Toys for Tots!

Here is your chance to be Santa Claus for a child in need this holiday season!  Bring in new unwrapped toys and our team will match their value up to $1,500. We are proud to be helping the U.S. Marines again this year with the Toys for Tots campaign. It lasts until December 18th. Last year’s national Toys for Tots campaign raised 15.6 million toys benefiting nearly 7.2 million children in need. We would love to have you join us. We are located at 7027-A Manchester Blvd, Alexandria, VA 22310– right across the street from Chili’s at the intersection of the Parkway and Beulah Street. Click here if you would like more information about Toys for Tots.




The official demolition of Springfield Mall began early this week, with the new “Springfield Town Center” set to be finished in the fall of 2014. This has been a long time coming and we are glad for the progress being made. The new space will include 700,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space along with a fitness center and movie theater. All of the mall’s interior stores closed back in July, with only the anchor stores of Macy’s, Target and JC Penney remaining open through the construction period. With the first phase set to be complete in 2014, other phases will feature the construction of a hotel, office space and residential apartments/condos. This is great news for the residents of SpringfieldKingstowne and the surrounding areas–we can’t wait to have more choices when it comes to shops and restaurants!

Last week’s Springfield Connection had a great supplement called “Virginia Mega Projects” where it detailed many of the transportation projects in the works for our area. Plans are in place to construct Express Lanes along 29 miles of highway on I-95 from Garrisonville Road in Stafford County to Edsall Road in Fairfax County. Construction began this month, and will be finished by late 2014. This project will expand and revamp existing HOV lanes from Dumfries to Edsall Road in Alexandria, and create new HOV lanes from Dumfries to Garrisonville Road. Vehicles with 3 or more people can use the lanes for free, and those with fewer than 3 passengers can pay a toll to use the lanes if they choose to. According to Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton, “The 95 Express Lanes combined with the nearly completed 495 Express Lanes will bring a transportation network that manages congestion effectively, saving time and better connecting commuters with some of Virginia’s most important employment centers and military sites”.

In other news, crews are entering the final stages of the 495 Express Lanes project; when completed this will be a great option for commuters in the area. Throughout the fall, you will start seeing more signs and paving crews out and about. As far as construction goes, the only remaining bridge is the one from I-66 West to I-495 South and the only remaining ramps are at Braddock Road, Gallows Road and Route 7. Be sure to get an E-ZPass or E-ZPass Flex if you plan on using the lanes, as all tolls will be collected electronically. The advantage of the Flex pass is that you can manually switch between HOV and toll paying modes. Drivers with 3 or more persons and an EZ Pass Flex switched to HOV can use the lanes for free. To learn more, you can go to EZPassVA.com.

We will post more information on these projects whenever we hear about an update. Hopefully these new projects will help out all our neighbors in Alexandria, KingstowneSpringfield andLorton!

If you’ve driven around the Kingstowne area in past couple of days, in particular Beulah Street and Telegraph Road, you may have seen the signs up announcing the closure of Telegraph Road. The closure will take place at Piney Run Drive, starting at 10 PM Friday 7/27 and ending 5 AM Monday 7/30. Hilltop Golf Club will still be open, but there will be detours in place for everyone else. This will definitely affect some of the neighborhoods nearby, such as Alden Hill and Ashby Heights. I am sure there will be a work around for residents living near the construction site. Telegraph Road will be closed so crews can install a sewer line; this work is in conjunction with the construction of Mulligan Road, which will connect Route 1 to Telegraph Road.

Due to a separate construction zone, additional areas of Telegraph Road will be closed inAlexandria. This relates to the continued Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project. Telegraph Road north and south will be completely shut down between the Beltway and Duke Street from 9 PM Friday 7/27 until 5M Monday 7/30. Both the eastbound and westbound ramps from Duke Street to Telegraph Road will be closed. You can always check out www.WilsonBridge.com for the latest updates.

Hope you have a great weekend and avoid Telegraph Road!

Happy Springtime to all! We wanted to share our take on this year’s market. Before writing,I read my update from this time last year and was struck by how similar the market has remained. Overall we continue to be positive and think it will be a busy year.

We started off the year with low inventory. All of our agents had buyers they were working with, but not many quality homes to show at various price ranges. So when the right home came on the market, it was snatched up…frequently at or very close to list price – sometimes with multiple offers. There are a couple of houses we are putting on the market this weekend that I bet will be gone by next Tuesday.

Right now (April 25, 2012) there are 164 homes on the market in Springfield. There are 290 under contract. That means less than a one month supply of homes. In Lorton, there are 78 homes on the market and 28 under contract. That’s less than a three month supply. In Alexandria, there are 926 homes on the market, with 291 under contract. This would appear to be slightly above a three month supply of houses. Here’s the catch. If you look in detail at the individual sales, you find that page after page in Alexandria has homes that have been on the market from 200 days to two years. This means that those homes are not really getting showings or buyer interest. The superior products on the market in Alexandria are getting a lot of attention and moving quickly.

No, we’re not quite back to the days of 2005. However, owners that have made their properties really shine and have worked with us to price them correctly, have had consistently great results. It just feels like, in many price ranges, there is an upward pressure on prices.

Meeting with appraisers to share relevant comps that support value can be critical to the best properties going to settlement at the originally agreed-to price.

With that said, owners that have chosen not to make needed upgrades or take care of maintenance issues and/or that have placed their homes at unsupportable price points, continue to see them sit on the market month after month. Time and days on the market are not your friend if you are a seller. If a home in the range of $750,000 or less has not had an offer in 45-60 days, then it is not priced correctly or there are staging issues.

The lower the price range, the more people can afford the house. So townhomes under $450,000 and single-family homes under $600,000 should sell more quickly. The good news is that the first-time and the move-up buyers are both actively engaged in finding the right homes to buy.

Over the last year we’ve seen the big influx of people moving into our area as part of the Fort Belvoir base realignment, but what happened last year is that many of them either were not ready to buy or already own homes in other places that they can’t sell. So rental demand and prices shot up quickly. A home that had rented in January for $1,800 would rent for $2,100 by the time June arrived. The rental market is still hot.

In addition to Fort Belvoir, the Springfield Mall massive renovation is moving forward. This will be more of a “town center” feel with apartments, condos, and office components. The mix and density will attract the restaurants that this area has been waiting for. The Hilltop complex with Wegmans is full steam ahead. Across from our office the Inova Hospital will double in size. Several other office buildings will be built as well. The Kingstowne Town Center will have two more towers and the office building next to Kohl’s is going up quickly. These are just a few of the many projects shaping the Kingstowne, greater Alexandria, Springfield and Lorton areas we serve every day. All these things will generate possible buyers as folks like to live close to where they work when traffic can be so tough.

As I write this, interest rates are fantastically low. A 30 year Conventional fixed load is available for 3.875% with no points! A 30 year fixed FHA loan is available for 3.75% with a CREDIT to the purchaser. No one has a crystal ball, but having great rates and stable prices with more people moving to the area and the improving jobs outlook seems to be stacking the cards in favor of home ownership.

It’s true that qualifying for a loan is more cumbersome and regulation changes have made for more paperwork and closer scrutiny, but people with good credit and income to debt ratios are having few problems purchasing.

Every home is different. Every lot is different. Generalities don’t apply in real estate when it comes to your home. If you are thinking of selling, we’d be happy to customize our advice to your own unique situation. No cost, no obligation. It’s just what we do.

Have you see the new signs on the Fairfax County Parkway that say “Old 7100, New 286?? I noticed these signs a few weeks ago and wondered what was going on. Why would they bother changing the name of a road that’s been around for years? I’m sure a lot of you were wondering the same thing, so I decided to do some digging to find out. Back in February, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved the classification of three major roads (Fairfax County Parkway, Franconia-Springfield Parkway and Prince William Parkway) as primary roads. As primary roads, they are eligible to receive federal funding for paving, guardrails, bridge improvements and other projects. Federal funding tends to cover about 80% of the cost to maintain interstates and primary roads, with state funds picking up the remaining 20%. This is great news! If you’ve traveled on the Fairfax County Parkway recently, particularly at night, you have probably seen the paving crews out. It will nice to have smooth roads again! Because primary roads are named from 1-599, and secondary routes are 600 and above, the name changes and new signs were necessary.  So, from now on the Fairfax County Parkway (7100) will be known as Route 286, the Franconia-Springfield Parkway (7900) will be known as Route 289 and the Prince William Parkway (3000) will be known as Route 294.

Here is our latest Going out Guide–www.bizlinc.net/TomandCindy/Flyers.aspx! Check it out for some weekend inspiration. Take a break from shopping to enjoy a concert, movie, play or comedy show.

As always, if we can help you with buying or selling a home, contact us today! We also do Property Management and would be happy to help you find a great tenant for your investment property.





Thank you to everyone who helped us in gathering toys for Toys for Tots – it was a huge success!!

Happy Holidays to you and your family from all us here at Tom & Cindy and Associates!

Here are some useful tips that we came across for maintaining your natural stone surfaces. Hope you find them helpful!

Tip 1: Don’t use all-purpose, ammonia or bleach cleaners

Whether you have granite countertops in your kitchen or travertine tile in your bathroom, there is a correct way to clean the natural stone in your home. Many homeowners are tempted to use all-purpose cleaners or bleach to keep stone surfaces clean, but these types of cleaners may actually damage your stone. Cleaning products that contain vinegar, lemon or other acidic ingredients can dull the surface, reducing the stone’s luster and eating away at the sealer. Ammonia-based cleaners should also be avoided as they can cause the stone’s surface layers to wear off over time.

Tip 2: Do use safe stone cleaners

Do you want to know what cleaners are safe for granite and other natural stones? Smart homeowners only use specially formulated cleaners. For example, Zep Commercial’s CleanStone Plus Cleaner + Polish is pH balanced to safely clean stone, making it ideal for countertops and tiles. It quickly removes dust and fingerprints while leaving a polish that acts as an extra barrier against moisture penetration. The CleanStone Plus Cleaner + Degreaser is a good water-based option for dirty backsplashes or sink areas as well as high traffic floor areas to remove scuffs and heel marks.

Tip 3: Do clean up spills immediately

Because natural stone is porous, spills can be absorbed, even if the stone has been sealed. That’s why it’s important to clean up food and liquid as quickly as possible. Acidic spills such as orange juice, tomato sauce and sodas are examples of kitchen spills that should be cleaned up immediately. In the bathroom, shaving cream, body soap and perfume spills are concerning. These types of spills have a higher potential for damage and cleaning them up quickly will help to prevent staining and etching.

Tip 4: Don’t use scouring pads for tough spills

Always use a soft cloth or dishtowel to wipe surfaces. As tempting as it may be, avoid scouring pads or rough sponges, even if the spill has hardened. Rough materials are not safe for natural stone and can scratch or dull the surface, leaving it vulnerable. For tough spills or hardened food, spray a kitchen countertop cleaner first and let it soak for a few minutes. The cleaning agent will safely do the work for you and be much more effective than abrasive scrubbing.

Tip 5: Do seal your stone surfaces

Granite and other types of stone can be professionally sealed during the installation process, providing an extra protective shield. But sealing is something that needs to happen regularly to sustain this barrier. Maintaining the sealant is easy by using a cleaner with sealant built in, such as CleanStone Plus Cleaner + Protectant that rejuvenates stone and grout seals without leaving residue.

Whether you plan to upgrade to natural stone or it was one of the reasons you decided to purchase your current home, it’s important to protect your investment so it looks great for many years to come. These simple steps will help the stone retain its durability while adding to the aesthetic appeal of your home.

As always, if we can help you sell or buy a home, feel free to contact us anytime!   703-822-0207   TomandCindy@HelloVirginia.com   Facebook.com/TomandCindyHomes


Active architectural review a critical component of any HOA

The modern homeowner’s association has many important topics it is tasked with. Snow removal, garbage collection, parking issues, upkeep of amenities, unpaid assessments just to name a few.

One of the most important is the architectural review committee (sometimes known as ARC). It has been said that “all politics are local”. Neighbors often have disagreements about a variety of things both large and small, but one thing that everybody agrees on is the need to help maintain and increase property values. In my 25 years in real estate, I have seen  associations that are active and pay attention and those that seem lethargic and powerless. The way a community looks goes a long way in attracting or turning off potential buyers. As an aside, when I lived in Kingstowne a neighbor across the street was a junk salesman. His garage was full to the ceiling. But when he started leaving washers, dryers, and refrigerators out on the sidewalk for weeks at a time, the association took action. The activity stopped, and the owner moved shortly thereafter.

Before anyone moves into a community with an HOA, they have to be given a packet outlining the rules and regulations (among other items). They have three days to review these documents and can back out of their purchase for any reason during that time. So people know the rules. It is up to the ARC to be vigilant about compliance. Are inspections for wood rot, peeling paint, and unapproved additions and modifications done yearly? Are rules for changes made easy to understand and applied consistently? Are new materials and their applications paid attention to?

Without being overly regimented or close-minded, a need for continuity and a community “look” is a good thing. If every home is neutral,  but one is bright pink, it looks off. If there are five different kinds of fencing on five homes next to one another, it loses appeal. This isn’t to say that wood and Trex can’t both be approved materials for decks, it just means that some consistency is good. For example while every front light doesn’t have to be exact, maybe the materials or colors or styles should be complimentary.

Again, just my two cents, but I’ve always found landscaping to be huge. Communities that have neglected trees and grass, or that don’t attend immediately to graffiti on fences seem a little run down to those looking for the best places to live. If a house is vacant and has broken windows, or vehicles are parked on lawns, buyers move on. Special attention should be paid to entrances and common areas.

It’s impossible to say that if you spend X amount of dollars that values will increase by Y. It’s almost the opposite. It works that if you DON’T spend the money values don’t go up and can decline because a community starts looking shabby or old and run down. I can point to Amberleigh and Landsdowne as communities that have upgraded their “look” lately. They both look fresh in terms of their front entrances and common area. Obviously Kingstowne spends a lot and considers it extremely important to keep up the community appearance. Can I put a dollar value on how that effects each unit? No, but I know it’s there. It’s common sense that we all are willing to pay more for something that is desirable than for  something that’s not. The same is true for real estate. One area looks like they put their best suit and tie on and the other looks like they just rolled out of bed without showering. Without bashing communities by name, there are some local communities that suffer by comparison because they haven’t seen the value in continuously maintaining and upgrading when necessary their appearance.

So the idea is to get together on standards and then apply those standards evenly and often. There certainly are enough communities in our area with HOAs so that those involved can take a drive-by, and as they tour each community, note the things they like and those that need improvement. Then incorporate the best of all of them into your own ARC.