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!


Tips for making your home stand out

If you are listing your home for sale, there is no doubt you want it to be noticed by potential buyers. Here are a few ways to improve your listing:

  1. Flower Beds or Potted Plants – A trimmed yard and kept up plants are a great way to help your curb appeal. If you do not have the time or green thumb to plant flower beds, get some potted plants for your porch or outside your windows.
  • Fresh Paint – Painting is an affordable and easy way to make your home look good as new. It will clean off the marks/dents from your family living there and overall look fresh and new!
  • Clear the Clutter – Nobody wants to look at photos of your listing and see the rooms full of stuff. Make sure your home stays tidy and take out what clutters up the room. This will make the rooms look cleaner and larger, and potential buyers can envision their own stuff in the home.

Talk to your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realtor for more ways to help your listing sell!


The home office is back in style in 2020

With COVID-19, more and more people were, or still are currently working from home. Never again overlook the importance of your home office. When thinking about your next move, you want to make sure the home you purchase has a space for your office. However small or large the room is, you can make it your own.

When choosing an office space, you want something with enough room for what you are using it for. Make sure there is room for storage, as well as your desk and computer supplies. Make your office as homey as possible, so you enjoy being there, even if you have work to do. Choose a comfy desk chair and decorate the room to match your personal style. A fun idea is to decorate with photos, so even when you are working, you can see your loved ones and your memories.

Check out some home office inspiration on Pinterest. There are a TON of organizational tips, design ideas, and ways to make your home office a place you want to work. Next time you think about purchasing a new home, keep your home office in mind. It is something many people do not consider, but now that everyone has been working from home, they are realizing that they may need a change.

When you decide to purchase your next home, keep your home office space in mind!


DRIVING THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Whether you’re shopping for a home in a familiar location or a new neighborhood, remember that you’re buying more than a home. You’re also buying the neighborhood, so it helps to become familiar with your favorites, whether you drive them or walk them.

Why is that important? It’s the neighborhood that helps establish home values, which depend largely on location and local amenities (close to high-paying jobs, high-scoring schools, high-starring restaurants, etc.)

Neighborhoods can change over time, so look for signs of transition. Do you see reinvestment or decline? Homeowners reinvest by repainting, making repairs and refreshing their homes with updates. What kinds of stores and services do you see? Dollar stores or boutiques, payday loan shops or investment firms, fast food or upscale restaurants. Are you the right target demographic?

Visit the area at different times of the day and on weekends. What’s traffic like? How long is your commute?

As you drive, check a few home-buying apps. On our local Virginia community pages, you can see crime stats and amenities and save your favorites to show your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty sales professional.

You’ll be happier if you pick the neighborhood first, then choose the home.


Three Things Sellers Should Never Do

Selling your home is one of the largest transactions you’ll ever make, so you want to make sure you sell your home quickly, for the most money and for the best terms possible you don’t want to start off on the wrong foot. Here are three things sellers should never do.

  1. Sell it yourself. A real estate professional has the resources and experience to help you price, show, sell your home and safely navigate it to closing. He or she can provide numerous marketing and showing services to help sell your home quickly and with as few hurdles as possible.
  2. Pick the wrong sales professional. Interview several real estate professionals to learn how they plan to market your home, what services they provide, and what you need to do to get the highest and best offer for your home. Choose the one who is straight with you about your home’s assets and drawbacks, and who explains current market conditions so you’ll know how to price your home successfully.
  3. Ignore your sales professional’s advice. Your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty sales professional is trained to help you present your home at its best. Staging, updates, and repairs will help, but what’s most important is price. Your home’s price, location and condition should be supported by comparable homes in the area. You’ll attract the most interest if you price slightly below comparable homes, allowing room for buyers to bid up the price.

Remember, every market is different and can change quickly, so be prepared. Request a free, no-obligation market analysis from your local Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty sales professional and learn more about obtaining the highest value for your home in todays market.


Portable Gardens for Curb Appeal

To make your home more attractive to homebuyers, you could plant fresh flowers or you could put plants in containers and take your garden with you when you sell your home!  

Containers can accent your home’s personality – like washtubs for a farmhouse look or colorful fired pottery for a bohemian vibe. They’re the perfect solution for styling a porch, entry or walkway.

Follow these easy tips to make sure your potted gardens thrive:

Pick the right container. A confined space means substituting what the plants would get if they were in the ground. You need to have enough space for plants to grow and proper drainage holes so your plants don’t become sodden.

Use fresh potting soil. Good potting soil doesn’t clump and allows roots to spread. It contains nutrients to give plants a good head start.

Group plants according to sun and water requirements. A mix of cascading plants, tall leafy plants and various flowers make a beautiful composition. You can even mix in edibles like vegetables and herbs, but make sure all the plants in one container require the same amount of sun and water.

Water frequently. Container gardens dry out quickly, especially smaller pots. Check that the container is draining properly and you don’t have to worry about overwatering. Water daily in warm weather.

Bigger is better. Larger containers hold more soil, allow plants to grow larger, offer more room for variety and require less frequent watering.


How to Decorate Your Kitchen with White Hues

Kitchens decorated with mostly white hues never seem to go out of style but there’s a fine line between white that’s serene and beautiful and white that’s stark and clinical. If you love the color white, here are some tips to make your kitchen modern and sophisticated:

  1. Include a little grey. Choosing a light grey to accompany white in your kitchen will still give your white color some dimension. It’s like a shadow that helps define the white.
  2. Go monochromatic. Monochromatic doesn’t mean using all the same hue. If you look at paint colors, tiles, countertops and appliances, there are hundreds of whites. Each white has an undertone, typically blue or yellow. Choose the shade you like best and make sure all the colors you use are in the same family.
  3. Break it up. White can bring the drama if you have an element like stainless or black matte appliances instead of white. Or choose a backsplash in a color that you can repeat in a fabric like curtains or placemats.
  4. Bring the outdoors in. A great view of side or backyard landscaping can bring a lot of color indoors. And what looks lovelier with the color white than nature’s woods and greens?
  5. Pop your white colors with art. Your only “color” in a white hued kitchen might be a contemporary painting with splashes of red, orange or blue. Accessorize with dishes or enameled cookware to complement other color accents.

How to Challenge Higher Property Taxes

According to the National Taxpayers Union, between 30% and 60% of taxable property in the United States is over-assessed, yet less than 5% of homeowners appeal their assessments.

Your 2020 tax assessment will outline county, city and school taxes, as well as special assessments. Look online or call the assessor’s office for a list of factors used to evaluate properties and render assessments, including time frames. Compare them to your bill and make sure your square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms and baths are listed correctly.

If you can’t find the assessment rate on your statement, call the taxing authority and ask what the assessment rate is for your home’s location. There should also be directions for how to file an appeal, by mail, electronically and in person. You’ll be given a specific time and date for your appeal.

Your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty sales professional may be able to help by providing you with a comparable market analysis of similar homes sold or on the market in 2019. Choose three to five properties with the same age, size, and condition of your home, noting any differences between the homes, such as additions or other improvements.

Your estimated property taxes could be escrowed, but you might owe more. You could also owe less if any discounts available apply to you. Some taxing authorities give seniors, workforce personnel (teachers, police, EMTs and fire personnel) and military veterans a break.


“Flaneur” the Way To Your Next Home

Have you ever taken the time to stroll the marketplace in your neighborhood or the city simply for the pleasure of observation? Then you might be what the French call a “flaneur.”  The flaneur was first described in the writings of 19th century poet Charles Baudelair as one who casually wanders, watches and chronicles the street life they observe. You could try the concept to help you find your next home.

You can wander neighborhoods you’re interested in by car, bus or train, but you can do so much more effectively by foot. Start at places with lots of activity, like shopping centers, business districts or city parks. Try to have no other agenda except to meander and let the sights, sounds and smells of the streets make their impressions on you. Go during the workday, on the weekend and at night. Find a coffee shop or café with outdoor seating so you can sit comfortably and take in the surroundings. Talk with a few residents or shopkeepers to learn more about the area.

Next, walk the neighborhoods that the commercial area serves. What are the homes like? Are they well kept? Are they within walking distance or a short drive to locations you would use, like a school, restaurant or fitness center? 

Your feelings should tell you a lot. Do you feel attracted to the area or indifferent? Do you feel safe, happy and at ease? You’ll soon know if this is a community you want to join.

To learn more about local Northern and Central Virginia communities visit our communities page and search by area, then contact a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty sales professional to explore these communities in greater detail.