thing.

Anyway, my family and I went out for dinner. We went to The Olive Garden, I love the soup and salad, and Kathy as usual has Chicken Parmigiana, Sean watched Pepa Pig and all was well. I usually get in trouble every year because my birthday should be celebrated, but I diminish it as another year. Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

For my 50th birthday, I’ll be training for for FIRST long course Ironman (Ironman Chattanooga), that is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a marathon–ALL in the same day (for the uninformed). ! I’ve wanted to do one of these all of my life, but never had the motivation to do it. Well, I’m 50, what am I waiting for? LOL.

This is all ironic in that my swim SUCKS, and I’ll have to do a 2.4 mile swim in about 8 months or so, actually less so. I think the swim is the worse part of everyone’s race. I keep joking around that when I complete the swim I’ll be jumping around and so happy as if I had actually won the race; while the volunteers are trying to get me to go to my bike transition. LOL, ‘sir, you have to go to the bike transition, sir, you HAVE to go to T1….SIR’

That’s my big plan for this year, along with other bike tours, rides and races as a training I am looking forward to a fit year. 1/2 Ironman coming this summer and perhaps a marathon or two. My Mom had me when she was 39, I was a miracle baby at the time, I couldn’t help but think about her longingly seeing as she is no longer with us. It would have been nice if she were here, but that was not meant to be.

SO, Happy Birthday to me–make me proud this year…until 51 comes around and I’ll be in trouble again…

Why you SHOULD sell in 2019

Here’s a great article from US News and World Reports by Devon Thorsby. I was going to write something up similar, but this hit all the key points, so I thought I might as well just repost it.

Few people are predicting that 2019 will be a record-breaking year for home prices.

But relatively speaking, 2019 might be the best time for you to put your house on the market. Especially if you’re on the fence about selling this year or next, Nick Ron, CEO of House Buyers of America, recommends going with the devil you know rather than the devil you don’t.

“I think it’ll be better than 2020 and 2021 – who knows what’s going to happen in those years,” Ron says.

Housing Market Expectations in 2019

Home price growth slowed in the second half of 2018, with fewer buyers entering the market, at least partially due to rising interest rates issued by the Federal Reserve. In 2019, consumers shouldn’t expect homebuyers to flood the market again and drive prices through the roof, but it’s also unlikely to be a crisis for home sellers.

If you bought your house in the last year or two, still love it and don’t want to part with it, go ahead and wait another five years before revisiting the thought of selling. But if you’re weighing your options to sell, considering selling this year or maybe the year after, don’t play the waiting game. Here are four reasons to sell your house in 2019.

New buyers are still entering the market. As interest rates rise, some buyers will hesitate to make an offer on a home or apply for a mortgage, so be ready to see occasional drops in buyer activity. And if your house is at the higher end of the price range in your market, you should expect less buyer interest than before. Ron notes the combination of rising mortgage rates and home prices exceeding buyers’ budgets are what has caused the slowing of homebuyer activity in recent months.

But with available housing inventory remaining low, even with rising interest rates, buyers who are ready to make a purchase will still shop for homes. The biggest wave of new homebuyers will be among millennials, who are mostly first-time buyers. In a Harris Poll survey of 2,000 U.S. adults commissioned by real estate information company Trulia, more than one-fifth of Americans between ages 18 and 34 said they plan to buy a home within the next 12 months. Already, millennials make up the largest share of homebuyers at 36 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors, which released the number in March 2018.

The bottom line: While houses may sit on the market for a few more days on average compared with 2017 when the market was white-hot, buyers remain active and it’s still possible to profit from your home sale.

Interest rates are still low-ish. Mortgage interest rates are rising, reaching 4.87 percent in November for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, per data from Freddie Mac. While rates are at their highest level since February 2011, they remain much lower than the historic high of more than 18 percent in 1981.

It’s important to keep in mind that while mortgage rates tend to mirror the Fed’s interest rate activity, mortgage rates are based on the market in that moment, your financial status and the property you’re looking to purchase.

