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




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!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

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!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

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!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

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.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

Jeff Mauritzen of inPhotograph: Excellence in Photographic and Imaging Work

We like to share the exceptional experiences with professionals whose services we have used.

Our sharing is unsolicited from the businesses we talk about.  We just like to tell others about people that share the passion for excellence and a customer/client focus that defines the way we serve here at The Kathy O’Neal Team.

Such is the case with Jeff Muritzen (of inPhotograph.com) who happens to be based right here in Chantilly.

Jeff Mauritzen of InPhotography right here in Chantilly VA

Jeff Mauritzen of InPhotograph right here in Chantilly VA

We had the good fortune of working with Jeff on one of our projects and have since referred his services to others.  If you or your business has need of photographic or imaging services, visit Jeff’s website to sample the level of quality and creativity found in his amazing Portfolio.

It is a real find when you discover “local talent” with world class quality, but also reasonably priced so that it is affordable.

Jeff works all over the Washington Metro area and occasionally way beyond our local borders as he travels on national and international assignments.  Jeff has served many local enterprises ranging from large corporations to one person small businesses, as well as not-for-profits, and government agencies.   His talents cover the spectrum of photographic services. I am guessing that is why Jeff has become so “in demand.”  He has a loyal following of small to medium-sized businesses that consider him their “go to” photographer for whatever projects arise.

You can connect with Jeff on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, visit his website, or call him, if this is a need you have or anticipate, or have questions about his work.  If your experience is like ours, you will find working with Jeff to be as delightful as the impeccable quality of his work.

I should also mention that the photography services Jeff provides to local businesses and organizations in Northern Virginia and Washington DC include: corporate headshots , corporate event photography, commercial photography, golf tournament photography,  and aerial photography. Also to note, Jeff sells fine art photography prints of Washington DC , Virginia and Ireland in limited edition signed prints and canvases.

An image from Jeff's "Photo of the Day" collection on his website.

An image from Jeff's "Photo of the Day" collection on his website.

Written by Fran ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

HARP Guidelines: An Update On Eligibility Requirements

Further info on the HARP program guidelines.

You may benefit from checking out this program.

You may benefit from checking out this program.

Tuesday, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac communicated new lender instructions for the government’s revamped HARP program.  This may trigger loads of refinancing activity, so The Kathy O’Neal Team wanted to share this information.

You may already know that HARP stands for Home Affordable Refinance Program. The new changes are intended to give “underwater homeowners” an opportunity to refinance at today’s low mortgage rates.

Since the program’s launch two years ago, it has helped fewer than 900,000 homeowners.

The new and improved version may reach many more.  We’ll see.

There are 4 primary criteria to apply for HARP:

  1. The existing mortgage must be guaranteed by Fannie Mae or by Freddie Mac
  2. The existing mortgage must have been securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac prior to June 1, 2009
  3. The mortgage payment history must be perfect going back 6 months
  4. The mortgage payment history may not include more than one 30-day late payment going back 12 months

For HARP applicants, loan-level pricing adjustments are waived in full for loans with terms of 20 years or fewer; and maxed at 0.75 for loans with terms in excess of 20 years.

This should significantly lower mortgages rates for HARP applicants — especially those with credit scores below 740.

An additional benefit:  HARP applicants are exempted from the standard waiting period following a bankruptcy or foreclosure, which is 4 years and 7 years, respectively.

These two benefits should greatly widen the net of potential HARP participants.

But there are a few provisions which exclude some potential applicants:

  1. The “unlimited LTV” feature only applies to fixed rate loans or 30 years or fewer.  ARMs are capped at 105% loan-to-value.
  2. Applicants must be “requalified” if the proposed mortgage payment exceeds the current payment by 20%.
  3. Applicants must benefit from either a lower payment, or a “more stable” product to qualify

Remember also that HARP is a one time deal.  It can’t be used twice.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will have minor variations, so work with your loan officer on these eligibility standards.

And if you need help getting a good lender I can provide a few referrals, as well as help you in any aspect of your home buying or selling goals.  Email or call us anytime!  I also invite you to view our Testimonial Video.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

Haute Dogs and Fries in Purcellville: You Will Love This Place!

The Kathy O’Neal Team appreciates other businesses that have a strong customer focus and are serious about quality.

That’s why we wanted to share a good word about a terrific restaurant we recently visited in Purcellville.

