Where We Live Blog

Your source for Northern Virginia and DC real estate and community news you need to know now.

Oct. 15, 2012

Keeping Up The Yard Through The Winter

The weather is starting to cool and that means it’s important to shore up the exterior of our home to help it endure the weather change for the next several months.

This entry comes from the files of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. You’ll find some helpful tips on how to make your home stand up to the winter elements (no matter how mild or bad they are) and be in good shape for the spring when it hits next year.


Keeping Up The Yard Through The Winter

By Phoebe Chongchua

This is the time when people start to want to stay indoors a bit more, especially when the temperatures significantly drop.

But you can't neglect your outdoor patios and decks, especially if you plan to sell soon. Buyers won't want to see broken-wood decks or corroded wrought iron patio sets in your backyard.

The good news is that if you prepare ahead, you can save yourself time and money. Taking some good housekeeping steps now will allow you to step outside into the fresh spring air next year to a well-preserved outdoor space.

Where to begin? First, if your deck is looking a little worn and tired, make the necessary repairs now. Don't wait until you can stick your foot through a board (like I did). That's not only dangerous but it also mandates a quick fix.

Give your deck a good cleaning and sealing or staining before the weather gets too cold and wet to do this. Make sure you check for loose nails and get rid of any splintery edges by sanding them down. Seal with waterproofing sealants. For these, generally the weather has to be above 32 degrees F and 50 degrees F for sealing and stains, respectively, to work properly.

Put the clippers to work. Take a good look around your yard and decide which plants need to go. Many annuals may have been killed by frost and it's time to clear them away. Keep your flowers keep them looking good by trimming away dead leaves. If you cut your plants back now it will cause them to grow and flower more effectively later on.

Add seasonal plants. You can still have some nice color in your yard if you get the right plants for your yard's climate. Kale and ornamental cabbage are attractive. In warmer climates try primroses for winter color.

Use creative containers with your seasonal plants. Putting a perennial plant in a beautifully painted container can add style and allure to your patio all winter long.

Plant potted vegetables. Nothing's better than fresh food especially when it comes from your own yard. There are some cool-weather vegetables that work well in pretty pots. Things like lettuce: kale, leaf, mustard, and Chinese cabbage are good for this. Also, don't forget herbs; they'll come in handy for the holiday dinners.

Get artsy. Making your yard look good in winter is also about what you leave outside. Those brightly colored throw pillows and rugs that worked great in summer, of course, should be brought inside. Instead get creative with lights that give a sparkle on a cold winter night. Hang plants with ornaments on them. Also, hang bird feeders to attract birds.

Taking a few simple steps to keep your deck, yard, and outdoor furniture in good condition will give you an easy progression into spring. And, if you're listing your home for sale in the winter, these steps are sure to please buyers.

Posted in Buying, Selling
Sept. 26, 2012

What To Know To Sell Your Home At The End Of The Year

This week we give you the ins and outs on what to do, what not to do, what to expect and what not to expect as you contemplate selling (and maybe even sell) your home over the last 100-plus days of the year. Selling your home as the end of the year approaches is actually a good idea, but you need to have the right strategy in place.

The holidays will be here before you know it and it’s vital that you put your plan of action into play now, to ensure that you get the best results for yourself 60 and 90 days into the future as you work through the process of your move.

The fourth quarter of the year can cause some sellers to worry if their home hasn't sold yet. But according to Trulia.com, there is still time to sell.

Typically, many buyers want to move and get situated before the actual end of the year and holidays are here, but that shouldn’t give you pause. Yes, the spring is considered a prime time to sell; however, there is still time to sell your home whether you live in a cold or warm climate.

Overall, there are some important factors that may help you get your home sold: 1) remember that the number of buyers may be reduced as we head closer to the holidays; 2) there are always serious buyers looking during the holiday season, especially if they're out looking at homes in dreary weather or nearing the holidays.

Knowing this, be sure to make the most of every showing; don't get lazy with  the upkeep of your home despite the fact that you are juggling selling a home, working, or taking care of the kids. Getting your home sold in the fourth quarter must be a priority (with the goal being to sell sooner, rather than later, in the quarter).