[Read: How Moving to a New Home Affects Your Taxes.]

Just because the Fed raises rates at one meeting doesn’t mean mortgage rates will follow that exact pattern. “Not every Fed increase is passing on (to) a mortgage rate,” says John Pataky, executive vice president and chief consumer and commercial banking executive at TIAA Bank.

A sudden leap in mortgage interest rates is unlikely in 2019, though Pataky notes that you should be ready to see rates continue to climb. “We do expect over the next 12 months that mortgage rates will continue to drift higher,” he says.

If you’re looking to get the lowest interest rate possible on your next house, try to make a deal sooner rather than later.

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You have high equity. Homeowners who bought during the recession or shortly after benefitted from historically low interest rates and, up until around 2015, lower home prices that were still in recovery mode. If you fall into that category, your home equity has risen with nearly every mortgage payment, each renovation you made to the house and all the other houses on the block that sold for a higher price.

The higher your equity in your home, the more you net from the sale, which can easily go toward the down payment on your next house. The larger your down payment, the better you look to lenders and the lower your interest rate will be, and the less likely you’ll need to increase monthly payments with private mortgage insurance.

[Read: Is Your House Too Big for You?]

Selling in 2019 vs. 2020. If not selling your home in 2019 means putting your house on the market in 2020, the sooner option is the best one. In a survey of 100 U.S. real estate experts and economists by real estate information company Zillow, released in May, almost half expect the next recession to occur in 2020. Another 14 percent believe the recession will hold out until 2021, while 24 percent of panelists expect the recession earlier – sometime in 2019.

Whether you believe the recession is imminent or a long way off, current real estate patterns indicate a sudden upswing in activity or prices is unlikely in the near future. Real estate markets tend to operate on a cycle of their own, the length of which varies by market but can be between 10 and 16 years total and flow from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market with a period of balance in between.

“It doesn’t look like there’s anything on the horizon that’s going to cause a big spike in home prices or increase demand dramatically,” Ron says.

Is Section 8 a Boon or is it Detriment?

I do an inordinate amount of Section 8/Voucher deals.  For the uninformed, these voucher programs are meant to be a step up for the holders of said vouchers.  The idea is simple, lower income clients apply for a housing voucher thru their county and eligible clients will receive some type of financial assistance based on need.  Depending on the county can be anywhere between $1800-$4000 in some cases.

Now $4000 sounds like a big number (and it is), indeed I know people with $5000 mortgage payment and yet the county is giving this money away for clients to RENT a home, yes RENT a home–gain no equity, and all that goes with it.  You’re probably thinking to yourself ‘why don’t these people just buy a home?’  If it were that simple I swear I would have them all do that.  Unfortunately many of these client just won’t qualify for a traditional mortgage.  Their income won’t suffice, their credit score is not sufficient, etc.

These people still have the right to have a nice home.  Wouldn’t you agree?  That’s where I come in.  Unlike many Realtors, I will work with these clients.  My rationale is everyone deserves to have a home, and it’s my job to help them find that home.

Here are the issues.  There is a stigma with vouchers, as I mentioned before most (99%) voucher client look at it as a ‘step up’ or ‘helping hand,’ they go to work, they raise their kids and pay their bills.   There is that 1% that has ruined it for everyone else who have done exactly what you’re not supposed todo–not pay their portion of the rent, trash the house, and just be a general terror to a landlord.  These clients are the ones who have ruined it for everyone else.

The voucher program is guaranteed money into the landlord’s bank account every month without fail.  The landlord doesn’t ever have to worry about a late rent payment.  The county does periodic inspections of the properties to insure they are habitable.  For the most part, ever so small details which we my overlook for ourselves aren’t things the county overlook.  On the opposite side, if the client isn’t taking care of the home they can also help to get the client back in line by giving then notice that upkeep has to be improved.

That all being said, I believe that Section 8, Voucher programs in general are a good thing. What do you think?