Haute Dogs & Fries in Purcellville is well worth a visit.

Haute Dogs & Fries in Purcellville is well worth a visit.

Haute Dogs and Fries is taking a beloved American food icon and lifting it to a whole new level.  By that I don’t mean that you will get a Hot Dog that is so “fancy” that  it has lost its authenticity.  No, no, no!  The dogs here are as real as it gets…they are just also delicious, fresh, well-prepared, and the best part is that you can get them just about any way you might like them.

Along with quite a few ways you may learn to love….lots of topping variations that will tempt you to go beyond mustard and relish, if you so choose.

Along with the honor of being among this year’s 2011 Best Bargain Restaurants in the Washingtonian Magazine, Haute Dogs and Fries is garnering lots of other honors as well.

Pamela & Lionel - owners of Haute Dogs & Fries in Purcellville, VA.

Pamela & Lionel - owners of Haute Dogs & Fries in Purcellville, VA.

If you want to try other sausage type specialties, you will also find creative menu items that owners Pamela and Lionel prepare from very fresh local sources.

One of the special treats of a visit here is the co-star of the establishment’s name…”Fries!”  Have you ever wondered if there were any really, really fine french fries anywhere to be found, other than making them from scratch at home?  If so, ya gotta give the fries here there day in the sun.  We found them to be worth a trip back….no, made that worth many trips back!

Pay a visit to Haute Dogs and Fries next time you are anywhere in the vicinity of Purcellville.  They are keeping an American tradition alive and well!

PS – If you don’t eat meat, give the veggie dog a try.  It was terrific!

Written by Fran ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

New HARP Program Guidelines

Making Home AffordabieRecently the Federal Home Finance Agency announced significant changes to its Home Affordable Refinance Program Monday. The HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program) was initiated to help “underwater homeowners” get their home refinanced.

There are over a million homeowners nationwide – and many home owners here in Chantilly and the Northern Virginia area –  who might be helped by these changes.  Given the historically low interest rates, it is wise to know about this program.

There are four basic qualifying criteria:

  1. Your current home loan must be guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac
  2. Your home must be a 1- to 4-unit property
  3. You must have a perfect mortgage payment history going back 6 months
  4. You may not have had more than one 30-day late payment on your mortgage going back 12 months

One of really big features of the updated program is that the government is waiving loan-to-value requirements on HARP loans. Homeowners’ participation is no longer restricted by their home’s appraised value. Actually, the new HARP doesn’t even require an appraisal, in most situations.

Under the new HARP program guidelines, an underwater mortgages can be refinanced without LTV limit or penalty.

According to the government’s official press release, lenders are expected to be offering the program as of December 1, 2011.

If you want to check it out, start by seeing if your loan is backed by Freddie or Fannie. Here is where you can go for that:

You can also call your lender directly.

If being underwater is not an issue, but you are looking for a few reputable lending sources, of course, let me know and I will be glad to provide you with a few referrals.

If you are home buying or home selling in the Northern Virginia area, please know I am always here for you!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

Time to Refinance My Home?

Many Chantilly and Northern Virginia home owners, like those elsewhere, have wondered about refinancing their home, given the amazingly low prevailing interest rates.

If this has been on your mind, take a few moments to view this Today Show video.  Even though this was aired in September, I think you will most of the info current.

One of the key questions of course, is whether the costs of doing a refi outweigh the benefits.

Key points include :

You will find lots of quality information in this short video.

If you need a quick reading on the current market value of your Northern Virginia home, or if you want a refeerral to a few quality loan officers, please let me know.   We are always here for you!

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »

Chantilly Home for Sale: Really Smart Rambler at 15244 Louis Mill Drive

You won’t see too many Ramblers for sale in this area, but here is one in Chantilly’s popular Pleasant Valley community.

Chantilly rambler at 15244 Louis Mill Drive...worth a good look.

Chantilly Rambler at 15244 Louis Mill Drive...worth a good look.

This short sale property is a fantastic value, and the home itself has the valuable feature of having an addition which adds a generous extra amount of living space.  If the price and location are in your focus area, this one is worth a good look.

Start by taking a quick Visual Tour right now, and then just let me know if you want more info.


MLS#: FX 7702761

More information:  please click here and you will see the property on our Featured Listings page.

PS – If you are relocating to Northern Virginia, we can get your questions about the area answered quickly.

Written by Kathy ONeal | Discussion: No Comments »