Kathy O'Neal
Fairfax, VA 22033
Office: 703.802.2850
Toll Free: 800.297.8382




Tips To Keep Your Home Cooler Without Turning Down The Thermostat

Energy-saving tips

The typical U.S. household “loses” up to 30% of its annual heating and cooling bill to energy inefficiencies, according to ENERGY STAR®.

The good news Chantilly homeowners is that there are dozens of ways to help your home perform better.

As the calendar turns to July, and as temperatures warm in DC and nationwide, implement even one of the following cost-saving moves and you can expect your home’s energy bill to drop.  Implement two or more, and you can expect your bill to drop by a lot.

Keep it simple at the start. When the sun shines through a window on a cloudless day, it can raise a room’s temperature by as much as 20 degrees.  Therefore, the first energy-saving move to review is the easiest one — simply close your home’s window blinds and shades to block out the sun.

With the shades drawn and the sun blocked, your rooms will stay cooler, and so will your home.  This is especially important during the mid-day hours when the sun is at its strongest so, before you leave for work, make sure you’ve closed your blinds.

The next step is to change your home’s air filter.

Air filters are meant to be changed quarterly, or monthly if your home has shedding pets.  When your air filter is clean, the HVAC unit won’t have to work as hard to push air through your home’s air ducts, saving up to another 7% off your annual energy costs.

Next, replace your home’s incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient ones.

This step can be costly up-front, but over the long-term, savings are big.  Not only do energy-efficient light bulbs such as CFLs and LEDs last for years, but they don’t pump heat back into a room like an incandescent bulb will.

Incandescent bulbs are shown to convert 97.5% of their energy into heat, meaning just 2.5% of their supplied energy is used for light.  This 97.5%  then warms up your house, which costs money to cool.

And, lastly, if your home has ceiling fans, use them.

When a ceiling fan is running, it can make a room feel up to 8 degrees cooler.  Just remember that ceiling fans cool you and not the room.  Be sure to turn them off when you leave the room.

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 our real estate Testimonial Video.  It is an honest presentation of what makes us different.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

How To Keep A Clean Refrigerator

Clean refrigeratorChantilly homeowners – do you clean your refrigerator regularly, or only after you’ve run out of space?  If your answer is the latter, your refrigerator may be harboring dangerous bacteria that can make you, your family, and your house guests ill.

Refrigerators should be cleaned monthly, inside and out, ideally.  The process involves removing all foods, cleaning all shelves, and wiping down drawers.  Spoiled food is removed and old containers reclaimed.

The process takes 20 minutes. Here’s how to do it.

First, prepare your cleaning stations, including filling a sink with soapy water, and having drying towels handy.  Complete this step before you start to remove food from the refrigerator.  This limits the amount of time that food has available to reach room temperature.

Next, remove all food from the appliance. Throw out old food past its expiration, and leftovers which have been in containers for more than a few days.  Check dairy products for expiration dates — especially cheeses and creams.  Toss fruits and vegetables that have spoiled.  Wipe down condiment jars and bottles with a damp towel.

Next, with the refrigerator empty, remove all shelves and drawers and wash them in the water-filled sink. Scrub to remove any caked-on foods and spills.  Rinse off the soapy water and dry the part on your drying towels.

Then, while the shelves and drawers are drying, using a mixture of baking soda and water, wipe down the interior surfaces of your appliance. The mixture should be roughly 2 tablespoons of baking soda for every 1 gallon of water. Wipe the mixture off with a clean towel.

Lastly, move the shelves and drawers back into the refrigerator and replace all of the food that’s “good”.

Refrigerators can be a dirty place.  We rarely wash our hands before handling food in a refrigerator and that can contribute to a bacteria-heavy environment.  A good cleaning, though, can keep our foods — and our home — healthy.

Clean your refrigerator regularly.

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.

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 »

America’s 20 Best Small Towns

America's Best Small TownsChantilly homeowners, looking for places to visit this summer?  America is stuffed with world-class “big cities”;  New York,  San Francisco and Chicago make for three great examples.  But beyond the biggest cities, there are some wonderful small towns to visit, too.

Smithsonian.com highlights 20 of them on its website.  One of them is within a few hours drive from the Chantilly area.

Focusing on cities with 25,000 residents or fewer, the publication ranked areas high in “culture”; towns with high concentrations of museums, public gardens, art galleries and other cultural assets including resident orchestras.

The author states “big cities and grand institutions per se don’t produce creative works; individuals do. And being reminded of that is fun”.

The Top 10 Small Towns in America, as judged by Smithsonian.com :

  1. Great Barrington, Massachusetts
  2. Taos, New Mexico
  3. Red Bank, New Jersey
  4. Mill Valley, California
  5. Gig Harbor, Washington
  6. Durango, Colorado
  7. Butler, Pennsylvania
  8. Marfa, Texas
  9. Naples, Florida
  10. Staunton, Virginia

Other notable cities on the list include Princeton, New Jersey;  Beckley City, West Virginia; and Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

The Smithsonian.com website provides an in-depth review of each of its twenty listed cities, including historical notes and quotes from key community members.  It makes for good reading by local residents and visitors, alike.

Review the complete rankings online.

And if you are a home buyer or home seller, 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 »

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 »

Nice Rise in Homebuilder Confidence

NAHB HMI index 2010-2012

Chantilly home buyers and home sellers will welcome a little good housing news.

There has been some lately.  The nation’s home builders are predicting a strong 2012 for new home sales. It may mean somewhat higher home prices as the spring buying season approaches.

For the sixth straight month, the National Association of Homebuilders reports that homebuilder confidence is rising. The Housing Market Index went up four points to 29 in February, the index’s highest reading since May 2007.

The Housing Market Index is now up 8 points in 8 weeks. The last time that happened was June 2003, a month during which the U.S. economy was regaining its footing, much like this month. It’s noteworthy that June 2003 marked the start of a 4-year bull run in the stock market that took equities up 54%.

The NAHB’s Housing Market Index itself is actually a composite reading. It’s the end-result of three separate surveys sent to home builders monthly.

They ask fundamental questions:

  1. How are market conditions for the sale of new homes today?
  2. How are market conditions for the sale of new homes in 6 months?
  3. How is prospective buyer foot traffic?

In February, builders reported marked improvement across all three areas. Builders report that current home sales climbed 5 points; that sales expectations for the next 6 months climbed 5 points; and that buyer foot traffic climbed 1 point.

Most notable of all of the statistics, though, is that the nation’s home builders report that there are now twice as many buyers setting foot inside model units as compared to just 6 months ago.

This data is supported by the monthly New Home Sales report which shows rising sales and a shrinking new home inventory.

Because of this, Chantilly and Northern Virginia area new home buyers may seet fewer concessions from builders at the time of contract including fewer price breaks on a home and fewer free upgrades. Builders are more upbeat about future prospects, and  therefore, may be less willing to be as flexible.

This spring may mark the best time of year to buy a new home. 60 days forward, it may not be quite a good.  You can never know for sure, but these are some insights that may be helpful.  And if you are a home buyer or home seller, 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.  Please let us know if you have any questions about Chantilly and Northern Virginia real estate.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »