Kathy O'Neal
Fairfax, VA 22033
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Tips For Selling Your Chantilly Home In The Colder Winter Months

Shovel snow on the walkwaysReal estate agents in Chantilly will tell you that it can be harder to sell a home in the winter.  The days are colder and shorter, leaving less time to show a home to potential buyers.

The good news, though, is that most buyers looking at houses in the winter aren’t just killing time.  They’re serious enough about finding a new home to house hunt at a time when most people might rather stay inside.

There are a several steps you can take to make a good impression on home buyers this winter.

First, if there’s snow or ice on the ground, make sure walkways are safe.  Spread out ice melt or sand to provide traction during snowy weather.  Shovel the snow on the driveway and sidewalks to make your home more inviting.  Be sure to place a mat on which for visitors to wipe their feet.

Second, warm up the house.  Buyers will remember the house that was pleasantly warm on a frigid day.  This also demonstrates to buyers that your furnace is in good working order.

Next, to make a “welcoming scent”, bake cookies the day of the showing.  Some people are sensitive to the fragrances in air fresheners and perfumes, so skip spraying those when expecting someone to look at your house.

You can also serve snacks in the kitchen.  Give the buyer a reason to linger in your home by leaving a light snack in the kitchen.  If the weather is cold, consider providing chili or soup in a crock-pot to keep it warm with festive disposable bowls.  Or, to keep it simple, you can provide coffee or hot chocolate and cookies.

Lastly, to make your house appear warm and inviting during cold winter months, turn all the lights in the house on; place warm-toned throws and decorator pillows around the living room.  Play soothing classical or jazz music; keep the volume low enough that buyers can talk quietly to each other.

These techniques each can help your home seem more inviting this winter.

And if you are preparing your home to sell, please know that the Kathy O’Neal Team is here for you!

Please feel free to contact us anytime!  We have a section devoted to seller strategies on our website that may prove helpful!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

Virginia Space Maker: Simplifying With Style and Value

Virginia Space Maker is helping Northern Virginia area residents simplify their life.

We have known the good folks at this company ever since Doric Caron and his team did a super job installing organizing systems in our own home.

Ever since then, we give his name to our real estate clients and others when they are looking for this kind of service.

In this part of the world, it is always smart to think about saving time and making life a bit less frantic.  Doric has several decades of experience in doing this for area residents.  His organizing systems are very high quality and that comes from his personal commitment to do every job in an entirely professional and quality way, and with excellent prices as well.

If you have been thinking about a closet or home office system, or some other way to save time and make you home life more organized, take a look at the Virginia Space Maker website.  You will see some clever ways to add time and lower stress to your home life.  And with so many people who work at home these days, you may see some options that will help your work life as well.

Here are a few samples…get the full  scoop on their website.

If you are doing home improvements with an eye toward the sale of your home, we’d be happy to give you an opinion on your home’s current value and answer any questions on which improvements might enhance the sale of your property.  Let us know how we can help.

closets 027

We like the excellent work of Virginia Space Makers.

VIrginia Space MakersVirginia Space Makers


Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

New Home Sales: Fast Start But Slower Now

New Home Supply 2010-2012

The number of newly-built homes sold slipped 8 percent in June from the month prior.

This according to the U.S. Census Bureau in its latest New Home Sales report. The June data shows 350,000 homes sold nationwide on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis.

Home sales fell short of Wall Street expectations but the Census Bureau revised higher its previously-released results for March, April and May by a collective 33,000 units. This left the June New Home Sales report as the weakest of the last five months, yet still stronger than the 21 months preceding February.

So, despite retreating from May, the June New Home Sales data was still quite strong. As compared to June of last year, sales of newly-built homes are higher by 15% and the national inventory of new homes for sale is down to 144,000 units.

This marks a 13 percent inventory reduction in just twelve months.

At the current sales pace nationwide, the complete stock of new homes would “sell out” in 4.9 months, a noteworthy data point because analysts believe that a 6.0-month supply of homes marks a market in balance. Home supplies of below 6.0 months suggest a “seller’s market” where sellers have pricing power and excess leverage in negotiations.

Home supplies have been south of 6.0 months since October 2011. This is the same month that marked a shift with other housing data points, too, including Existing Home Sales and the Home Price Index.

Since October 2011, the average new home sale price is higher by 6% nationwide, a trend that should continue in Centreville through the end of 2012 and into 2013 — especially with mortgage rates at new all-time lows and home affordability at all-time highs. As more buyers enter the market amid limited supply, prices are expected to rise.