Next, look at the rates of sales activity in your market to determine how long to keep your home listed through the holidays. Some areas may not be hot, but that doesn't mean there's little chance of selling. Some people may even have to purchase before the end of the year to meet their tax guidelines.

Also, staging your home well is also vital. the fourth-quarter sale requires a good strategy like using an expert stager where you can decorate for the holidays, but don’t overdo it so as to turn prospective buyers off when they see your home. With a reduced number of buyers seeing your home, make the most of each showing by having a well-staged and clutter-free house to show off. In any market, proper staging strategies provide a competitive advantage.

Lastly, the fourth quarter can see more buyers because interest rates remain historically low. The impending threat of a rise in mortgage rates could have more buyers willing to lock into an exceptional rate, despite that it means making a move during the holidays.

A more serious pool of buyers coupled with stronger interest rates and less competition makes the end of the year a great time to sell. Please contact us if you have any questions about your specific situation.

Posted in Selling
Sept. 17, 2012

Five Motivational Secrets of Successful People

There are 118 days left in 2012. For some, the end of the year can’t come quickly enough.

2012 was a tough year for lots of people who faced the adversity of unemployment, low income, poor health coverage, untimely deaths in their families and much, much more.

The good news is that with the year coming to a close, we have an opportunity to put a great plan together to finish this year strong and make 2013 the best year ever. If you’re currently unmotivated and feeling that the life has been “squeezed” out of your by your current situation, I’ve included some motivational secrets of successful people for you to help you light your fire again.

These secrets are in no way earth shattering, but they can be life changing…if you let them.

Don’t let your current situation dictate your future results. Get motivated, take action now and make 2013 the greatest year of your life (no matter what this year looks like).

5 Motivational Secrets of Successful People

Some make success look easy but the truth is that when a person who has reached the brass ring is noticed it’s only after the most difficult steps have been traversed, and not when they are struggling, which all people who have worked hard have done.

Luckily for those who want to follow in their footsteps, the secrets to success are not secrets at all. In fact, there are five things that all successful people do in order to achieve their dreams.

1. Successful people take responsibility for their actions and inaction

Have you ever wished for success but never put forth the hard work? If you can admit it, then you are on your way to becoming successful, because a person looking to become something bigger than he or she is will be honest enough to say ‘I made a mistake,’ or even ‘I was not totally committed to my dream.’

Most people would rather lie to themselves. They’ll buy new gadgets while on the brink of bankruptcy, eat out when they should be on an at-home budget, and sit around playing video games and eating snack foods while they tell themselves that they are going to be in a body building contest.

2. Successful people are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their dreams

Sacrifice is a must for success. Sometimes it is spelled out like the amount of time it takes to finish college. Other times it’s not, like the amount of rejections one must go through in order to publish a book.

The length of time that it may take is of little consequence when you want something badly enough.

3. Focus and Determination

When one is chasing a dream the pursuit must be a single-minded focus at times, which requires immense determination.

Aspiring pro athletes will be in the gym when they are not in class, and some will let their grades slide in order to ensure that their bodies will be able to operate at a higher level. Like these athletes, musicians will spend countless hours perfecting their technique and compositions, and this does not come but with the focus that brings about time allotted for practice.

Abraham Lincoln was noted as having practiced his speeches repeatedly. From this, he was able to overcome being unsure of what to do with his hands and keep his voice from breaking into a high pitch.

4. Focus leads to field expertise

From this focus people become experts in their fields. A musician knows all of his scales. Business people know all of the proper terminology, such as gross and net income, ROI, ROE, and billable hours.

Without focus, people who want to be successful may find themselves in embarrassing situations.

5. Successful people have a written plan as well as a personal mission statement

Without a written plan, it is unlikely that success will be achieved because goals are not reached in a day, but daily. Every day must involve something that helps a person achieve their goals.

Over time priorities change and so do people, but a good plan should not. If it is not readily available along with a personal mission statement then it will more likely than not be forgotten like so many other dreams that were really just wishes.

Posted in Buying, Selling
Aug. 28, 2012

The Value of A Teacher

As school starts this year, remind your children to learn everything they can each day they are at school. Most importantly, remind them how fortunate they are to be able to go to school and have exposure to people who care about them now so they’ll have a great future.

Having a great teacher in school can mean all the difference in the growth of any person from childhood to adulthood. The lessons, stories and accountability we get from teachers stays with us our entire lives. And, the better the teacher, the more profound the effect of what we learned from him/her.

Enjoy this touching clip from a movie that honors a teacher who had a profound effect on the people he spent each day with over a 30-plus year career as a teacher. It’s a very moving piece and one that really speaks volumes of how a good teacher can impact the lives of so many people.

Mr. Holland's Opus Closing Finale

Posted in Buying, Selling
Aug. 16, 2012

What Drives You?

Motivation is a strange thing.  Each and everyone one of us responds to different stimuli when it comes to taking action to make changes and get results in our lives. For many of us, we take heed to the carrot and the stick principle: a reward when we do something good and a punishment when we do something bad.
Daniel Pink, the author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, has a different perspective and one that may interest you…especially if you’re looking to achieve something that’s been eluding you over the last weeks, months or years. I found this neat summary video that’s narrated by Pink himself. I really liked and it I think you will to.
What drives you?

The Suprising Truth About What Motivates Us




Posted in Buying, Selling
Aug. 10, 2012

Sell Your Home In August.... Absolutely!


The month of August signals that the end of summer will soon be here. For many, it’s the last chance to get out of “dodge” and spend time as a family before the hustle and bustle of the school year, clubs, sports and regular events hits the radar.

It’s a common misconception that selling in August and the beginning of September is not wise and that you’d be better served to wait until mid-September, or later, until the beginning of the following year.

Admittedly, as real estate agents, we’d always like you to move sooner rather than later if it meets your needs. That said there are some legitimate reasons to take into consideration when thinking about making a move in August.

Here, we outline a few of the more important ones. You’ll find that they make a lot more sense than might initially think.

5 Major Reasons to Consider Selling in August

1)      Like you, many buyers who are relocating would like to have their families settled prior to the school year. Whether it’s a company relocation or a personal one, time is of the essence in August for those finalizing their relocation plans.

2)      Inventory is shrinking in many parts of the country and is historically low in August. Consequently, the lack of inventory drives up the demand on your home, giving you a legitimate shot at getting more money when you sell. It’s a smaller window of time, but a very real opportunity nonetheless.

3)      After Labor Day, many people will hop in the market to try to sell their home during the stretch run before the holiday season. Once that happens, you’re now facing more competition and could lose out on the chance to haul in more equity from the sale of your home.

4)      Yes, many folks are on vacation or trying to relax for the rest of the summer. But, just like the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you’ll find that the buyers out looking for homes in the month of August are likely more serious than those folks “kicking tires” when the market first heats up during the spring.

5)      You may be planning a vacation yourself and what better time to show your home than when you won’t be dislodged on a regular basis to have your home shown, especially in the hot summer weather we tend to experience in August. Plus, with nobody to mess up your home, you won’t need to clean it each time there’s a showing because it will be clean each and every time your home is shown.

Posted in Selling
Aug. 6, 2012

Rising Home Prices Are No Surprise

The Northern Virginia real estate market has seen an incredibly busy spring and summer selling season. For several months now, sales professionals have been abuzz with stories of multiple offers over asking price and homes going under agreement within a matter of days. So it comes as no surprise that the Wall Street Journal recently reported in the article Home Prices Reflect Strengthening that home prices in the second quarter rose from the previous year for the first time since 2007.

Home sale prices rise when there are lower levels of housing inventory. When inventory levels drop, it signifies less competition for the home seller and limited choice for the buyer. Additionally, incredibly low interest rates and renewed confidence in the economy are compelling buyers to act now. With these elements in play, the competition between buyers who have their sights set on the same dream home can become fierce.

We at The Joy Deevy Home Team recognized this low inventory level trend in early spring, and it is still occurring in many markets. According to the Wall Street Journal's quarterly survey of housing market conditions in 28 U.S. metropolitan areas, inventories of unsold homes have fallen in every market and are down by more than 20 percent in two-thirds of those markets. To see if this movement is occurring in your community of interest, please contact for specific information.

For those who are thinking of selling their home, this could still be an opportune time to act, especially for those who have built equity in their home. Stories of home sellers making a profit on their home's sales have also been on the rise, and buyers continue to be attracted by historical low interest rates.

I can help you determine if now is the right time for you to sell your home and conduct a competitive market analysis, identify the inventory levels that will impact you, and advise you on appropriate marketing and pricing strategies.

Make the necessary improvements to your home before placing it on the market. Properties that are in good condition and are move-in ready are moving more quickly. I can also advise you on which improvements will have the most impact.

The late summer and early fall have historically been known as slower selling seasons compared to spring, but this year we at The Joy Deevy Home Team would have to disagree. If you want to move now, call today!

Posted in Buying, Selling
June 25, 2012

A Few “Cool” Tips As You Show Your Home During The Summer

Whether you have your home on the market now or you’re thinking about putting it on during the upcoming summer months, there are a few tips you’ll want to heed to ensure that you get the best results that can easily net you some significant additional dough on the sale of your home.
As we enter the increasingly hotter days of late spring and early summer, your prospective home buyers will be looking closely at patios, decks, landscaping, air conditioning, and in some cases, pools. So if your home is on the market, you’ll want to make sure your house is in top order and summer-friendly.
While a large number of homes sell during March, April and May, June and the summer months run a close second. In fact, June is traditionally a busy month because many families want to get moved during their children’s summer vacations and get them situated before the new school year begins.
The good news right now is that the combination of interest rates and the lower price of sales prices makes this a super time to sell.
Here are some tips for you to take into consideration while selling your home at this time of the year:

1.  Curb appeal. With sunny days, everything will be on display. Your shrubs and perennials will be in full bloom and your trees will be fully green. Be sure your lawn is mowed and is lush and green. Plant a few annuals to provide an instant burst of color. Make sure your door area is clear from bicycles and toys.

2.  Air conditioning. Try to have your system inspected and working before you put your house on the market. Also, be sure you turn it on during those days that you’re away at work and potential buyers will be looking at your house. A hot, stuffy house on a 90-degree day could be a deal killer.

3.  Back yard. Buyers will be paying extra attention to the back yard while house hunting during the summer months. They’ll be envisioning an area for barbecues and space for children to play. If you’re selling your house in a neighborhood with a lot of young children, set up a swing set or place a sandbox in back. Make the back yard look as child-friendly as possible so potential buyers can envision what the space will look like for their own children.

4.  Patio. Ensure your patio area is inviting and attractive. Clean your patio furniture and arrange it keeping the views from indoors in mind. Spruce up the area with a few container plantings.
5.  Back yard landscaping. If you have lawn area in your back yard, make sure it is mowed and healthy. Keep shrubs and plants pruned and tidy. Put out some fresh mulch or stone where necessary accentuate your landscaping.
6.  Windows. Make sure your windows are sparkling clean, especially if you live in a sunny region that doesn’t get much summer rain.

7.  Walls. If you’re thinking about touching up the paint on your walls before you put your home on the market, keep the colors neutral and light.

8.  Let there be light. Open blinds and curtains so plenty of light illuminates the home’s interior.
9.  Pool. If you have a pool or spa, make sure they are clean. If you have a fence, make sure locks and latches are working properly.
As always with any other time of year, get rid of the clutter throughout your house.
If possible, it might not hurt to leave a large pitcher of lemonade with a stack of glasses on the kitchen counter during an open house or when you expect multiple showings on a weekend. Nice treat for buyers when you’re not there.

Remember, you can’t change the location of your home, so you need to make sure that you put your best foot forward when showing your home.

Posted in Buying, Selling
June 22, 2012

Want to Trade Up for a Bigger Home?