2017 Christmas Events in Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia is a wonderful place to celebrate Christmas as many cities host special holiday events from small town Christmas tree lighting ceremonies to holiday parades, holiday market, tours to lively holiday music. The whole family can enjoy a wide selection of Christmas events and activities. Here are a few events guide to help you enjoy the season and make this year one to remember. Be sure to take some time out to make some special Christmas memories with your family.
City of Fairfax 1st Annual Holiday Market: December 15th – 17th
The City of Fairfax starts a new holiday tradition with an Old Town holiday market, during the first three weekends of December. Enjoy live holiday music, drinks and gourmet treats and more while you shop for crafts and unique holiday gifts. Vendors schedule will vary each weekend. Friday 5:00pm – 9:00pm, Saturday 10:00am – 6:00pm, and Sunday 1:00pm – 5:00pm.
Alexandria Del Ray Fine Art & Craft Holiday Market: December 15th -17th
Del Ray Artisans’ annual Holiday Market offers unique handmade fine arts and crafts from local artists, and features different artists each weekend. Choose from wall art, pottery, photography, jewelries, glass, and more. The market is open Fridays at 6:00pm – 9:00pm and weekends at 11:00am – 6:00pm.
Alexandria Christmas Illumination at Mount Vernon: December 15th -16th
Join Mount Vernon for an evening of family-friendly fun and fireworks choreographed to holiday music. Take a stroll through the estate while being serenaded by local choirs and learn 18th-century dance moves from costumed guides in the Greenhouse. Fee of $34/$24 adult/youth with mansion tour at 5:30pm – 9:00pm.
Arlington National Cemetery Wreaths Across America: December 16th
Join other volunteers in laying wreaths on headstones at Arlington National Cemetery. There is no sign-up required, no age limit, just show up if you would like to participate. Gates open to volunteers at 8:30am but screening begins at 7:00pm and wreath-laying begins at 9:15am.
Leesburg Animal Park Christmas Village:  December 15th-16th, December 22nd -23rd
Leesburg Animal Park in Loudoun celebrates December weekends at 6:00pm – 9:00pm with a nativity scene with live animals, pony rides, animal encounters, holiday crafts, a bonfire, holiday lights and more. Fee of $9.95 and free for two and under. 
Alexandria Waterskiing Santa: December 24th
Gather at Alexandria’s Potomac River waterfront for a spectacular show by the Waterskiing Santa and his wakeboarding reindeer, plus flying elves, the Grinch and his friends, Frosty the Snowman and Jack Frost. This event is free. 

We hope you will enjoy these Christmas events this year. Whichever December 2017 events you choose to attend, we wish you a happy and fun-filled month full of holiday cheers and festivities.