Given all of the above, consider that If you’re a home buyer in search of new construction,your best new home “deals” you may find may be the ones you find today.  And if you are looking for someone to answer questions about the Chantilly and Northern Virginia real estate market, please know that we are here for you.  We also invite you to take a moment to view our testimonial video, in the words of people we have served.

Written by Fran ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

Chantilly Home Buyers and Sellers: Home Purchasing Power Jumps To New Highs

Purchasing power grows in Q2 2012

With mortgage rates down to all-time lows, you can buy a lot more home for your money.  Home affordability is at an all-time high.

According to Freddie Mac mortgage rate survey several weeks ago, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage has dropped to 3.62% nationwide. This is down from 4.08% in March, and down from 4.60% from one year ago.

Mortgage rates are “on sale.”

Falling mortgage rates can make one of two changes to the way a Chantilly/Centreville home buyer looks at properties.  They can either make a given home’s monthly housing payment that much more affordable to a buyer, or they can expand that buyer’s home purchasing power to a higher, maximum price point.

Since July 2011, that maximum price point increase has been significant.

Assuming a principal + interest payment of $1,000 per month and a 30-year loan term, a category that includes 30-year fixed rate mortgages and most adjustable-rate mortgages, here’s a maximum loan size comparison of the last 12 months :

With an increase in maximum loan size of more than $22,000 in just 12 months, it’s no wonder that multiple-offer situations are becoming more common — today’s buyers know that low home prices and low mortgage rates are combining to make home buying more affordable than at any time in recent history.

However, the buyer-friendly environment can’t last forever.

First, home prices have started to rise nationwide.  Demand for homes has outpaced home supply in many U.S. markets and that leads home prices higher.  Second, low mortgage rates can’t last forever.

A recovering economy will lift mortgage rates back above 4 percent, a scenario that will hit home affordability hard.

Home-buying conditions are optimal this season. If you’re in the market for a new home, talk to your real estate agent and loan officer about maximizing your home purchasing power.

And if you are a home buyer, either living in the Northern Virginia area or moving to it, we are here to provide help and information.  If you are looking for someone to possibly work with, we invite you to check out our authentic Testimonial Video which is mostly in the voice of people we have helped to realize their real estate goals.

Let us know how we can help!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

Phoenix Leads Annual Home Price Gains, According To Case-Shiller Index

Case-Shiller Index

Chantilly and Northern Virginia area home buyers interested in the trends in real estate home prices may know that Standard & Poors released its March 2012 Case-Shiller Index last week.  The index is meant to measure changes in home prices from month-to-month, and from year-to-year, in select U.S. cities.

According to the report, home values rose in 12 of the Case-Shiller Index’s 20 tracked markets, and one market remained unchanged.

The Washington D.C. area was one of the metropolitan areas that came in with an increase in home prices.

Of the Case-Shiller markets, Phoenix, Arizona posted the largest one-year gain, climbing 6.1 percent.   Atlanta, Georgia posted the largest one-year loss.  Values falling more than seventeen percent there year-over-year.

Overall, the Case-Shiller Index was relatively unchanged in March as compared to the month prior, but down nearly 3 percent on an annual basis.  Nationwide, says Standard & Poor’s, home values are back to the levels of late-2002.

Don’t be overly concerned, however.  Though widely-cited, the Case-Shiller Index is a flawed and misleading metric.  It’s methodology almost guarantees it.

The first flaw in the Case-Shiller Index is its limited geography. Despite there being more than 3,100 municipalities nationwide, the Case-Shiller Index tracks just 20 of them.  They’re not the 20 largest ones, either.  Houston, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Jose are specifically excluded from the Case-Shiller Index and each is among the Top 10 Most Populous Cities in the United States.

Minneapolis (#48) and Tampa (#55), by contrast, are included.

The Case-Shiller Index’s second flaw is that only tracks the sales of single-family, detached homes.  Sales of condominiums and multi-unit homes carry no weight in the index whatsoever — even in cities such as Chicago and New York in which condos can account for a large percentage of the overall real estate market.

And thirdly, when the Case-Shiller Index is published, it’s published on a two-month delay.  Buyers and sellers in Chantilly and Centreville don’t need housing data from two months ago — they need data from today.  The Case-Shiller Index tells us what housing was, in other words.  It doesn’t tell us how housing is.

Buyers and sellers need real-time, actionable information.  You can’t get that from the flawed Case-Shiller Index.  For more accurate, relevant real estate data, talk to your real estate professional instead.  If you are home buying or home selling in the Northern Virginia area my team and I are always here for you.

