The Importance of the House Filters

Air conditioning systems and clothes dryers come with some kind of filter or lint trap, and it’s important to clean or change these filters regularly.  You’ll save money, have cleaner air and clothes, protect your home from accidental fires and your AC and clothes dryer will last longer.

Air Conditioning – According to HowStuffWorks.com, a dirty air filter is one of the most common reasons that an AC unit will stop working. Air filters catch dust and keep it from circulating throughout your home. If the filter gets too clogged, the AC has to work harder to push the cold air through. The cold air has no place to go, so it circulates back into the evaporator coil, causing it to freeze and fail. Permanent filters are easily removed, washed outside with a hose, and reinstalled. Replace pleated paper AC filters every one to three months.

Clothes dryer –  According to JoeFilter.com, the lint trap in your clothes dryer is the first line of defense against lint buildup.  It’s typically located on the bottom gum line inside the dryer. Simply pull it out clean it out, and put the contents in the trash every time you use the dryer.

Some lint may escape the trap and go into the dryer vent, the flexible silver duct that vents to the outdoors. If the vent gets blocked, it takes longer to dry your clothes (wasting energy) and could spark a fire. Clean your dryer vent at least once a year.


The Dish on Fine China

Choosing a china pattern is a great way to express your taste and accent your new home. You’ll enjoy the presentation of meals and how your table looks every time you serve breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks.

So what is fine china and how is it used? According to Scullyandscully.com, fine china is made from a white clay called kaolin. It’s made of “soft paste,” where as porcelain and bone china are “hard paste,” explains Madehow.com. Porcelain is fired at a higher temperature than either fine china or bone china. Bone china has bone ash added which gives the fired dish the illusion of light.

One way to tell the difference is that fine china is always opaque. Porcelain and bone china are translucent, which means you can almost see through the dish when light hits it. Where porcelain and bone china differ is that porcelain is white, while bone china is a softer cream color. Embellishments include everything from hand painting, decals, beading, to gold and silver leaf, but manufacturers may recommend that decorative china be hand-washed to avoid chipping. 

Like clothing, china tableware can be casual, semi-formal or formal, which is why many households have more than one set of dishes on hand. For everyday use, you may prefer a simpler, unadorned china pattern that is dishwasher and microwave-safe and in some cases, oven-safe.

Whatever you choose, don’t save fine dishes for parties or holidays. Use them and enjoy them often and make your own special occasions.


Mortgage Guidance for the Self-Employed

Yes, you can get a mortgage if you’re self-employed, but it’s challenging in the age of Covid-19. Guidelines are changing monthly as the crisis continues, but the following requirements are generally true:

Work history: According to USnews.com, you’ll need a two-year employment history. Fluctuations in earnings are acceptable as long as you can show stable or increasing income. A shorter history may be okay if you’ve been employed in the same industry for a period of at least two years.

Down payments: You’ll likely need to put 20 percent down, which minimizes risk to both you and the lender, but you may be able to get away with as little as 10 percent down if you have a FICO score of 720 or above, says NJlenders.com

Cash reserves: If the worst happens and your business declines, you must show enough cash on hand to pay your mortgage regularly and on time.

Credit history: You’ll need a high credit score and an income to debt ratio of 43 percent or below, depending on guidelines. Lenders carefully check how you use revolving credit, other outstanding loans, and payment histories.   

Documentation: Supply your ID, your personal and business tax returns for two years, earnings and bank statements, business name verification plus evidence of business such as a web site, invoices, etc., license if applicable, list of debts and expenses, and payment verification for your home’s rent or mortgage.

Loan requirements are fluid, so contact your lender to learn the latest guidelines.


The Renewed Appeal of Suburbia

It’s typical for single-family home sales to surge in the spring and summer, but this year, there are some differences due to Covid-19. The pandemic is causing more urbanites to move out of the city say The New York TimesForbes.comNPR.org and other news services.

Many of the attractions that make city living attractive, such as theater, shopping and dining out, simply aren’t available, causing some homebuyers to feel pent-up in their small apartments. They’re questioning if there isn’t a better way to live.

The result is a notable increase in home searches and purchases for single-family homes in smaller towns, exurbs and suburbs as many city-dwellers, particularly millennials, decide to ditch living in close quarters, paying high rents and home prices, and settling for views of buildings instead of trees.

One factor that’s driving the decision to move out of the city is that many white-collar workers believe they will continue to work from home permanently. The Star Tribune reported that Ford Motor Company, for example, intends to make many telecommuting jobs permanent, partly due to worker polls in favor working from home.  

If you’re of like mind, what can you expect when you shop for a home in the ‘burbs? According to Realtor.com, on average, a suburban home costs $230,000 compared to $431,000 home in the city with 300 more square feet of living space. You may pay over list price or get into a bidding war, due to intensifying demand, but you’ll still save a bundle. 


Who Pays for Utility Disruptions?

As a consumer of electricity, gas, sewer and water services, you have certain protections under state law. If you submit required deposits, pay your bills on time, and protect your interior and exterior equipment from overload or breakage, you should not be denied service and should rarely, if ever, experience a disruption in your utilities.

Yet, utility interruptions occur frequently. A water, gas or electric company can slow down or shut off flow to your home if there’s an outage, to protect the public safety or, to protect reserves and to keep prices competitive.

Sometimes, utility delivery equipment simply fails. Pipes burst, animals chew through lines and extreme weather can cause outages. In most cases, if the equipment is on your property, including a damaged meter, you’re as responsible to pay for repair or replacement as the companies are to monitor equipment performance before it breaks.

Extreme weather can wipe out utilities in large areas for weeks at a time before service is restored — a major reason why clean energy supporters lobby for micro-grids to limit outage areas and to encourage more subsidies for wind and solar power. Unlike fossil fuels which are switched on and off, wind and solar power can be stored in batteries for future use, which can help restore power to homes quicker.

According to Audubon.org, every state has a public utility commission that regulates your utilities and the companies that provide them. Get involved and help reduce outages the cost of utilities in your area.


Staged Homes Sell Faster

In a survey released this year, the National Association of REALTORS found that 83% of buyers’ agents reported that staging helps homebuyers visualize themselves living in the home and influences them enough to make higher offers. Sellers’ agents agreed that staged homes sell faster and for more money.

These are just a few of the advantages to staging your home, but there are other benefits for home sellers. 

Staging gives you a deadline. Getting your home ready to is a lot of work, but online photos and agent showings should showcase your home at its best – decluttered, freshly painted and staged with fresh new furniture and accessories.

Staging gives you great ideas. You’ll learn a lot about making rooms flow, creating focal points, increase and improve lighting, and how to use color.

Staging helps you decide what to keep or discard. If your furnishings are hand-me-downs, out of date, or not your taste, why take it all to your next home? Staging can help you separate what you love so you’ll have far less to move.

Ask your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Agent more about staging, or even virtual staging options for your online photos.


Local VA Housing Market

Check out the local housing report prepared by the Fredericksburg Area Association of REALTORS®. 

Look at the graphic below (found at https://www.faarmembers.com/market/) showing the statistics for the month of July 2020. Data show that the number of units sold and home price for each local county are still increasing, while days on the market is decreasing, due to low inventory. Because of the lower inventory, homes are selling faster, and for a higher sales price. Many homes are getting multiple offers!

In our local area, the housing market is still going strong. While the number of listings is down from previous years, homes are still selling quickly and buyers are looking for properties. It is a seller’s market, which drives up the home sale prices. Now may be the perfect time to sell your home in Virginia!


Student Loans

Looking to buy a home, but worried that your student loan debt will prevent you? Here are some things you can do to help you purchase a home after college:

  1. Look at your Debt-to-Income Ratio: Pay down any debts you can, including student loans, credit card bills, and other debts you may have. Save up some money, and start paying down debts wherever possible.
  2. Look at your Credit Score: Make sure you pay all bills on time and get your score up. Your credit score makes a big impact on your home purchase, so it helps to keep your score high.
  3. Speak with a Lender: You are going to need a pre-approval letter to purchase a home. Talk with a lender to get pre-approved for a mortgage loan. Your lender can also help give you some advice on getting approved for the amount you are looking for, and they can give you tips for how to get where you’d like to be financially.
  4. Contact a Real Estate Agent: If you have any questions on the home buying process, speak with one of our Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Select Agents. They can help you in your home search process and answer any questions you may have.

If you are a recent college graduate, don’t let that student loan debt keep you from your dreams of owning a home. There are ways you can purchase a home, or plan for it in the near future. Speak with one of our agents for more information!


Virginia State Lighthouses

Virginia is full of history and scenic activities. Here are some of the lighthouses located in the state:

  1. Old Cape Henry Lighthouse – Built in 1792, this lighthouse is located on the Chesapeake Bay. It is one of the oldest standing lighthouses in the United Stated and has a lot of history.
  2. Assateague Lighthouse – This lighthouse was originally built in 1833 and was rebuilt in 1866. It is located on Assateague Island at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
  3. Cape Charles Light – Located on Smith Island, this lighthouse is the tallest in the State of Virginia. It can be seen from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, but is not fully open to the public.
  4. Jones Point – This is the only remaining river lighthouse in the state. It was built in 1855 near Old Town Alexandria. This lighthouse is also not fully open to the public but can be seen and photographed from outside.

For a complete list and map of Virginia’s Lighthouses, visit https://www.virginia.org/lighthouses/ . Be sure to check them out!


Top Activities in the State of Virginia

Looking for some local activities? Look no further! Here are some of the top activities and destinations in the state of Virginia:

  • Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge – This 14,000 acre wildlife preserve is one of the most visited destinations in the area. It is the perfect place to birdwatch, take photos, and even see the ponies! There are also walking trails and places to go boating.
  • Jamestown Settlement – Be sure to visit this historic site in Eastern Virginia. Learn about the history of America’s first permanent English colony. There is also a museum nearby to learn more about the local history!
  • Shenandoah National Park – Located near the Blue Ridge Mountains, this 200,000 acre park is a must-see. There are many trails, wildlife, and gorgeous views!
  • Colonial Williamsburg – This is another great activity for those interested in local history. It is known as an “Outdoor History Museum” because of how much there is to see. There are colonial shops, churches, wagon rides, gardens, homes, and guides to tell you all about the history. It is a great day trip for the whole family!
  • Virginia Beach – If the beach is more of your thing, Virginia Beach is the perfect trip for you! Home to beautiful beaches, lots of shopping, and family activities, there is plenty to do here.

These are just some of the MANY popular destinations in the state. There are a ton of activities and sights all over the state, and many may even be in your local area. Be sure to check out all the beautiful state has to offer!