The H.I.T. List (home improvement tips)

Posted On April 20th, 2015 by McEnearney | No Comments

Home Improvement Tools Paintbrush, Pipe Wrench And Hammer


Offering the best Home Improvement Tips – the H.I.T. List brings you fresh, new ideas every month! This spring, consider giving your home a facelift with minimal cost: update your doors. It doesn’t have to be expensive if you don’t want it to be, and we guarantee it will give your home a fresh start. There’s opportunity knocking…

Open a New Door to Spring – It is crazy to think what a new door can do to the front of your home – instant curb appeal. While it may seem to be a minor detail, your front door plays a more important role than you think! If you have a ho-hum front door, replace it or paint it yourself with a fun pop of color and update the hardware.

Look Inside – Are your interior doors dated? We go in and out of our doors every day, but when is the last time you stopped to have another look at it with its surroundings? Are the doors contrasting with your current home decor? A home with modest detail can be dramatically improved with new interior doors. Introduce new dimensional elements and architectural detail. And don’t be afraid to try something fun like the new barn doors that are “sliding” into style. Updating your interior doors can take your home from ordinary to extraordinary.

Paint it Black – A continuing new home trend, black doors are an easy DIY project requiring only a paintbrush and a can of paint. They may seem radical to some, but black doors can be transformative and look great with all different decorating styles – including contemporary, rustic, classic, and many more. Cover any white or wooden door with a coating of black and witness instant, drop-dead sophistication.

Trim Trim Cheree – What about that stuff around the door? Paint the trim! How many of you still have the basic wood trim? Yes, it’s beautiful, but if you want to modernize the place, go ahead and paint it. It’s simple, easy, and affordable; not to mention it will make your home look brand spankin’ new.

Park it – Let’s assume you haven’t replaced your garage doors in…well, forever. Your garage accounts for 20 to 40 percent of the total square footage of your home and can take up a lot of visual real estate. The first impression of your home is curbside, and new garage doors are one of the best ways to increase a home’s value. There are so many options to choose from, wood, steel, aluminum, tempered glass and even vinyl, and ranging in budget from $300 to $10,000+ there is something for everyone. Don’t let your guests or prospective buyers drive away!

Martha Floyd

Your Plan for a Successful First Time Homebuying Experience

Posted On April 14th, 2015 by Martha Floyd | No Comments

Flowers in front of the house, front yard. Landscape design.

Purchasing your first home can be an exciting and nerve-racking experience.  From narrowing down the location you want to live to going through the home loan process, emotions are on a roller coaster.  However, following a few simple tips will ease the anxiety and allow for a rewarding experience.  The key to a successful homebuying experience begins by selecting a reputable REALTOR®.  Ignore the hype released through advertisements and the internet.  Instead, choose a REALTOR® recommended through a family member or friend that represents the buyer.  Please confirm with the agent this is how they work.  It’s imperative to have an agent working for the buyer when the stakes are so high.

Consumer advocates in the early 1990’s pushed for buyer representation.  Historically, agents working with buyers were sub agents of the sellers, and they worked in the best interest of the seller instead of the buyer.  A buyer agent has a fiduciary obligation to represent the buyer’s best interest.  They advise the buyer on how to make a good offer, advocate and negotiate the best terms and price on the buyer’s behalf.  It does not cost the buyer any more to work with a buyer agent.  Traditionally, in the Washington D.C. area, the seller pays for the buyer agent’s compensation.

A great REALTOR® can refer other professionals integral to the homebuying process. Because the REALTOR® (already trusted by a friend or family member) referred these individuals, it’s easier to place confidence in them.  Ask for the names of two or three recommended loan officers.  A good agent will know good lenders, the kind that go the extra mile and provide top notch customer service.  Feeling comfortable with a lender is essential.  The loan officer reviews income, assets, liabilities and runs credit checks.  They match the loan program specific to a buyer’s  needs, most likely a loan that is made especially for the first time homebuyer.

Starting the loan process early is essential because any errors found on the credit report can take a considerable amount of time to correct.  When comparing rates, be sure to ask for a zero point rate quote so that the comparison is truly apples to apples.  The market fluctuates daily; when comparing rates, it is important to make comparisons on the same day.  Once selected, it is important to obtain a preapproval letter.  The seller wants to see a good preapproval letter to assure that the buyer can obtain a loan.  Nothing is more frustrating and disappointing than falling in love with a home and not being able to purchase it.

Finally, ask for a title or settlement company recommendation. They are the ones who review past property sales, deeds and ensure that the title is clear of any liens. They also issue title insurance to protect the buyer’s interest down the road.