Also a resource for you if you live in the Northern Virginia area, use my MARKET SNAPSHOT program to get actual “SOLD” prices of homes in your community.  And if you want a quick estimate of your home’s current market value, of course, just let me know.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

Save Energy For Summer: Flip Your Ceiling Fan Rotation

Ceiling fans lower your energy bill

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and, in Chantilly as well as many parts of the country, weekend weather was indistinguishable from what one might expect in August.

Temperatures climbed into the 90s throughout the Southwest, South Central, Midwest and Southeast and even crossed 100 degrees in parts of Kansas.

For Chantilly homeowners with ceiling fans, the change of season offers a timely reminder to change the direction in which ceiling fan blades rotate.  Properly-rotating ceiling fan blades not only cool your home more efficiently, but can lower your energy bill, too.

Ceiling fans are meant to amplify your home’s natural heating and cooling systems.  Using the equivalent energy of a 100-watt light bulb, on a cool day, a ceiling fan will recirculate warmer air, making a room feel up to 6 degrees warmer.

On a warm day, a ceiling fan can reduce a room’s effective temperature by 4 degrees.  It accomplishes this by pushing colder air back into a room, creating a “windchill effect” on the skin.  This is a far more economical way to regulate temperature as compared setting a home thermostat up or down by 4 degrees.

The key is to have the ceiling fan blades running in the proper direction.

For additional cost savings with a ceiling fan, remember to turn it off when you’re not in the room.  Ceiling fans don’t cool the air; neither do they warm it.  Rather, ceiling fans move air which gives the sensation of a room being cooler or warmer.  With nobody in the room, there’s no need to run the fan.

If your home is without ceiling fans, and you’d like to install one or many, the process is inexpensive and easy.  There are videos online which walk you through the steps, or you can call a qualified electrician.

Need an electricians name?   Call or email me — I’m happy to offer a referral in the Chantilly area and surrounding communities.  And if you are getting your Northern Virginia  home in good shape because you are preparing to sell, please know that the Kathy O’Neal Team is here for you!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

Small Repairs That Can Raise Your Sales Price

Leaky faucet

If you’re actively preparing to list your home for sale Chantilly homeowners, resist the temptation to make major home improvements.  Nationwide, home improvement projects recoup just 58 cents on the dollar, says Remodeling Magazine.

Rather, for a better return on your time and money, focus on the minor projects instead.  It’s the smaller projects in Chantilly that tend to have a bigger, long-term payoff.

So, how do you determine which projects are the “smaller ones”?  It’s obvious when you think like a buyer.

Consider : Home buyers don’t always notice when your home is in working order. In fact, they expect it to be that way.  What they do notice, however, is when things are “broken”.  When a buyer sees torn screens in your windows or burnt out light bulbs, it makes him wonder what else in the home has not been cared for.

This is one reason why — especially during warmer months — it’s sensible to hire an exterminator prior to selling your home.  If a prospective buyer uncovers bugs in your bathroom, it can leave a lasting, negative impression — one that won’t likely lead to a purchase contrast.

So, with “small repairs” in mind, here are 5 simple projects that you can tackle in a weekend, and that will help your home show better.  Each is low-cost and high-impact:

  1. Repair or remove torn screen doors
  2. Fix all leaky faucets and toilets
  3. Touch up holes and cracks in paint, interior and exterior
  4. Apply a lubricant to squeaky doors and cabinets
  5. Get “clutter” into storage and physically out of the way

In addition, you’ll want to pull weeds from your yard, seed any bare spots you find, and lay down fresh mulch, where appropriate.

You won’t need to spend big bucks to get your home ready for sale but the time spent on repairs will have a pay-off in the end.  Homes that show better often sell much faster, and at higher prices.

And if you are getting your Northern Virginia  home  in good shape because you are preparing to sell, please know that the Kathy O’Neal Team is here for you!

Please feel free to contact us anytime!  We have a section devoted to seller strategies on our website that may prove helpful!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

Building Permits Rising

Building Permits

Chantilly area home buyers looking at possible new home construction should know that national stats indicate rising building permits.  And in my own travels locally, I do see more new construction activity.

It would appear that the new construction housing market is ready for growth this season.

According to the Census Bureau, the number of single-family building permits issued in February rose to 472,000 on a seasonally-adjusted, annual basis, marking the highest building permit tally since April 2010 — the last month of that year’s federal home buyer tax credit program.

