Saturday, June 1, 2013

Brighter Sells Better

Homes that are bright tend to sell better than homes that are dark.  There is something about bright open spaces that just makes people feel better.  It gives them that happy, warm and fussy feeling.  That is why all things being equal, most buyers will typically prefer homes that let in a lot of light.  It is the reason Realtors will turn on all the lights during an Open House because we know light translates to a faster sale at a higher price.  What are you to do if you have an area in your home that is dark and gloomy?  A relatively inexpensive solution is a solar tube.

Solar tubes are just that, tubes with a patented reflective interior that harnesses natural sunlight from your roof into the room where it is installed.  A typical 10" tube will light up an area about 10 x 10 feet.    They can produce as much light as a three 100 watt bulbs, and all of that without the use of electricity.  And they are a lot easier to install than skylights.

That leads us to our next point.  You do not necessarily need to be ready to sell to take advantage of solar tubes.  Solar tubes can save you money in the long run.  It will eliminate the use of lights during the day and over time they pay for themselves.  It is a "green" alternative.

Solar tubes can be found in places like Lowes and Home Depot or you can purchase them online. There are various brands on the market available, so make sure you find one that is right for you.  Although you can have them professionally installed, if you are a little bit handy, the kits typically come with everything you need to install them yourself.

One of our team members installed it in her home and the difference is noticeable.  Feel free to view her review here and check out the results below!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Steps To Buying a Home

For many first-time home buyers the process can be a little overwhelming.  Therefore I have put together this step-by-step summary on what buyers can expect during the buying process based on my experience in Northern Virginia.

1. Get pre-approved by a lender.  In Northern Virginia, 99.9% of sellers will not even consider an offer without a pre-approval letter from a lender.  That is the reason why many brokers will also not show you homes until you have shown them your pre-approval letter.  This pre-approval also makes sense.  It will give you the buyer and your Realtor a baseline for what you can and cannot afford.  You can line up your own lender or your Realtor can help you find one.

2.  Sign an agency disclosure and possibly an Exclusive Right to Represent Buyers Agreement.  The agency disclosure should be presented to you by your Realtor before they give you advice on home buying or shows you a home.  The agency disclosure is required by VA law to protect you the buyer.  An Exclusive Right to Represent Buyers agreement will state that you will only use that Broker during the process of purchasing a home and outlines the Broker's responsibilities towards you.

2. Send your Realtor your needs and wants for the home.  Start thinking on what features are a deal breaker and which ones will be nice to have.  Your Realtor will use this to put together a customized search for you and line up potential homes for you to view.

3. View homes.  This is the fun part!  Once you start receiving the listings and you find something you like, you will make an appointment with your Realtor to start viewing those homes and narrow it down to your dream home.

4. Make the offer.  Making an offer is more than just letting your Realtor and the seller know how much you are willing to pay for the house.  Your Realtor will put together a purchase contract that upon ratification (acceptance of the offer) will become a binding agreement between you and the seller.  The Offer must be accompanied with the lenders pre-approval letter and an earnest money deposit.  

5. The Home Inspection.  If the purchase contract has a home inspection contingency (and we strongly recommends this), a home inspector will look at the house and let you know any issues with the home.  At this point, you negotiate with the seller what items they will fix and what items you will just accept as-is. 

6. The Appraisal.  As soon as the offer is accepted, your lender will begin to ask for supporting documentation to get the official approval for the home loan.  One of those supporting documents (which the lender will order), is an appraisal of the home to make sure that the purchase price matches the appraised current value.  Unless this is a cash purchase, an appraisal will be required. The house must appraise for the purchase price or more.  If the house is valued at less than the purchase price, either the seller will have to reduce the price or you will have to pay the difference out of pocket.

7. Final Walk Thru.  After all the contingencies have been met (home inspection, appraisal) and your loan has been approved, you will inspect the home one more time with your Realtor.  The purpose of the "walk-thru" is to make sure the property is in the condition you agreed upon in the contract and the sellers took care of any repairs they agreed to as part of the contract. The final walk-thru usually occurs the day of, or the day before settlement. 

8. Settlement. You are now ready for settlement.  At settlement, if all goes well, all you will be doing is signing a stack full of papers and receiving your keys to the property. If it is a cash purchase, that stack will be significantly smaller.  In the worst case, scenarios, there might be some last minute negotiations regarding the condition of the house during the walk-thru.  

This list is by no means all inclusive as each process can differ.  However, it should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.  If you are not in the VA area, but need a good Realtor, contact me through the web form on the right and I will help you get in touch with a prominent Realtor in your area.


Luisa Rodriguez
Referral Agent
355 West Rio Rd
Charlottesville, VA 22901
Direct:  (240) 377-7104

I am exclusively a referral agent that maintains a license only to refer customers to Licensed Realtors.  Before becoming a referral agent, I was a successful, award winning Realtor.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Importance of Curb Appeal

Having great curb appeal is a must if you are trying to sell a home.  And some of the most dreary homes can be greatly improved with creative landscaping.  Take the before and after picture of the home below that we sold in Woodbridge, VA.  Which home would you consider buying?


The choice is clear.  The homeowners cleaned the siding, they repainted the shutters and the steps, they removed the storm door, and most importantly they hired a professional landscaper for the front yard.  And although a professional landscaper can be very expensive, there is nothing in this front yard that can't be done by a homeowner that is willing to put in a little bit of sweat equity.  The difference in the two pictures below is striking and it is the difference between a home buyer calling his Realtor and saying, "I want to see this house" and just clicking onto the next property.

The return on that small investment will be worth it.  If you are interested in selling and finding a Realtor that will help you sell your home at top-dollar, contact me and I will put you in touch with the best in the business.

