Northern Virginia Real Estate

Better Tips for Landscaping Your Home

How to Landscape When Selling Your HomeThe landscape of a home doesn't just provide curb appeal to the neighbors, it can set the stage for how a buyer feels about their property. The way an owner uses their space has as much to do with their own design preference as it does with the practical aspects of the area. While each landscape should have its own character, it helps to have a few underlying tips in mind. See how to use everything from greenery to fire pits to get the right look.

First Things First

Before deciding which seeds to plant, finish any construction work that needs to be done on the property first. Enlarging a porch or refinishing the entrance stairs may not only affect the soil surrounding the area, it may also damage roots or other plants further out from the physical structures. Layouts need to be designed with mobility and practicality in mind as much as they are for beauty or recreation.

For example, owners mays want to consider more succulents in their yard if they live in an arid neighborhood. Experts encourage homeowners to consider curb appeal as a high priority, both for when an owner lives in the home and when they choose to sell. Once an owner knows what they want, it's time to treat the soil. Composted organic materials are still a great way to infuse nutrients into the soil before beginning to grow. Use grass clippings,...

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Fixer-Upper

How To Buy A Fixer-UpperFixer-uppers can offer the best of both worlds to many buyers. Buying an older home lets them save money, and give them a chance to use their handyman skills. The process of fixing up a home also lets buyers learn and develop new skills as well. But there's a darker side to houses that have seen better days - one that buyers sometimes fail to see. Before falling in love with a money pit, it's time to develop a game plan.

Look for Solid Bones

Whether a homeowner is fixing the home for themselves or to resell the home for a profit, experts say that the best fixer-uppers are those that need cosmetic improvements. Refinishing a floor, painting a room or redoing drywall are all simple projects that can be done quickly, and the differences can be truly night and day to the inhabitants. This will also help in securing financing through 203k home loan, which has firm lending limits.

The same can be said for replacing the lighting fixtures, changing the shutters, replacing the doors, or updating the siding of the home. The only problem is that most buyers are already looking for houses with solid foundations and building blocks, so that means it may be difficult to score a get a deal (especially in a competitive market.)

Consider the Averages

All buyers will need to do the math of how much it will take to renovate a space compared to how much they'll spend on the home. The best way to make these calculations is...

Is Buying a Single-Family Home or a Condo the Right Choice?

Is Buying a Single-Family Home or a Condo the Right Choice? Many individuals want to compare their options when deciding what properties to consider when purchasing a home. Both single-family homes and condominiums can be great choices. The decision boils down to the specific needs of buyers. What are some of the considerations home buyers should keep in mind when determining which type of home will best suit their needs?

Explore the advantages of single-family homes and condos as you determine your choice.

Save Time on Maintenance with Condos

Those who choose to own a condo can avoid many of the routine maintenance tasks that owners of single-family homes must deal with. With condo living, the association hires individuals to handle landscaping, snow removal, yard maintenance and more. This does come at a price as condominium owners pay dues, but it frees owners of the some of the regular responsibilities often part of owning a home.

Single-family homeowners have more say in the maintenance and care of their property. Individuals can choose to mow the lawn themselves or hire others to perform the service. If a single-family homeowner does not care for the work of the individual, they can easily find a replacement. This is not such an easy situation for the average condominium owner.

Fewer Restrictions with Single-Family Homes

Those choosing a single-family Sterling home...

When Is It Best to Buy or Rent a Home?

When Is It Best to Buy or Rent a Home?Many renters dream of buying their own home and no longer having to deal with a landlord or property manager. A good number of families currently rent; over a third of households rent. Both renters and home owners can live in comfort and privacy.

When might be the best time to make the leap to owning a home? Explore the following factors today.

Are You Ready to Pay?

In order to be approved for a conventional home mortgage, applicants may need to put up as much as 20 percent of the purchase price. In addition to this significant cost, approved applicants looking to close on a home will needs to pay additional fees, moving and closing costs with the purchase of a home.

There are mortgage loans available requiring little to zero down as a down payment. Specific eligibility requirements apply but a VA loan or USDA loan may make home ownership more affordable for the first-time home buyer. There are a number of upfront costs to buying a Reston home and those who cannot afford to put 20 percent down may need to pay mortgage insurance premiums until there is a satisfactory amount of equity in a home. Renting while saving up for a larger down payment may be one way to reduce additional costs associated with making a smaller down payment.

What is Your Credit Score?

A person's credit score is one of the key...

The Importance of Curb Appeal to Selling Your Home

Curb Appeal Tips For SellingCurb appeal has to do with the feelings a person has when they first take in a home. There are certain blocks that people may describe as having more character or personality than others.

A buyer's first impressions can be as heavily dependent on the property as they are on the homes or locations that surround it. Sometimes streets that have been heavily engineered for curb appeal may end up alienating the very buyers they were meant to attract. See just how much curb appeal can affect the price a home commands, and what you can do about it.

Buyers Judge a Book by Its Cover

Right or wrong, buyers often make up their mind before they even get inside the door. It is easy to think that showing your home begins once the buyer walks through the door. Buyers are looking at the grass, the shrubs, and the aesthetic features of the actual structure. They may be making constant judgments about how well it's been cared for and how much love went into the house.

Clogged gutters, flowers that have wilted or turned brown, and peeling paint may bring down the price of a home tremendously, even when homebuyers objectively know that they can fix these things fairly easily. Many of them may never be able to put it into words, but they are doing exactly what they were warned not to do when it comes to making decisions. So all that work done to modernize the kitchen? It won't matter to the...

USDA Home Loans: What You Need To Know


There are many different ways to buy a house, and most people who make a purchase of this size will need a mortgage to complete their purchase. With that in mind, though, there are several different mortgage options for buyers to consider. Among these is the USDA loan, which is not generally heard about as much as FHA or VA loans, along with standard mortgages. The USDA loan is backed by the United States Department of Agriculture, but not every person or every property will qualify. Here is what buyers need to know.

Who is Eligible for a USDA Loan?

Both single people and couples can be eligible for a USDA loan. They do not need to be veterans or part of any particular group of people. They do, however, need to have specific income levels and choose a qualifying property. If they do those things and meet those requirements, they can be eligible for a USDA loan.

This is not based on age, gender, race, type of work performed, education, or anything else, and only on the property and the income levels of the people who want to buy a home. Buyers also need to be without good housing now, and show that they have a credit history. This is still a mortgage, and people must qualify – but the rules for qualification may be easier than for other mortgage programs.

What Are the Income Guidelines?

The income guidelines vary based on the number of people in the household and the area of...

10 Energy Efficient Upgrades for Homeowners You Can't Live Without

Ten Energy Efficient Upgrades for Homeowners

Energizing Homes with Upgrades That Save Money

Performing home upgrades and tweaking energy consumption behaviors to conserve energy can potentially save homeowners hundreds or even thousands of dollars annually depending on seasonal temperature fluctuations and resources uses to heat and cool a home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, simply running air conditions at 78°F (a comfortable temperature when supported by energy upgrades) instead of 72°F may save homeowners as much as 18 percent on energy bills. Also, unplugging computers and other electronics when they aren't being used could save the average family around $75 annually, something easy made even easier with multiple outlet, plug-in strips.

10 Proven Energy Upgrades for Homeowners

In addition to incorporating numerous tweaks into the home, homeowners can rely on these energy efficient upgrades to save money without disrupting family lifestyles:

  1. Replacing old shower heads and faucet aerators with energy efficient heads and faucets that significantly decrease water usage without affecting water pressure
  2. Installing window air conditioners on the shadiest side of a home where less sunlight strikes...

How Does a 203k Loan Work? Home Renovation Loans Explained

Using a 203k Loan to Refurbish Your Fixer-Upper HomeSome people want to buy a home and fix it up at the same time, however, making repairs and upgrades to a home involves additional expenses—some anticipated, some unforeseen. While fixer-upper homes often come at a reduced cost, the additional expense in repairs can make such homes easily as expensive as buying homes that are move-in ready. Buyers who seek mortgages guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) should know that 203k loans may allow them to get a loan to purchase a home, and also pay for home improvements.

What Is a 203k Loan?

Buying a fixer-upper can be a bit tricky for a lot of buyers with limited funds. Lenders are often reluctant to grant a loan on a home that may not even be safe for a buyer to live in until the repairs have been made. However, buyers who are willing to take on the work may be able to turn the liability into a secure property that is worth far more than they paid. With a 203k loan, people can get money insured by the FHA to buy a home and improve it immediately, or to get funds to improve their existing homes.

How Does a 203k Loan Compare to an FHA Loan?

Although 203k loans and FHA loans are guaranteed by the same institution, they are not the same kind of loan. FHA loans are granted to borrowers who are looking for a primary residence that meets current FHA loan limits. Although the requirements...

Understanding Capital Gains Taxation: What Every Home Seller Should Know

What to Know About the Capital Gains TaxWith potential income tax law changes looming, most Americans are concerned about how they may be affected. For those who are currently selling a home or planning to do so soon, there may also be also concerns about current capital gains tax laws and what type of financial impact these laws will have on them, as residential real estate owners.

The Basic Definition of Capital Gains

Basically defined as the profit from the sale of an asset, such as stocks, bonds, real estate, or mutual funds, capital gains are taxable as income. The actual rate, however, at which it is taxed is typically lower than most people's regular income tax rate, depending on how long the asset was owned and the total income amount of the taxpayer on which the capital gain has been assessed.

According to the current tax code, there are two types of capital gains. Long-term capital gains are those relating to profit on the sale of an asset owned for more than a one-year period and is usually lower than the tax rate on ordinary income. Assets that are owned for less than one year when sold fall under short-term capital gains rules and are typically taxed at the seller's regular income tax rate. Timing sales of any asset to ensure that it is considered a long-term...

A Guide to VA Loans: What Veterans Should Know When Buying a Home

What Buyers Need to Know About VA LoansThere are a number of great ways to finance a home, and one of the options for some buyers is a VA loan. This is a loan through the Veterans Administration, and it is only open to certain people. Since not everyone will qualify for a VA loan, the first thing a buyer will want to do is find out if they are eligible. Their real estate agent can help them with that. If they can use the VA loan system, then they can begin the pre-qualification process and start exploring how much they can borrow and what other requirements they may need to meet. That can help them be more prepared to make an offer on a home, get it accepted, and get their loan closed in a timely manner, so they can move into a great new place. Here are the basics you need to know about VA loans.

Who Qualifies for a VA Loan?

A VA loan is open to veterans and their families. For people who have served or are serving in any branch of the military, this type of loan can give them an opportunity to purchase a house with little to no money down. That can, of course, make a big difference in whether someone can get a home, especially if they do not have a lot of money to spend or they don't have a big down payment. The interest rate is also generally good on a VA loan, and the credit score restrictions are more lenient than some other types of mortgage loan products when buying an Ashburn home or a home anywhere.

What is the Process for Getting a VA Loan?

Getting a VA loan...

FHA Basics: What You Need to Know

What to Know About FHA Home LoansThe Federal Housing Administration guarantees loans that allow many interested buyers to get into real estate ownership. FHA loans can be beneficial, but they also feature limitations that buyers should understand. This guide covers what to expect from FHA loans.

What Are FHA Loans?

Although homebuyers often hear reference to FHA loans as they begin to research the process of getting a mortgage, the FHA does not actually lend money to borrowers. Instead, the Federal Housing Administration guarantees loans that lenders make to certain qualified applicants. This encourages lenders to grant mortgages to people who might not otherwise be able to qualify to buy a home, due to their income, credit history, or ability to make a large down payment. FHA loans do not make lending less expensive or easier for buyers to make mortgage payments. Instead, they limit the expenses that buyers must cover in order to get a home, and relax the lending requirements to promote accessible homeownership.

Who Qualifies for FHA Loans?

People who have applied for traditional mortgages often find that they are expected to have a higher income, a better credit score, or more assets in reserve to get the best loans. By comparison, the FHA makes borrowing more accessible to a wider range of buyers. Applicants should have the following:

  • A credit score of at least 500 with two credit accounts...

4 Most Popular Smart Home Technology Upgrades

The Beginner’s Guide to Smart Home TechnologyAs technology is becoming more and more advanced, it’s being developed for use in just about any situation, the home included. There’s an entire array of smart technology designed especially for the home that suits a wide variety of different needs, but with so much of it, it can be overwhelming to dive into. Here are some of the different types of smart tech for the home and what they can do for you.


Smart thermostats are one of the most popular pieces of smart tech for the home. They take the place or a normal thermostat and offer extra functionality on top of what a normal one can do. For instance, smart thermostats can be accessed on any smart device such as a smartphone or tablet, which means the thermostat can be accessed and adjusted from anywhere in the world. Homeowners who forgot to turn off the air conditioning before rushing off to work can do so when they arrive and not have to worry about wasting energy while no one is home. Some smart thermostats even learn the home’s schedule and automatically adjust depending on the time of day or temperature outside. 

Security Cameras

In recent years, security cameras have become so accessible that people are able to buy them to monitor their homes and property. But what makes smart security cameras nice is that they can be accessed from anywhere so long as the owner has a smart device. These...

How to Prepare for a Home Showing

How to Prepare for a Successful Home ShowingSelling a house takes work. Sure, you could just plant a "For Sale" sign on your front lawn and hope for the best, but savvy real estate agents know that how your house "shows" is crucial. Being ready to open your doors to strangers at all hours is all part of the home showing process, so it can pay big dividends to get your house in order ahead of time. Here's how to make sure your home looks its best whenever a buyer comes a-knocking.

Pack Up Clutter

To help potential buyers imagine themselves living in your house, you want to make it look spacious and comfortable. A furnished home is helpful, but one chock-a-block with personal items is distracting. Start packing for your move early by emptying closets, shelves and packing up anything you don't need on a daily basis. You can stack these boxes neatly in the basement or place them in storage. Eliminating clutter will also make it easier to keep your house sparkling.

Keep It Clean

Cleanliness is critical, so you may want to hire a housekeeper to give your interior a good once-over before you put it on the market. Once your home is perfectly clean, your job is to keep it that way. Every evening, do a sweep of your space to pick up clutter and make sure things are in order. If you have kids or pets, you should vacuum every other day as well. Taking a few minutes at the end of each day is much...

Selling Your Home: The Basics of Staging

How to Stage Your Home When SellingWhen it comes to selling a home, staging can make all the difference. But many sellers aren't clear on what that means, and exactly what they need to do in order to make their home look its best for buyers. Fortunately, there are some staging basics that all sellers can focus on, and those simple changes can make a big difference in how buyers see their home. Whether it's a large home with a lot of space or a small place that's easy to care for, how it's presented to buyers and what kind of first impression they get of it matters when trying to make a sale.

What Does It Mean to Stage a Home?

Staging a home involves making it look “staged” in the sense that it looks more like a neutral, model home than a house that a specific person lives in. The more neutral a home looks, the more easily a buyer can see themselves living there and making it their own. That's why proper staging is so important. Overall, staging:

  • Makes a home feel more welcoming to every buyer
  • Lets a buyer see how they can put their personal touch on things
  • Keeps a home looking neater and cleaner for showings
  • Helps buyers see the layout and features of the home by making the best use of the space

Not every home is staged when it gets sold. Some sellers aren't interested in staging their home, are unwilling to, or are not able to. Additionally, some homes are sitting empty....

Bad Credit? Don’t Give Up on Homeownership Just Yet

How Individuals with Bad Credit can Work Toward Buying a HomeWhen unexpected emergencies come up, it can be difficult for many of us to get back on track. Paycheck-to-paycheck situations often make it nearly impossible to plan for out-of-the-ordinary expenses, and when things start to fall behind, it can severely impact one’s credit score. What’s even more unfortunate is that situations like this can place one’s financial future in jeopardy and make buying a home a difficult task to accomplish. However, there are programs available that offer assistance to individuals who have bad credit no matter what the cause.

Who To Work With

Most of the programs available for buying a home with bad credit are backed by the government, and while you still need to meet certain qualifications, they aren’t nearly as strict as other traditional routes. In many cases, programs like FHA or USDA require a credit score of around 580 or higher, which is far lower than most, but it still requires that some of your ducks are in a row. Many of these programs require little or no down payment as well, which further helps individuals to qualify to buy a home, be it in Leesburg or elsewhere.

Others with scores lower than 580 aren’t out of options entirely, as some utilize a rent-to-own type of agreement. Essentially,...

What Happens During the Home Selling Process?

What to Keep in Mind When Selling a HomeSelling a home is definitely a process, and when sellers understand that process it becomes much easier for them to move through it effectively. Unfortunately, not all real estate agents give sellers good information about finding a buyer for their home and getting to the closing table. That can leave sellers stressed out and confused, and keep them from getting a good buyer and a quick sale for a house they want to move on from. With that in mind, there are some specific things you need to know when selling your home.

Get It Ready Before Listing It

When selling a home, it needs to be ready to go on the market and be seen by buyers the day it is listed. You want it to be clean and neat, and you want to have all those projects you started finished up. Then buyers who come through will see it as move-in ready, and that appeals to the vast majority of buyers who are looking for homes. Most of them do not want a project. Instead, they want something they can get into as soon as it closes.

Choose the Right Real Estate Agent

The right agent can make all the difference when listing and selling your home. From the pictures and description of it that appears online to scheduling showings and working with you to get your home sold and closed, the right agent is important. Do not be afraid to interview several agents until you find the one you want. That can save you time, effort, and stress as you move further into the home selling process. Sellers will want their agent to have experience selling homes like...

Ready to Buy Your First Horse Property? Start With These Tips

What to Know When Buying Land for HorsesWhether horses are your business, hobby, or both, making sure you purchase the right property to house them is extremely important. Equestrians must consider not only whether a horse property has a safe, secure stable or housing, but also whether the land can also supply the proper amounts of mineral-rich pasture for grazing, access to fresh water, and a topography that will allow the horses to be exercised and ridden without risk of injury.

If you are preparing to purchase your first horse property, the following tips will help ensure that you choose the property that has everything your horses need to be live long, healthy lives.

Choose a location that will provide the basics of proper horse care while meeting any government regulations regarding livestock and biosecurity

It can be difficult to pinpoint the best location for a horse property. In addition, prospective buyers must make sure that their plans for the property will be in full accordance with any governmental regulations regarding livestock or biosecurity policies for properties that house and keep animals, including horses.

Select a property size that will comfortably support the maximum number of horses expected to be housed there

Once the general area has been chosen and there are several properties under consideration that meet any existing governmental policies, the actual size of the property should be considered. If only a few...

How to Handle a Toxic Mold Problem in Your Home

Dealing with Toxic Mold in the HomeMold remediation is big business today. Part of the reason is that toxic mold can have serious health consequences, with symptoms that range from headaches, skin rashes and eye irritations to serious allergic reactions, asthma and lasting lung issues.

The underlying problem is moisture, and once mold spores appear, it can be very difficult to eliminate them or completely counteract the environment that gave birth to them. Even in the desert, mold and mildew can thrive in dark, damp corners of a home: Under the sink, near an air conditioner, or in a water heater closet.

Diagnosing a Problem

Detecting mold can be difficult, but a "sniff test" is often the first clue, particularly in a basement or garage, around plumbing fixtures and in utility rooms. If you have recently moved to a new Fairfax home and family members are plagued by red eyes, runny noses, irritating coughs or general malaise, suspect mold, especially if you don't normally suffer from allergies. There are different types of mildew and mold, and infestations can spread quickly.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, small patches of mold can often be treated successfully by a homeowner or handyman. Once the source of the mold has been determined—usually a leaky faucet or hose bib, or a dripping water line—and fixed, the next step is clean up and repair. You can scrub a moldy wall or ceiling with water and detergent...

5 Valuable Improvements That Home Sellers Should Consider

Improvements Sellers can Make to Increase Home ValueIt is common to want to make a few home improvements before selling a home. The trouble is picking the best ones. These five upgrades have the top bang for their buck, increasing your home value by as much or almost as much as you shell out to have them installed.

1. Manufactured Stone Veneer

Having a home that feels like it belongs in an older time is becoming popular again, especially with the rise of the stone veneer. Although natural stone is always lovely, there are reasons that manufactured stone veneer is preferred over the real thing. Since it is cultured, it is easier to match colors. The lightweight manufactured stones weigh far less than regular, making it easier to install and maintain. Heavier, natural stones cost a lot more and put unnecessary strain on the home's exterior structure. You might get up to 90 percent of what you pay in ROI if you install a manufactured stone veneer before you sell.

2. Minor Kitchen Remodel

There are times when you really need to gut your kitchen just like people do on the home makeover television shows. However, in most cases, you can give a significant update to your home with a fairly minor kitchen remodel. Keeping the overall layout saves a ton of money on cabinetry, construction and plumbing, which lowers the overhead costs. Put on new cabinet doors and a fresh coat...

Why Buyers Should Get a Home Inspection

The Importance of Home Inspections for Home BuyersBuying a home can be a process, and, whether or not buyers are concerned with the condition of the home, they generally use the services of a home inspector. The inspector can tell the buyer what problems the home is likely to have and what the remedies for those problems likely entail. Of course, home inspectors don't always catch everything—some issues may require a specialized inspection in addition to the original inspection. To some, it may seem like an extra expense, but the inspection can truly help out a buyer and protect their investment. Here are just some of the reasons a home inspection should be performed.

All the Big Systems Need to Work Right

One of the main reasons for getting a home inspection is to know that all of the big systems in your Centreville home are working correctly. The air conditioning and heating are important, but so is the electrical system and the plumbing. If those things don't work right the home may not even be livable, and it's clear that the home may be worth less than what the buyer is asking. With that in mind, a home inspector can test all of those systems more thoroughly than a buyer, and they are trained to look for certain types of problems that an untrained eye may not catch when looking over the home and considering a purchase.

The Inspection Can Mean Negotiation With the Seller

If there are ...