Kathy O'Neal
Fairfax, VA 22033
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Chantilly Homebuyers – Beware Of Zombie Titles

Beware Of Zombie TitlesWith the economic downturn, anyone dealing in real estate quickly became familiar with previously little-known terms such as foreclosure and short sale. Now that the Chantilly housing market is picking back up and people are moving on, a new term is coming to light — zombie titles.

The Zombie Title

This is when a home has been vacated because the owners defaulted on their loan and their bank started the foreclosure process.  However, for some reason or another the bank never completed the foreclosure and sold the home.

So, when the city starts fining someone for the overgrown grass and dilapidated structure, the homeowner who thought they were finished with the property gets the bill.

A Home That Keeps Haunting

Homeowners think they don’t own the property any longer and therefore try to move on by rebuilding their credit score and finding a new place to live.  It can be a rude awakening to find out that not only do they still own a home they could have been living in, but also its long vacancy has caused it to fall into disrepair.

Its Spooking The Neighborhood

These vacant homes can decrease the value of a neighborhood.  If the bank or the un-suspecting homeowner are neither one taking care of the property, then it can become overgrown and an eyesore on the block.  It becomes a problem with no solution because the owner won’t want to invest any money in fixing up the property when the bank could come back with the foreclosure at any time.

Nail Shut The Foreclosure Coffin

Homeowners who have foreclosed on a home should double check that their bank actually followed through to closing on a sale.  They could contact their lender or check public property records just to make sure.  Otherwise, they could be haunted by their housing nightmare all over again.

Don’t let the zombie title of a past property haunt your future!  Check with your bank to make sure you’re free and clear of your foreclosure.

We at The Kathy O’Neal Team are here to help you with any questions you may have.  We have a section on our website devoted to buyer strategies that may prove helpful.  Please feel free to contact us anytime

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3 Easy Tips To Protect Your Chantilly Deck This Winter

3 Easy Tips To Protect Your Deck This WinterChantilly residents – barbecue season is all but over, and you won’t be spending as much time out on the deck.  Don’t let it get you down, though.  Spring will be here before you know it.  There are a lot of things that can wear down and damage your deck, so protect your deck and make sure it stays in tip top shape over the winter.

Cover The Furniture

You want your deck to look as good in the spring as it does now.  The first step is to cover all the furniture (don’t forget the grill!).  Cover everything with commercial furniture covers or just use a tarp.  Be sure that the covers fit snuggly.

They won’t do any good if they’re blowing through the neighbor’s yard.  If you’ve got the space, make room in the garage for the deck chairs and table.  They’ll last longer if you store them indoors for the winter.

Give It One More Good Cleaning

Dirt and dust can get trapped in the wood over the course of the summer, not to mention dog slobber or barbecue sauce.  If you let these things stain your deck all winter, it will be a pain in your neck to get them out in the spring.  Make sure to give your deck a thorough cleaning before it gets too cold.

You can use a pressure washer to spray away all the dirt.  However, be careful not to splinter your wood, as pressure washers are powerful.  Another option is to scrub the deck down with a brush.

There are several commercial cleaners to choose from, but don’t get one with bleach.  You don’t want your wood to fade.  If this sounds like too much work, consider hiring someone to give your deck a professional cleaning.

Moisture Is The Enemy

Rain, sleet, and snow will seep into the cracks of your deck all winter.  They can cause discolor, warping, and even cracking.  Now is the perfect time to use a waterproof finish to seal all the little cracks in your deck and keep out the moisture all winter.  There are a wide variety of finishes to choose from.  Choose a darker or lighter finish to give your deck a new look.

We’re leaving behind the days of barbecues and swimming pools, and replacing them with wool socks and fireplaces.  Over the winter you can’t give your deck as much attention, but you can make sure it stays healthy and strong until spring.  A good deep cleaning and a fresh new finish are your keys to avoiding cracking, warping, fading, and mold.  Put in the time now, and you’ll extend your deck’s life by years.

If you are considering a move please keep in mind The Kathy O’Neal Team.  We are here to serve home buyers and home sellers!

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City Lights Or Starlit Nights, What Northern Virginia Home Location Is Best?

City Lights Or Starlit Nights, What Home Location Will You Choose?If you are looking to buy a home in Northern Virginia, you might be wondering whether you should be looking for properties that are right in the center of the city or property in a rural area a short drive away.

The rural or urban decision will ultimately be up to you, as there are advantages and disadvantages to either option.   The main difference will lie in your priorities – what type of lifestyle is most important to you?

Living In The City

One of the main perks of buying a property that is located in the heart of the city is that you may be able to enjoy convenient public transportation and you won’t have to use a car to get everywhere.

You are likely to have a shopping center and a supermarket within walking distance of your home, as well as other important amenities such as a doctor’s office, a pharmacy, a post office and more.

Also, if you enjoy attending concerts, visiting art galleries or enjoying other artistic events, you will find many more of these concentrated in the city center. You will also enjoy more options when it comes to shopping.

Of course, living in the city center means that property prices are usually a lot higher and you will likely end up with a lot less space for your money.  Your kids might not have as much room to run around (unless you find a home near an urban park or a playground).  Also, the hectic pace of the city, with all the traffic and high rise buildings, can be stressful for some.

Living Outside Of The City

When you buy a home just a few miles outside of the city, you will find yourself experiencing a completely different lifestyle.  You will be a lot closer to nature, with plenty of walking trails and wild areas right outside your door.  The air will likely be cleaner and you will be able to see the stars better at night time.

Many people feel safer letting their children play outside in the countryside and the cost of housing is usually lower than in the high density downtown core.  Some people also prefer the peace and quiet and would much rather go for a walk in the woods or have a campfire than attend a cultural event – so the country is the right place for them.

Of course, possible disadvantages of rural life is that it can be inconvenient and time consuming to drive into town to get supplies or to meet up with friends.  You must own a car in order to get around, as the public transportation system will not be as good as it is in the inner city.

These are just a few factors to consider when determining whether you would choose the city life or the country life.

Lastly, there are sometimes special home loan programs that focus on specific city areas or rural properties.  If you are considering buying a new home please let us know how we can help!  The Kathy O’Neal Team has an entire section devoted to buyer strategies on our website.

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How To Manage Those Fallen Leaves in Chantilly

How To Manage Those Fallen LeavesThe kids are back in school, the weather is getting cooler and your yard in Chantilly is covered in a layer of fallen leaves.  Yep, it’s that time of the year again, but don’t think of fall leaves as a chore.  They can be a useful resource for fertilizing your lawn or even decorating your home for autumn.

Finish The Raking

It’s tempting to just let the leaves lie in the yard. It’s good fertilizer anyway, right?  Wrong.  You should rake everything up as soon as the trees begin to look bare, or else risk the blanket of leaves smothering your lawn over the winter season.  Gather them up in plastic bags and put them to use.

Refuse To Rake Leaves

If you can’t bring yourself to pick up a rake, you do have an alternative.  Wait until the leaves are dry and crunchy and fire up the lawnmower once more before winter.  Many mowers have a mulch setting that will chop the fallen leaves to bits.

The smaller pieces won’t suffocate your lawn, and the crushed leaves make a good fertilizer.  If you’d rather use the leaf bits in the garden or a flowerbed, use a grass clipping catcher with your mower to gather up the pieces as you mow.

Use Mulch And Fertilizer

Fresh chopped leaves are a good homemade mulch.  Put a layer on the garden and the flower bed to replenish the soil over winter.  Also, be sure to put a thick layer around young trees and shrubs to keep them warm. If you really want to get the most out of your leaves, then take them to the compost pile.

Mix the leaves in with the regular green yard waste, and the leaves will boost the composting process into overdrive.  The fully composted material makes a potent fertilizer.

Get Crafty

Set some leaves aside to take indoors.  The changing colors of the fall leaves are part of the beauty of autumn.  Why not bring some of that beauty into the house?

Fill a vase with leaves for a seasonal centerpiece, or use a wire frame to make a wreath for the front door.  You can make leaf etchings with the kids or simply use one as a bookmark.

It’s sad to see so many fall leaves burned up in piles, or put out with the trash.  The leaves on the lawn aren’t just a mess to be cleaned up.  Inside or outdoors, autumn leaves are an easy, natural, and free material.  Be sure to put them to use!

If you are preparing your home to place on the market, we at The Kathy O’Neal Team are here for you!  Please contact us anytime so we can answers any questions you may have.

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Chantilly Home Buyers – Get The Lowdown On Private Mortgage Insurance

Get The Lowdown On Private Mortgage InsuranceChantilly home buyers – you may have heard the term Private Mortgage Insurance when looking to finance real estate.  What is PMI, and how do you know when you need to purchase it?

The answer can be hard to find among all the real estate jargon you’re hearing lately.  Below is the short version of what you need to know.

What Is Private Mortgage Insurance?

PMI is an extra insurance required by some lenders to offset their risk of you defaulting on your home loan.  When you put down less than 20 percent of the real estate’s value, your lender may tell you that you have to buy PMI.

It is usually added into your monthly mortgage payment until the equity in your real estate reaches 20 percent.

Under the current law, the PMI will be canceled automatically at 22 percent equity, if you are current on your payments.  If you aren’t current, the lender does not have to cancel the insurance because the loan is high-risk.

After getting caught up on your payments, the PMI will be cancelled.  Any money that you have overpaid must be refunded to you within 45 days.

What If Your Real Estate Increases In Value?

With a conventional loan, it may take as many as 15 years of a 30-year loan to pay down 20 percent.  But, if property values in your area rise, you might be able to cancel the PMI sooner.

Some lenders may be willing to consider the new value of your home to determine the equity in your home.  You may be responsible for any fees, like an appraisal, that occur.

You’ll have to weigh the costs of the appraisal against the savings of the PMI premium.  In most cases, you’ll find that the added expense is worth it.  Private mortgage insurance is a good thing if you can’t afford to pay 20 percent of the cost of your real estate as down payment.

Are you a first-time home buyer?  Now is the best time for you to make the investment.  Call The Kathy O’Neal Team to get the answers to your home buying questions!  We have an entire section on our website devoted to  buyer strategies that may prove helpful!

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4 Tips On Giving Your Chantilly Mudroom A Makeover

4 Tips On Giving Your Mudroom A MakeoverFrom crunched-up leaves stuck to bottoms of shoes to bulky coats shed as soon as kids walk through the door, mudrooms are ideal for keeping outdoor dirt, wet clothing and outerwear from being strewn throughout your Chantilly home.

Mudrooms not only keep the rest of your house clean, but they also designate a spot for those last-minute grabs, such as coats, umbrellas and purses, when you’re running out the door.

These rooms are great catchalls.  However, an organized mudroom can make your life and those hectic mornings much less stressful.  Below are smart tips for getting your mudroom ready this fall.

1. Put In Seating

After shedding outer layers, the next thing anyone wants to do after coming inside on a cold, wet day is to take off their mucky shoes.  So make sure there is a built-in bench or convenient chair for people to sit down and tend to their tootsies.  Whether taking off or putting on shoes, it makes life a little more comfortable.

2. Install A Sink

A mudroom is supposed to be the catchall for everything dirty from the outdoors.  With this in mind, a sink for washing off the grime and mud makes sense.  Then you can clean your clothing in the contained space without having to haul them to the kitchen sink or laundry room.

3. Create Cubbies

Even though this space is designated as a drop-off point before entering the main living space, you don’t want everything just thrown into one big confusing pile.  Create individual cubbies for every person in your household. Each cubby should contain a shelf for purses and backpacks, hooks for coats and a low place for shoes.

4. Splurge On A Boot Warmer

While electric boot warmers can be a little expensive, you will definitely think it’s worth the money when it’s freezing outside and your shoes are damp.  Electric boot warmers heat your shoes on pegs and dry them out at the same time.  They also work well on gloves.

Fall is a mudroom’s busy season; so get it in shape with the tips above.  With all the coats hanging on their hooks, shoes in their cubbies and dirt contained to this designated space, your life will be a little more organized and much less stressful!

If you are renovating your home to sell in the future please contact  The Kathy O’Neal Team.  We are here to help you through the process!

 

 

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Do Those Additions Really Add Value To Your Chantilly Home?

Do Those Additions Really Add Value To Your Home?When you own a home in Chantilly, there are additions that you can make to the property that will improve the value of your home.  For example, a newly renovated kitchen or bathroom is a popular choice that will really make the home more desirable to buyers.

Also, adding storage space or a well-thought-out family room or other practical space can be a very good investment that will bring up the home’s value.

However, there are other projects that are not really worth your time or money and will allow very little opportunity to recover your costs when it is time to sell the property.  Here are a few examples of things that you think might add to the value of your home, but really don’t.

An Elaborately Landscaped Garden

A beautifully landscaped garden might make the home more visually attractive to buyers when they are looking at the property, but it will not likely add to the selling price.

This is especially true if the new buyer is not interested in putting in the effort to keep the garden well-maintained and sees it as a burden.  If they don’t have time to do the landscaping, they will need to hire a gardener which will add to their expenses.

A Hobby Specific Room

Are you tempted to convert a bedroom into a room that is specific to one of your particular interests, such as an art studio, a library or a wine cellar?  This will not add a lot of value to the home, because the next buyer is not likely to share your passions.

It might even make the home less than desirable, because the next owner will not want to spend the time and money renovating the room back into a bedroom.

You can create a hobby room; just make sure that you make non-permanent chances to the room so that you can quickly and easily switch it back to a bedroom.

A Renovated Garage

Redoing your garage and turning it into a family room or a play room might give you a short term benefit, but you might regret it when you go to sell the home.  Most people want a garage to serve its original purpose – as a place to protect their cars from the elements and store their shovels, garbage cans, leaf blowers and other outdoor things.

These are a few examples of home additions that will not add to the resale value of your property.

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!

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Chantilly Home For Sale – Spectacular Backyard View – 4339 Cub Run Road

This listing is located at 4339 Cub Run Road, Chantilly, Virginia

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This immaculate and freshly painted 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath home backs to parkland! There are hardwood floors and a remodeled kitchen with recessed lighting.  Baths are remodeled.  Whirlpool tub in master bath.  Gas fireplace in family room off kitchen.  Beautiful Trex deck and patio with great view of parkland.  Finished basement with rec room and workout room.  Aluminum wrapped exterior trim.

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Price – $479,900

MLS# – FX8185264

See a Virtual Tour of this home!

Contact us to learn more about this property! 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.

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5 Cool Ideas For Green Home Remodeling in Chantilly

5 Cool Ideas For Green Home RemodelingEvery home seems to have a never-ending remodeling list.  As you consider tackling your next project, it usually pays off if you also think about helping the environment.

Green remodeling can last longer, utilize recycled materials and typically end up saving you money in the long run.  Below are several environment-friendly ideas that will have your Chantilly neighbors green with envy.

1. Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are a shallow depressions in your yard planted with native shrubs and flowers. When there is a large rainfall, all the water rushes along roadways picking up dirt and pollutants along their way to drainage systems and eventually rivers and streams.

Rain gardens catch water run-off, which reduces the street flooding and makes for cleaner water sources.

2. Reclaimed Hardwoods

Using reclaimed wood is all of the rage right now – and it’s easy to see why.  Reclaimed wood helps the environment by being recycled and re-purposed from other structures.  Turning an old barn into your new hardwood floors not only saves trees and looks great, but is an interesting conversation point.

3. Paper Covers Rock

Most kitchen remodels usually include the discussion of to go with granite or quartz countertops.  However compressed paper or glass surfaces are actually better for the environment.  Instead of harvesting natural resources, you’ll be recycling resources that have already been used.

4. One Shower Head

It’s tempting to use multiple showerheads and powerfully flushing toilets.  However, reducing your water usage saves you money.  Install low-flow water fixtures and limit yourself to just one fantastic showerhead in each bathroom. You’ll help the earth and your pocketbook by saving water.

5. Passive Solar Design

Solar panels are a great way to trap the sun’s energy and reduce your utility bills.  However, if you’re not ready to directly tap into the grid, then there are ways you can remodel your home using passive solar design.  Concrete floors and thick concrete, brick or plaster walls soak up the suns rays during the day and release them at night when the temperature drops.

Going green doesn’t have to hamper your lifestyle or your home’s design.  With the five green remodeling ideas above, you’ll add value to your Chantilly home, help the environment and put money back in your bank account.

If you are considering remodeling your home to put on the market, we are here to help!  Please contact The Kathy O’Neal Team today.

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Quick Tips To Beat Out Cash Buyers in Chantilly

Quick Tips To Beat Out Cash BuyersYou’ve been searching for the perfect Chantilly home for quite a while, and finally, you’ve found it!  You get all of your finances in order and place an offer on the house.

However, you’re not the only one that loves the home, because there are multiple offers — and one of them is cash.

Cash buyers are seen as desirable because they’re almost always a guaranteed quick close.

They don’t have to borrow money from a bank therefore won’t have any financing hang-ups, which is where a large portion of offers fall through.  Don’t worry; not all hope is lost.

Follow the steps below to beef up your offer and get your foot in the door.

Less Expensive Homes

If you’ve put offers in on homes at the asking price and are continually beat out by buyers that are paying more, then you might want to consider looking in a lower price range.  This is an especially smart strategy for those living in fast-selling markets.  By looking at less expensive homes, you can be the one that puts in an offer over the asking price.

20 Percent Down Payment

Save up a higher down payment for the price range of homes you’re considering.  If you can come up with 20 percent, then you’re in a position to wave the appraisal contingency for financing with the bank.  The more you have in cash, the better.

Take-It-Or-Leave-It Home Inspection

This means that based on the home inspection, you’ll take the property with all its issues, or you’ll walk away.  What you won’t do is ask the seller to waste more of their time and money fixing every little problem that’s found.

Fees

Waive the seller concessions, such as closing costs and the home warranty, and pay your real estate broker’s fees.  These extra costs add up in the mind of the seller and will show that you really want the property.

Going up against cash buyers can be extremely discouraging.  But, just because they’re dealing in cash doesn’t mean they’ll get the property.  Many investors think they can put in a low offer because they’re dealing in cash.

So show you’re serious about a property, follow the steps above and put in your best offer.  You’ll be a homeowner soon enough!

If you are in the market for buying a home, The Kathy O’Neal Team is here for you!  We have a section devoted to “buyer strategies” on our website which may prove helpful!

 

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