Building permits indicate future new home construction.

In 2011, from the date of permit-issuance to the date of “ground-breaking”, an average of 27 calendar days passed. February’s data, therefore, is a signal that the market for newly-built homes should be strong this year.  Recent homebuilder confidence survey data supports this as well.

As buyer foot traffic climbs, homebuilders expect to make more sales in the next 6 months than at any time since the housing market’s crashed. Builder confidence is at a 5-year high.

Of course, progress is not straight up.  Last month single-family housing starts slipped.

As compared to January, February’s single-family housing starts fell by 50,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. The 10% drop represents the largest one-month drop since February 2011. It’s a statistic that may suggest that this year’s results are simply seasonal.

But buyers should be aware that the good news has another side.

Rising permits and builder confidence may mean that Northern Virginia area  homebuilders will be less willing to negotiate with today’s buyer on upgrades and/or home prices. However, as more new home supply is set to come online, excess housing stock could help keep home prices low.

All the more reason you need a real estate agent who is working on your behalf, as a Buyer Broker, when you are dealing with new construction.  If you are searching for an integrity based real estate professional to help you with the home buying or selling process, we invite you to take a few moments and watch our Testimonial Video which features honest commentary on how we serve our clients.  Let us know how we can help.  And if you are moving into the Northern Virginia area, we would love to be of assistance.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

“Green” Meets the Arts: 50 Creative Reuse Ideas For Your Home

Creative reuse

There are Chantilly Home sellers and home buyers who are into “Creative Reuse”….the transformation of everyday items that would otherwise be thrown out. “Green” and the arts merge in this activity.

In every Northern Virginia home, there are potentially dozens of things that could be reused and re-purposed, including such diverse items as chipped coffee mugs, step ladders, and bubble wrap.  After transformation, for example, these three items can become a simple storage container, a plant stand, and greenhouse insulation, respectively.

Real Simple made a list of “50 All-Time Favorite New Uses For Old Things“. It’s a list that may give you inspiration to do your own projects.

Some of the things are very practical.  But they can also be great learning projects for kids.

Here are a few samples from the Real Simple list:

With Creative Reuse, you’re limited only by your imagination and, even then, Google can be a terrific project resource.

Check the Real Simple list for 50 great ideas.

And of course, is your creative project is something really big, like buying or selling a home, please know that we are here to make that work in your favor.  Check out our Testimonial Video for candid responses on how we serve our clients with excellence. Let us know how we can help!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

When Should I Change My Home’s Air Filters?

Keep a clean air filterHow long has it been since you last changed your home’s air filters, Chantilly homeowners?

Home air filters trap and remove dust and particles from the air you breathe; leaving “clean air” to circulate your home.

Clean air in your home is important because it promotes better health.

One way to keep to keep your home’s air as clean as possible is to replace its used air filters at least once per quarter; or once monthly in homes with shedding pets or that otherwise “get dusty”.

Changing air filters is among the easier do-it-yourself chores for a Fairfax area homeowner; a task that takes less than one minute. The secondary benefit of doing it is that new filters help keep your HVAC unit in tip-top shape.

Here’s how to change your home’s air filter :

  1. Open the air filter compartment door/slider on your HVAC unit.
  2. Note the size of your current filter. It’s typically written on the frame.
  3. Note the direction in which the filter is pointing. There may be an arrow on its frame.
  4. Purchase a new filter at a hardware store. Make sure the sizes matches the size from Step 2.
  5. Remove the old filter.
  6. Replace old filter with the newly purchased one from Step 4. Make sure the arrow is pointing in the same direction as the original filter’s arrow.
  7. Using a marker, note the date of filter change on the side of the filter.
  8. Close the air filter compartment door/slider.

And that’s it.

When you find a filter type and style that you like, consider buying them in bulk — it can be helpful to have extra air filters laying around the home for when you need them — especially during season changes when you may want to replace filters more frequently.

In addition, when purchasing air filters, don’t opt for the cheapest available. Often, the least expensive filters allow large particles to recirculate through the HVAC unit, and back in to your home. Choose a mid-level or top-line product instead.

Your home and your health will thank you.

And when you are preparing your home for the possibility of selling here in the Northern Virginia area (or moving from elsewhere), please know that I am here to help!  You can contact me directly with any questions.

If you are searching for a Chantilly area real estate agent, trying to make sure you make a great choice from the start, I invite you to visit of real estate Testimonial Video.  It is an honest presentation of what makes us different.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »