Make Your Own Wine and Beer in Alexandria, VA

I’m sure at some point you’ve heard a friend or co-worker talking about brewing their own beer at home, possibly with less than stellar results. Micro-brewing has become an emerging trend and stores, both online and brick-and-mortar, have begun popping up to cater to this new culture. But now instead of learning by trial and error you can head over to the Shenandoah Brewing Company on South Pickett Street in Alexandria to learn firsthand how it’s done.

SBC has over 70 recipes to choose from when brewing your own beer, from pale ales and IPAs to stouts and lagers. SBC provides all of the ingredients and equipment you’ll need and they even clean up the mess afterwards! Once you’ve brewed the beer it takes 4-12 weeks to ferment and then you make an appointment to come back and bottle it yourself. You even get to design custom labels if you want to. One session usually produces 4-5 cases that you can take home and enjoy at your leisure.

SBC is also a pub where you can go enjoy food and their in-house brews that have already been prepared. If wine is more your style you can head over to their sister company, Carafe Wine Makers, to take part in a wine-making session that produces around 30 bottles. Though I’ve tried brewing my own beer before (I was mildly successful) I haven’t experienced SBC yet but I definitely will be setting up my brewing appointment in the near future, and chances are it will be an IPA.

Jim Patrick

I’m working with some clients that submitted an offer the other day on a home that was a short sale. With distress sales, both short sales and foreclosures, a bank is involved in the process it’s somewhat different than a regular sale when just the buyers and sellers are involved. One of the differences is that the home almost always must be purchased in “as-is” condition, meaning that what you see is what you get. This scared my clients because they obviously hadn’t done a home inspection so they didn’t necessarily know everything that was wrong with the home.

I understood their concern but I explained to them that just because they were taking the home “as-is” did not mean they couldn’t do a home inspection. In fact, the home inspection contingency would still allow them to get out of the contract if they found any major issues they didn’t want to tackle. The reason that banks make buyers sign the “as-is” clause is that they will not make any repairs or credit repair costs at closing and for the most part I’ve seen that be the case.

So don’t be intimidated by the “as-is” clause, you’re still protected with the home inspection contingency if anything unforeseeable comes up. However, also make sure when you’re submitting your offer that you factor in the cost of a good bit of maintenance. With foreclosures and short sales, if the owners are having trouble making their mortgage payments in most cases they have also been deferring maintenance on the home. As with any purchase, but especially distress sales, make sure you do your homework and also have a knowledgeable and experienced Realtor on your side.

Jim Patrick

The City of Alexandria has requested that the West End Market—right in Cameron Station at Ben Brenman Park—become a separate non-profit entity in order to re-open in the spring. In order to do this, the market needs a Board of Directors (minimum of 5 people) to start the non-profit and run it. They need the following:

Pro bono lawyer: Create the non-profit and maintain legal status over the year
Pro bono accountant: Give 4-5 hours per month to maintain market finances
1-2 people for marketing, social media and community outreach
1-2 people to run the Market on Sundays

Some monetary compensation will be available. The market currently generates enough revenue to cover its marketing, maintenance and marketing needs, with a bit left over at the end of the year.

If you don’t want to lose your neighborhood market (with all the goodies it provides) and can help, please contact the current manager Susan Birchler at Sabirchler@gmail.com as soon as possible!
Susan Hall

Our Listing Manager, Susan Hall, ran in the George Washington Parkway Classic for the 3rd straight year this last Saturday. The weather held off and she was thrilled to complete her first 10 mile race, having done the 5K race the last 2 years. There were thousands of runners and the race sold out as it seems to every year. It is a very scenic route following Washington St starting at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s famous estate. It then turns and ends on Union Street at the end of Founder’s Park. If you are a runner, this is a great one to be a part of. Being a part of the crowd of supporters at the finish line, I can tell you seemed like a huge outdoor festival. One of the main sponsers of the race is Pacers on King Street. It is the best local place to buy running shoes. They really care about getting you the right shoe for you and not just selling you. They even make you run up the sidewalk to test out your stride. After the successful finish, Susan signed up for the Army 10 Miler in the fall.

Last Friday’s Weekender had a terrific review of an independent movie called “The Kings of Pastry”. This is a documentary-style movie about 16 pastry chefs competing in the baking competition MOF (Meilleurs Ouvriers de France—the best craftsmen in the country). It is only playing at one theatre in our area—the West End Cinema in DC. Only having been open for a month, it is a fabulous addition to the area. Located just 2 blocks from George Washington University and 4 blocks from Georgetown, it is really easy to get here. The focus is independent, documentary and foreign films. Having read the review, we decided to check out the film Saturday night. The movie started at 7:15 on the dot and had NO previews—so be sure to get there early in order to get a seat before it starts. “The Kings of Pastry” concentrates on three main competitors, their families and their coaches and really brings to light the sheer determination and precise skills necessary to become a MOF. You really get caught up in the emotion of timing trials, critiques and of course the three day competition itself! Each competitor is required to make an assortment of lavish desserts (wedding cakes, lollipops, huge sugar sculptures, cream puffs, candy ribbons and much more!), which were put to taste tests and scored. The three day competition is super intense, where a dropped sugar sculpture, a broken flower or undercooked cake can spell disaster. There is plenty of tension to be sure, but all the while you are rooting for these chefs to pull through. This is definitely one movie worth seeing this season…and this theatre is a fantastic one if you are into independent or foreign films. They offer a full bar and a wide assortment of snacks. It is only about a 20-25 minute drive from many parts of Alexandria, Kingstowne and Springfield. Or, you can hop on the Metro and get off at the Foggy Bottom Metro stop. The address is 2301 M St NW, at the corner of 23rd & M; the entrance is on 23rd St. Valet parking is available in the building next door for theatre patrons at $7/night. Or you can always park on the street if you can find a space.

Susan Hall

I take my job as Tom & Cindy’s Listing Manager pretty seriously and if you knew me, you would probably call me a perfectionist. Its really important for me to showcase our listings in the best possible light. Since it is the first thing a potential buyer will see, getting a great front shot is key. Of course, we can’t always predict the weather or when the sun is going to be shining on the front of a particular property. Thats why its sometimes necessary to go back and re-shoot on a better day. On Monday of last week, I had to do just that. I had gone over to a property in Alexandria the previous Friday afternoon, taken photos and notes, but the sun was totally behind the house, which meant it was going to be a morning exterior shot. So, I go back over on Monday morning to take front photos; it was a beautiful blue sky day. The street was on a bit of an incline and I took a few shots at ground level. They seemed a little crooked to me so I decided to climb up on this slight hill to get a better shot. The ground was a little uneven. I managed to get off a couple of clicks and then I don’t know what happened…the next thing I knew I was falling and couldn’t catch myself. I landed directly on my left foot and the camera went flying. The camera was fine, but my foot certainly wasn’t! Thankfully it was my left so I was able to drive myself to the ER. Later I found out that I had 2 little breaks in my foot; technically its called a “Jones fracture”. Ugh! Its going to take 8-12 weeks to heal. I’ve got a heavy boot on my left leg and am hobbling around…but I’m down to one crutch now, yay! But…I got a great shot of the house!! The things I do for my job and for Tom & Cindy. 🙂

Susan Hall


Have you been wondering what is going on over at Springfield Mall? Years after it was announced that the mall had been bought and would be undergoing extensive renovations, we finally have some answers for you. Vornado Realty Trust will now move forward with the first phase of Springfield Mall’s renovation project since they have settled on purchase price of about $115 million. This is much less than the $160 million originally agreed upon in 2006, and will allow them to invest more into the construction. This first phase will feature a state-of-the-art movie theater and a brand new Food Court. Vornado will break ground during the first quarter of 2011. They are also testing out new flooring outside of Macy’s on the second floor. This fall, Vornado purchased additional land from JC Penney, one of the anchor stores that has actually invested millions of its own money into upgrading its space. Over the next 10 years, Springfield Mall will expand to include outdoor shopping, residential housing, office space and pedestrian-friendly areas. Don’t worry about the high vacancy rate, which is approximately 50 %; it is necessary for Vornado to have plenty of open space to get the process underway. When the project is completed, there will be more high-end, nationally recognized brands at Springfield Mall. We have high hopes for this project and think it will be a great addition to Springfield!

Susan Hall

This is the 7th straight year that the Congressional Blues Festival has sponsored this event that is aimed to raise money and awareness to keep the great American blues tradition alive. Since its inception, the CBF has raised over $1 million for organizations that directly support artists in need.
The event will take place Wednesday, May 26th at the National Building Museum. Artists performing include Sol, Bobby Parker and one of my personal favorites, Robert Randolph and the Family Band. If you’ve never seen Robert Randolph perform then I highly suggest it; his lap steel (slide guitar) is like nothing you’ve ever heard and his onstage energy will get you excited for more!

So if you’re in the city tomorrow and ready for some good blues and rock then head over to the Congressional Blues Festival. To purchase tickets or to learn more about the event you can visit the CBF official website.

As the top Realtors in Alexandria, Springfield and Lorton, Tom & Cindy and Associates sold 279 homes last year. While that’s an impressive feat in itself, the best part is that we were able to exceed our clients’ expectations. We were able to put more money in our clients’ pockets while still selling their homes in almost half the time as the average Realtor in our area. How were we able to do this? Through our extensive experience, our keen market knowledge and our unbeatable marketing and advertising plans. Here’s a quick breakdown of how we compared to the average Realtor in our area and why many of our clients become raving fans.

Average Northern Virginia Realtor – 2009
Sold Price vs. List Price Ratio: 93.6% (home sold for percentage of list price)
Days on Market: 70
Tom & Cindy and Associates – 2009
Sold vs. List Ratio: 98.3%
Days on Market: 39

So what does this mean to you? Let’s take a quick look at your net proceeds after the sale using a median priced home as an example.

Average Northern VA Realtor:

List Price: $400,000
Sold Price: $374,400

Tom & Cindy and Associates:

List Price: $400,000
Sold Price: $393,200
Difference: $18,800

A homeowner that used our services in 2009 netted nearly $19,000 more on a $400k home when compared to using the average Realtor. We also managed to do this 31 days faster. So if you’re thinking about selling your home in Alexandria, Lorton, Springfield or any other area of Northern Virginia you need to talk to the Realtors that will put more money in your pocket in nearly half the time.

Yes, you read correctly! We just listed a waterfront condo in Falls Church; the address is 2956 Yarling Court. It’s definitely rare to find waterfront property in the heart of Fairfax County but this beautiful unit backs right up to a private lake.

The first thing that catches your eye walking into the unit are the hardwood floors lining the hall and kitchen. Plantation shutters also add a decorative touch to the front windows. The entire condo was just freshly painted and new carpet was installed. The kitchen has been updated and boasts 2-level granite counters. The light-filled living room offers a larger space than many condos and a sliding glass door leads out to the balcony with views of the lake and walking paths. Just imagine yourself sipping your morning coffee and soaking in the lovely water views. The master bedroom includes a walk-in closet, a separate vanity, an en-suite bath and a door that leads out to the balcony. Another great feature of this unit is that the laundry room has a full-size washer and dryer, not the stacked version you usually find in condos.

So if you’re looking to buy a condo in the Falls Church area I highly recommend seeing this one! It shows well and water views are so hard to come by in Fairfax County that you may not come upon another home like this. If you’d like to tour this home give us a call and one of our buyer specialists would be glad to show it.