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




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!

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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.

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“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!

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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.

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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 »

Top 10 Sunniest Cities In the United States

Sunniest US CitiesAs compared to gloomy days, do “sunny days” put you in a good mood?  If you’re like many people in the Northern Virginia area , the answer is “yes”.

In a study of more than 1,200 people, researchers found that daily weather factors such as temperature, precipitation and length of day can alter a person’s emotional state.  Of all the weather factors, however, “sunshine” can have the most profound effect.

The most likely reason is because sunshine affects people in a physiological manner.

When the human brain detects sunlight, our bodies produce serotonin, a chemical which promotes happiness and well-being.  By contrast, when the brain detect darkness, our bodies produce melatonin, a chemical which promotes sleep cycles.

Sunlight — quite literally — leads to happiness.

Understanding the effect of sunlight on human mood, therefore, we must consider the nation’s “sunniest cities” as more than just a novelty list.  It may be a link to personal well-being, too.

From the National Climactic Data Center, these are the Top 10 Sunniest Cities in the United States :

  1. Yuma, AZ : Sunny on 90% of all days
  2. Redding, CA : Sunny on 88% of all days
  3. Las Vegas, NV : Sunny on 85% of all days
  4. Phoenix, AZ : Sunny on 85% of all days
  5. Tucson, AZ : Sunny on 85% of all days
  6. El Paso, TX : Sunny on 84% of all days
  7. Fresno, CA : Sunny on 79% of all days
  8. Reno, NV : Sunny on 79% of all days
  9. Flagstaff, AZ : Sunny on 78% of all days
  10. Sacramento, CA : Sunny on 78% of all days

The complete Sunshine Rankings as listed by Metropolitan Area is available on the NCDC website.

If you are considering a move to one of these “sunniest cities”  please know that I am here to help you with your move.  Our websites have lots of tools, and you can contact me directly with any questions.  We are always here for you!

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Rising home values this year?

Will your Chantilly or Northern Virginia home go up in value this year? Who knows, but there has been some good news recently, along with the reality of foreclosures.

Housing has been rough since at least 2007, with home values down nearly 20% nationwide. Don’t forget though that our Northern Virginia housing situation has been far better than most areas of the country.

Obviously, low mortgage rates are good for Chantilly area home buyers.  Low rates plus low prices has led home affordability to an all-time high. As you’ll hear in this 4-minute interview with NBC’s The Today Show, carrying a mortgage now costs about 25% less per month as compared to just 3 years ago.

A few other noteworthy points:

With low housing inventory, Northern Virginia buyers may find their best “deals” today — before the Spring Buying Season begins in February.

Of course, remember that each area has its own dynamics.  Cities and neighborhoods have differences, and I am here to help you with the particulars of our area.

My team and I are always here for you.  Let me know how I can help you!

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How To Keep Your Dishwasher Mold-and-Mildew Free

How to clean a dishwasher Chantilly homeowners know that appliances in your home can be a big investment.  Here is something you may have never considered.

Your dishwasher is a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

It’s warm, it’s dark, and there is a bevy of decaying, organic material in the form of both food particles and soap.

Therefore, you’ll want to periodically scrub and disinfect your dishwasher so that it remains clean and healthy, and so that your dishes stay that way, too.

Here’s how to clean your dishwasher :

  1. Remove all racks from the dishwasher. Wash with dish-washing detergent and set aside to dry.
  2. Mix 1 part vinegar with 4 parts very hot water into a spray bottle.
  3. Spray the mixture on the dishwasher seal and anywhere else you see discoloration, mold or mildew.
  4. Scrub the affected areas with a non-abrasive scrub brush.
  5. Replace racks in the dishwasher.
  6. Fill a small, dishwasher-safe bowl with white vinegar and place on the top rack.
  7. Without soap, run the dishwasher at the highest temperature setting available.

Then, if after performing these steps, you find that your dishwasher still has an “odor”, or if mold or mildew remnants remain, immediately pour 1 cup of baking soda on the floor of your dishwasher, and run the cycle a second time at the highest temperature setting available.

If your mold/mildew problem persists, you should check the dishwasher’s drain line. If it’s kinked, water may be unable to drain and will pool at the bottom of your dishwasher — a mold-breeding situation.

You should also check the food trap at the base of the dishwasher for too-large-to-drain pieces of food.

A good dishwasher will last years with proper care and maintenance. Keep yours mold- and mildew-free.

And if you are getting that dishwasher in good shape because you are planning the sale of your Northern Virginia area home, please know that the Kathy O’Neal Team is here for you!

Please feel free to contact us anytime!

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How Much Equity In Home Improvement Projects?

Is that next home remodel worth it?

Consumers are doing lots of home improvement projects with about $110 billion in total volume this quarter.

Overall, these projects are not creating a lot of added home equity value.  You may still have great reasons to do a project, but it does not hurt to look at these stats before doing so.

Remodeling Magazine reports in their Cost vs Value Report 2011-2012, that for each home improvement dollar spent in 2012, homeowners can expect to recoup just 58 cents in home equity.

This is way down from 2005, when the cost-to-value ratio was 87 percent.

It pays to consider which projects will help your home equity.

Remodeling Magazine’s “Mid-Range Project” list :

Projects which have a relatively low cost-to-value ratio include the following.  Consider them if they have a high personal value, but not necessarily for their home equity value:

Projects that include the replacement of doors, siding and windows occupy the list’s first 6 slots in the cost-to-value ratio.

As always, if you live in the Northern Virginia area or are planning a move to this area, we are here to help you learn what is available in both the new and resale home market.  Let us know how we can help!

You can see the complete Cost vs Value report online.

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