Low interest rates have you thinking about trading up to a bigger home?  While it is a great time to buy a home, to save time and safeguard your investment, consider the following mistakes and try to avoid making them.

Having Unrealistic Expectations

Some people who want to buy bigger homes right now think that they can purchase homes for rock bottom prices because the housing market is recovering slowly.  While great bargains exist, sellers are more encouraged by the arrival of spring and increased activity in the housing market.  This means that sellers will not take just any offer.  As you bargain hunt, consider that if you bid too low on properties, sellers will not take you seriously and you could miss opportunity after opportunity to buy a home that meets your needs.

Buying More House Than You Can Afford and Failing to Plan

Before the housing crisis, too many borrowers purchased more home than they could afford, resulting in high foreclosure rates from which we are still feeling the effects.  For those of you out there who were less affected by the crisis and can now afford to trade up, the risk of making the same mistake still exists.  Although the economy is slowly but surely improving, you need to think realistically about what you can afford.  You also need to consider how a weakened economy could affect you in the future.  Do you have enough money to meet stricter down payment guidelines?  If you pay a big down payment, will you have enough emergency savings to keep your house if you lose your job or become ill?  If you can afford to buy a bigger home now, make sure that you have a strong financial plan in place.  Behaving otherwise could put your investment at risk.

Posted in Selling
June 11, 2012

What to Watch For When You're House Hunting

It would be great if we could talk every day and I could whisper some good advice in your ear each day about what to look for when you’re house hunting. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 years or 5 days away from your next purchase, you can never get too much good, sound advice before making one of the biggest investments of your lifetime.

So, since we can’t talk every day, I thought it would be helpful to send along a few of the top tips you can feast your eyes on when you’re house hunting. Honestly, there’s nothing earth shattering here…just good, solid information that you can keep in your head until you’re ready to use it.

If you’re thinking about buying a new (or old!) home, our list of the “Top Things to Look for When Buying a Home” can help to get your search off to the right start. While the number of rooms, condition of the kitchen, and size of the yard are important, there are other things to consider before you make an offer.

  • Location, Location, Location They say that the 3 most important things to think about when buying are home are location, location, location. You can live with almost any imperfection in a home if you love the neighborhood and your neighbors. You can change almost everything else. But, once bought, you cannot change your home’s location. When you go house hunting, consider any potential home’s proximity to your work, the charm of the neighborhood, how the home is situated on the lot, ease of access, noise from neighbors, traffic, or pets, and access to parks, shopping, schools, and public transportation.
  • Situation Factors Beyond location, look at the particular site of the home. If the home is on a hill does it have a view, a walkout basement, or lots of stairs to climb? Do neighbors’ windows look directly into the home? Is the yard suitable for kids, pets, gardening, or other uses? Is access to the property safe regarding driveway elevation, stairs up to (or down to) the front door?
  • Check Out the Neighborhood Be sure the neighborhood, and not just the house, meets your expectations. They say that you should own the smallest home in the nicest neighborhood that you can afford. You’ll have a great view! Drive around on week days and weekends, during the day and in the evening. Are homes in the neighborhood consistent in size and features? Do the neighbors keep the yards clean and tidy or are there old cars and trash around? Is the neighborhood safe enough for people to walk, run, or bike and are there children playing in the yards?
  • Consider a Home’s Curb Appeal Your home should reflect your lifestyle. Do you live a laid-back life? Then you might not want a formal Victorian or Tudor style home. Something simpler and more contemporary might be in order. Look at the exterior features. A brick home is easier to maintain, unless you live in an earthquake-prone area! Is the roof in good condition? Is the landscapin attractive and are the sidewalks leading to the home safe? Read here about choosing, buying, and applying exterior Paint.
  • Size and Floor Plan You may be thinking about buying your dream home. But is your dream home impractical? Do you really need 4 bedrooms and 4 baths when you live alone? A large home can give you the extra space you’ve always wanted for a home office or crafts or art projects. But you’ll pay higher heating bills and have higher taxes. It will take more furniture to furnish and money to decorate. Think about how the new home space will be used and whether it will fit your lifestyle now and in the future.
Posted in Buying