Luisa Rodriguez
Referral Agent
355 West Rio Rd
Charlottesville, VA 22901
Direct:  (240) 377-7104

I am exclusively a referral agent that maintains a license only to refer customers to Licensed Realtors.  Before becoming a referral agent, I was a successful, award winning Realtor.

Monday, December 17, 2012

New Down Payment Program in Arlington, VA

Arlington, VA has been out of reach for many lower and moderate income individuals.  However, Arlington County has recently instituted a program that will put Arlington within reach for many families.  The MIPAP (Moderate Income Purchase Assistance Program) helps first time home buyers with up to 25% of the purchase price of a home.  The 25% comes in the form of a no-payment, no-interest loan.  The are certain conditions under which the loan will have to be paid back and this program is not for everyone.  However, if being in Arlington is important to you (you want to keep your child in a certain school system for example), then this may be the program for you.

There are certain income restrictions and this is only for first time home buyers.  The maximum purchase price for 2012 is $362,790. If you are interested in learning more, please contact me so I can put you in touch with a Realtor that is familiar with this program.

Luisa Rodriguez
Referral Agent
355 West Rio Rd
Charlottesville, VA 22901
Direct:  (240) 377-7104

I am exclusively a referral agent that maintains a license only to refer customers to Licensed Realtors.  Before becoming a referral agent, I was a successful, award winning Realtor.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Buyer Beware: Meth Homes

A lot of buyers have heard of the dangers of mold, lead, and asbestos.  Well, now there is a new one to add to the list, meth homes.

Meth homes are houses where someone at one time maintained a methamphetamine lab.  The chemicals from the lab will seep into cabinets, walls, floors, etc. Possible effects of exposure to these chemicals include migraines, respiratory difficulties, and skin irritations to name a few.  Children are at higher risk because their bodies are still developing and small children tend to frequently put things in their mouths.

Problems with Identifying a Meth Home. 
The presence of meth cannot be identified with a routine home inspection.  Realtors would be required to disclose that information but a Realtor does not know what the seller may not have told them.  Even homes that have been "decontaminated" should remain suspect.  There is no national standard for meth home clean-up and many of those clean-up efforts do not completely rid the home of the meth residue.

So What is a Buyer (or Renter) to Do?
The best way to get the scoop on a house is to talk to the neighbors.  That should be rule of thumb before moving into any property whether you are buying or renting.  Neighbors can not only tell you a lot about the previous owners but also about the neighborhood in general.  Most people are more than happy to share that type of information.   Therefore, before making an offer, make sure to take a short walk to the neighbors' homes and start knocking on some doors.

Further reading: Are You Living In a Former Meth-Lab?

I am a former high producing Realtor in the DC Metro area.  Although, I am not actively selling real estate anymore, I can help you find a great Realtor in your area. Feel free to contact me for help finding a realtor or general real estate questions.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Woodbridge, VA Commuting Options

Are you moving to Woodbridge, VA? Do you need to know what your commuting options are?  One of the biggest headaches in this part of the US is the traffic, particularly I-95.  Thankfully, there are some options to reduce some of the stress.  As you make a decision where to live in Woodbridge consider where the primary commuter stations are located and whether they service your area of employment.

Note that most of these transportation services operate mostly during rush hour times.  These are not options for commuting to DC on a weekend or at off-peak hours. 

VRE:  The Virginia Railway Express is the train that connects Woodbridge to DC.  The upside is that it also connects to some of the major stops for the DC Metro. For more information go to
Slug lines:  Although many are hesitant at first, it is a popular form of transportation here in the DC area.  You are basically hitching a ride from individuals that want to be able to use the HOV lanes.  For more info go to
OmniRide:  Bus line linking the Woodbridge area to primary work locations within the Beltway. For more info go to
Ridesharing:  This is a free service that will match your commuting needs with other residents.  For more info go to

Woodbridge Commuting Options will show you where the primary commuter lots are located in Woodbridge.  This interactive map will also allow you to click on the marker and find out what the primary destinations are for each lot.  Please double check the information at the individual websites as it is possible that I might have made an error or that they have updated their schedules.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cheaply Remodelling a Bathroom

It is very rare that a buyer will find the "perfect" home.   Some sacrifices will have to be made because most of us are working within a budget. What you don't want to sacrifice are the "bones" of the home (structure, roof, HVAC, etc), the floor plan, and the size of the rooms.  However, there are a lot of cosmetic issues that will become a deal breaker for many buyers when in reality, they can easily be changed with a little bit of sweat equity.  Here is an example of how to cheaply remodel a half bath.

I remodeled the half bath when we purchased a colonial that was almost 50 years old.  The existing bath when we first moved in was very dated.  I wanted to make it classy without breaking the bank.  I splurged on the toilet and faucet because I wanted "eco options," but there are a lot cheaper toilets/facuets that will also look nice.

Toilet  $275.00 (I saw some nice looking ones for as low as $100)
Vanity and Top: $130.00
Mirror  $55.00
Vinyl Tile  $20.00 (.69 cents per tile) (super easy to install)
Faucet $150.00   (but classy styles as low as $80).
Misc Supplies $50.00  (caulking, glue, etc).

Dated Bathroom
Cheaply Remodelled Bathroom
Doing it yourself will save you hundreds of dollars.  Installing the toilets, vanity, faucets can be pretty easy if you take the time to read directions, use a little common sense, and have patience.  If you have never done it before (which I had not), you can google instructions and many times you will find YouTube videos that teach you step-by-step.  Also, make sure you plan out what makes more sense to do first, which most likely will be the tile.