We all dream of place to call our own, and it’s exciting to find the right one. A home is where memories are made and love is shared so it’s important to assemble the right team to turn that dream into reality.

Bringing together a team of successful professionals, including the real estate agent, loan officer and title company are the keys to successfully purchasing your first home.  This is an exciting adventure with a huge payoff for years to come.


Earth is Our Home

Posted On April 13th, 2015 by McEnearney | No Comments

Earth Day

We share this home together, let’s celebrate it together. On April 22, please join us in doing good acts of caring for Earth Day – being green and environmentally friendly. Earth is our home. It is majestic and beautiful, and it is our job to care for it.

There are several ways we can participate in being green around the home, and it is a great lifestyle to implement that can help save both our Earth and your wallet. Recycling, making a compost pile, changing your light bulbs, and reusable bags are just a few of the basic everyday ways you can help, but you can also make a bigger and more impactful change with your appliances…

What’s vampire energy? It is as scary as it sounds. Vampire energy is a major source of electricity draining that occurs in all of our homes and can cost us an average of $120 a year! And it happens when we think our appliances are off. When you aren’t using that Kitchen Aid mixer, toaster or blender, unplug it entirely from the wall and store it in your extra cupboard space or pantry. Although you think it is off, don’t be fooled. It is still using electricity.


Tax Day – April 15

Posted On April 11th, 2015 by McEnearney | No Comments

Tax Day-01

Don’t forget! The federal tax deadline is rapidly approaching. Be sure and ask your tax advisor whether you qualify for any homeowner tax deductions. Everyone’s situation is different, but here’s a look at some of the potential tax benefits you can consider. And you can thank your home later.

Mortgage Interest – That’s right! In most cases, you can deduct every penny of interest paid on your home loan.

Late Payment Charges – What? Slackers do get rewarded. You may be able to deduct a late payment charge as home mortgage interest.

Prepayment Penalties – And for those of you who are not slackers, well you get a tax break too. If you pay off your home mortgage early and are required to pay a prepayment penalty, you can deduct it as home mortgage interest.

Points – For those of us who paid for points in order to secure a better interest rate, this expense may be deductible in the year you paid them. Other terms for points are: loan origination fees, maximum loan charges, loan discount, and discount points.

Real Estate Taxes – Most can deduct annual taxes paid based on the assessed value of your property.

Home Improvements – Keep those receipts! You can’t deduct the expenses now, but when you sell your home the cost of the improvements can be added to the purchase price to help reduce taxable gain that may accrue from the sale of your home.

Mortgage Debt Forgiveness – If you sold your home as a short sale in 2014, Congress has extended the tax relief originally passed in 2007, so you won’t have to show any mortgage debt forgiveness as income.

Beginning in 2014, Mortgage Insurance Premiums (also known as PMI) are no longer deductible. If you desire a reduced or no cost utility bill, there are also great energy efficient benefits available that are set to be phased out as early as 2016.


April in DC

Posted On April 9th, 2015 by McEnearney | No Comments

April in DC

April is a beautiful time in DC! The Washington, DC area and surrounding communities of Northern Virginia and Maryland offer lots of springtime celebrations and fun. The annual Cherry Blossom Parade is April 11 and the peak bloom predication dates are April 11-14. Be sure to enjoy this annual springtime tradition and the many other community activities happening near you!

Filmfest DC
April 16-26
If you have never gone to the city’s oldest film festival, then you might want to pencil this one in. Take part in viewing a wide range of films, including shorts, comedies and documentaries, representing the best in new cinema around the globe. Make it a fun social gathering with friends and discuss viewings at your favorite watering hole.

Sugarloaf Craft Festival
April 17-19
This is rated in the list of the Top 10 Arts and Crafts festivals in the United States. An ongoing tradition since 1976, over 300+ booths will feature artists from across the country. It can be your chance to view contemporary works for purchase that you may never see again. You won’t want to miss it.

Bay Bridge Boat Show
April 17-19
If you are a lover of boats, then this is where you need to be. The Bay Bridge Boat show takes place at Bay Bridge Marina in Stevensville, Maryland. The event kicks off the boating season each spring with a display of new and late model brokerage boats. It isn’t all about the boats either, come for the outdoor barbeque and enjoy live music with more on-the-water fun.

Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival
April 18-19
Nothing says springtime like a flower and garden festival. An event for everyone in the family to enjoy, walk through beautiful landscape designs, enjoy delicious foods, participate in craft fun for the kids, and much more. Get into the spring spirit with this fun-filled, blooming event!

National Park Week
April 18-26
Admission is free! The National Park Service encourages everyone to enjoy the natural wonders of every park located across the United States during America’s annual weeklong celebration of national heritage. This is a great way to see any of those DC museums you have been wishing to visit, or pack a bag for a mini road trip and change of scenery. You have all week long to decide!

Georgetown French Market
April 24-25
Enjoy a two-day event in historic Georgetown as you shop your way through France. This unique event features extravagant fashion, French cuisine, home furnishings, sidewalk sales, live music, and even playful mimes. This is your chance to experience a new side of Georgetown!


April Showers Bring May Flowers

Posted On April 6th, 2015 by McEnearney | No Comments

 May Flowers

But what do May flowers bring? Homebuyers! Finally the snow has melted and we are ready to see what changes the new season will bring. Whether you are planning a move or are simply anticipating new life in the garden, here are a few gardening tips and tricks to get your home looking great this spring!

Gardening 101. The rule of thumb when working the soil is doing so when it is completely dry. If you try to prepare your beds while still moist, then the whole structure of the soil will be destroyed.

She’s Called Mother Nature for a Reason. If you don’t already have a compost pile, start now. The best amendment to your soil is one you make yourself. Compost basically consists of carbon-rich brown materials like fall leaves and dead flowers mixed with nitrogen-rich green materials like grass clippings and vegetable peelings from your kitchen. Throw in a shovel or two of garden soil – voila you have a compost pile!

Farm to Table. Planting your own vegetable garden is easier than you think, especially when planting cool-season plants such as peas, onions, or spinach. These vegetables will be mature and ready for eating before the hot weather arrives. And maybe now you can enjoy your weekends at home with your own personal farmer’s market in your backyard.

Prune the Bloom. For beginners, you may think if you prune it may never grow back, but it actually does. Read up on your plant to learn more about when it is the right time to cut and prune. A good prune, done at the right time, can give your plant an entire new life.

Cut it out. Is your lawn still brown? Cut it! Now is the one time when it is good to mow it short. Cut your lawn down to a half to one inch short. This will remove old, browned blades and stems, reduce the thatch, and promote an early green-up.

Divide and conquer. Hostas, daylilies and daises are just a few of the perennials that can be divided in the spring and used to expand your landscaping. Using a garden fork or spade shovel, simply split their roots at the base and then gently relocate them to new soil. And don’t forget to gift extras to neighbors, friends and family.

David Howell

Are private exclusive house listings a good idea?

Posted On April 2nd, 2015 by David Howell | No Comments


You may have heard the term “private exclusive” listing — it refers to a property that is not broadly marketed to the public, but instead offered by word of mouth or other very limited marketing.

Sellers may find this to be an attractive option for a variety of reasons: They think they won’t have to put up with the hassle of showing their home to a lot of people. An agent has said she has buyers in that area and price range. Or they like the idea that they can enjoy privacy while their home is “quietly” marketed.

However, a big disadvantage is the lack of exposure to the full market.

Doesn’t it make sense that any commodity is more likely to sell, and at a better price, the more people know about it?  The first step for broad exposure is getting a home into the multiple listing service (MLS).  There are 40,000 agents in the D.C.metro area with buyer clients and the MLS is the on-ramp for the Internet to thousands of broker and agent Web sites and national and regional real estate search portals.  More than 90 percent of today’s buyers across all price ranges start their home search on the net, so why wouldn’t a seller want to be there?

Decades ago, real estate agents created the MLS for the express purpose of sharing information. It has created a broad marketplace for the sale and leasing of homes, and most remarkably, established the rules of the road for real estate firms to cooperate with each other while still fiercely competing with each other in the marketplace. The MLS accommodates every business model, from full service to limited service to discounters to tech start-ups.  Most importantly, buyers and sellers alike have benefited from a marketplace that fosters the wide dissemination of information and the market-based transactions that flow from that.

Can there be situations where a seller could logically choose to go the “private exclusive” route?  Of course, but those situations are few and far between. Every seller should know that no real estate firm has all the buyers, or even the majority of buyers.  Anyone who says otherwise simply isn’t being truthful.

While “private exclusives” exist in all price ranges, they seem to be more prevalent for upper bracket properties.  There were 369 homes that sold in the District  for $1 million or more in the last six months in the MLS.  There were 58 real estate firms, and even more remarkably, 258 agents representing those buyers.

Additionally,  this broad diversity of firms and agents selling upper bracket homes isn’t any different in Maryland or Virginia. What’s important to note is that most of these buyers never knew about other homes for sale on the market that were tagged “private exclusive” with “quiet” or minimal marketing.  Those sellers simply missed out on those buyers — and those buyers missed out on those homes.

Sellers should also consider that privately listing their home could be seen as an intention to screen interested buyers in ways that could appear to be discriminatory.  Care has to be taken that no one is excluded from a “private exclusive.”

Think twice if you are a homeowner contemplating a “private exclusive” sale.  Ask yourself whether going that route is best for you and whether you would get the best price for your home.


Spring Home Maintenance

Posted On March 25th, 2015 by McEnearney | No Comments

Spring Home

We’re ready for spring! But is your home? After the long brutal winter, it will be time to give your home a tune up. Get your home in tip-top shape before spring hits with this handy dandy checklist.

How Rotten – The one area of the home we tend to overlook is the outside, so take a walk around the house to see what looks to be rotting. Use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around windows, doors, railings and decks. Make repairs now before the spring rains do more damage to the exposed wood.

Clean the Gutters – During the winter months we tend to go through a lot of freezing and thawing. This process causes the gutters to expand and contract, so make sure they’re not sagging or dipping from the roof. Contact professionals to clean the leaves out and inspect your gutters. Improper drainage can lead to infuriating water damage to the foundation or basement.

Raise the Roof – We know changing a roof can be expensive, but it can be detrimental if you don’t take care of it now. If you see your shingles curling up or clawing downward, then you could be headed towards a leaky roof. It’s recommended you call at least 3 roofers before committing to one for repairs.

Don’t Step on a Crack – We drive up and down our driveway who knows how many times, so make sure it’s properly sealed. Most wait until the fall, but it’s actually best to do driveway repairs in the spring. Fill in any new signs of cracks with a concrete filler or silicone caulk. When weather permits, power-wash and then seal the concrete.

Stay Cool – We want it to warm up outside, but not inside. Have a qualified heating and cooling contractor clean and service the outside unit of the air conditioning system. Clean coils operate more efficiently, and an annual service call will keep the system working at peak performance.

The Spring Market is already here with buyers out in full force. If you have been thinking of making a move, now may be the best time.


Be the Early Bird!

Posted On March 20th, 2015 by McEnearney | No Comments

Early Bird

Prepare for the spring real estate market now, before it’s too late. Ever wonder why spring is the most popular time to buy and sell? Here’re a few reasons why you want to be an early bird and get the big worm.

Ahead of the curve. 
Home buyers and sellers have been waiting for the weather to warm up. It is estimated that an average of 60% of all homes, within a given calendar year, are sold between the months of May and August. Putting your home on the market at the beginning of prime selling and buying season will put you ahead of the curve and help you snag the best deal or offer.

A hand from Uncle Sam. 
Aside from weather, people also get tax returns in the spring – making offers richer and down payments easier.

Summer is for vacation.
Sell your home now so that you can enjoy the summer. When the kids are out of school it is nice to go on vacation, not to worry about moving. Get settled in your new home before the summer is here and in full swing.

Good Day Sunshine.
Our clocks move forward an hour this month and that means more daylight. Rather than waiting for the weekend, people can enjoy seeing a home during the week. Mother Nature is again on our side!

The Spring Market is already here with buyers out in full force. If you have been thinking of making a move, now may be the best time.


Good News for New Home Buyers!

Posted On March 16th, 2015 by McEnearney | No Comments

Home Buyers

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) recently reduced the annual mortgage insurance premiums charged on FHA-backed loans from 1.35 percent to 0.85 percent. This action will help significantly lower monthly payments on all FHA loans. More than two million FHA homeowners are projected to save an average of $900 per year.

This was clearly a decision designed to spur home buying. In fact, 85% of leading real estate agents around the country surveyed by Credit Suisse shortly after FHA’s announcement said they thought the move would have a positive impact on sales this year. Lower premiums will not only reduce housing costs for those who use FHA, but it will also significantly expand qualified customers’ access to mortgage credit. And with FHA’s down payment requirements of just 3.5%, a loan limit in this area of $625,500 and more generous qualifying guidelines, these loans have become even more attractive with the reduction in the mortgage insurance premium.

Incredibly, interest rates for 30-year fixed rated financing are also averaging under 4%. A homeowner with sufficient equity and a loan with an interest rate as low as 4.5% might be in a position to refinance into a loan with an even lower rate and which doesn’t require a monthly mortgage insurance premium.