Home Design Trends to Watch in 2018

Planning on a renovation project for your home? If you’re thinking about remodeling your home next year, whether you’re planning to DIY or will be hiring a pro, now might be a good time to start planning. These are the trends that made the list from the websites that offers home remodeling and decoration projects tips that we expect to see most frequently in 2018.
Trend #1: Vibrant Colors Are Coming Back
As we all expect, neutral colors such as gray, beige and the new favorite paint color “greige,” are still the trendiest colors in terms of home design and décor. The appeal of neutral colours is not going away and is becoming more sophisticated. However, brighter colors are picking up steam in 2018. Paying attention to brighter colors throughout the home can make your furniture and decorative items pop. Floral prints and colors have always been popular as well and expect to see more floral designs that use contrasting colors next year.
Trend #2: Metallic Accents
Another trend that’s ramping up now and is destined to carry over until next year is that of metallic accents anchoring a room. It may take a more dominant role, with furnishings like coffee tables and dining tables. However, it’s very easy to overdo it when it comes to shiny surfaces. The best way is to keep things basic, such as hanging a silver-accented mirror on a wall or buying some copper end tables. Metallic touches are one of the home décor trends right now and will continue well into 2018.  
Trend #3: High-Class Kitchen Elements
Today’s quartz truly delivers in style, design, and flair. It’s a popular choice for countertops as well because it goes with so many different styles. Quartz counters, lower and upper cabinets in different finishes, appliances in fun colors, layouts that promote ease of use, cement tile backsplashes will be one of the kitchen trends next year. Vintage lighting fixtures, like aged copper pendant lights, sinks made with materials like stone, copper, concrete, and granite are making a comeback and more likely to become popular in 2018.
Trend #4: Geometric Patterns
Geometric patterns are trending up in the interior design space, with fascinating wallpaper prints leading the charge. There are so many ways you can incorporate geometry into your decor; it’s one of the most approachable trends and you can choose from within a price range that will work for most budgets. It can also start small with pillows or throws in geometric prints. 
Trend #5: Minimalist Furniture 
Minimalism, or at least its spirit, has found its way to the design world. Simple, elegant furniture pieces have been a trending home design feature for years. In 2018, the emphasis is on “clean lines, comfort and ease of use as well as finishes that are easy to care for and use. Minimalism certainly isn’t for everyone. In fact, it probably isn’t for most people. But thinking like a minimalist can be a fun little thought-experiment. For couches and chairs, look for pieces made with vinyl or faux suede fabric. 
If you are ready to take the next step towards purchasing your new home and for all of your other real estate needs, contact me today at (703) 228-9788. Whether you are buying or selling, I will be here to help you every step of the way.

US Housing Market Forecast for 2018

The US housing forecast for 2018 reveals US markets are entering a very positive period of housing sales growth and if there’s one thing most early forecasters agree on, it’s that home prices will continue to rise. According to Freddie Mac’s Outlook report, new homes are expected to be a “primary driver of sales” in 2018 as 1.33 million housing starts are predicted in 2018, up from 1.22 million in 2017. Total home sales are expected to increase about 2 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the report. “The economic environment remains favorable for housing and mortgage markets. For several years, we have had moderate economic growth of about two percent a year, solid job gains, and low mortgage interest rates. We forecast those conditions to persist into next year.” says Freddie Mac’s chief economist Sean Becketti.
CoreLogic, the largest real estate data and analytics company in the U.S providing financial, property and consumer information also indicates that home prices will increase by 5 percent from July of this year through July of 2018. Mortgage rates are expected to increase as well. 
Should You Buy or Sell in 2018?
Most real estate sales and real estate investment experts are predicting a strong year ahead for the US housing market in 2018 and for the next 5 years. They are predicting existing home sales of 6 to 6.5 million units in 2017 and then above 1.3 million new homes being built per month from 2018 to 2024. Economists also predict that the uptick in housing starts, coupled with a moderate increase in mortgage rates, will help slow the run-up in home prices next year. Still, homeowners likely will continue building equity next year.
Reports says these are some of the reasons why people are still eager to invest in Real Estate:
  • Home prices are appreciating
  • Millennials continue to buy a home to raise their families
  • High rental rate for rental properties
  • The economy is steady or improving 
  • International investors eager to own US property
Are you ready to take the next step towards purchasing your new home? For all your real estate needs, contact me today at (703) 228-9788. Whether you are buying or selling, I will be here to help you every step of the way.


Eat, Drink and Celebrate Thanksgiving in Northern Virginia

Few more days before Thanksgiving and restaurants in Northern Virginia are preparing special feasts for the big day. Don’t want to spend Thanksgiving in the kitchen stuffing your turkey? Luckily, NOVA is packed with restaurants offering buffets, variety of meals and relaxing alternatives to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. From family feasts to romantic candlelit dinners for two, check out these few restaurants that will be open for business on Thanksgiving 2017.
Top 5 DC Restaurants Open For Thanksgiving
Top 5 Arlington Restaurants Open For Thanksgiving
Top 5 Fairfax City Restaurants Open For Thanksgiving
Better go ahead and book your tables now as they could fill up quickly! Whichever restaurant you choose, let us all be grateful for our countless blessings not only this Thanksgiving Day but every day. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!