Legal Insider: States Began to Bar Employment-Related Marijuana Screening Tests

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Some states are moving to not only legalize marijuana but also bar drug screening in employment for its use.

Nevada is such a state. Beginning next year, most employers in the State of Nevada will not be able to turn down a job applicant solely for failing a marijuana drug test. This is the result of a new state law, Nevada Assembly Bill 132, that is set to become effective on January 1, 2020. There is some discussion that a similar law will also be coming to Colorado and other jurisdictions soon.

Nevada’s New Law

The new law will not stop employers from testing job applicants for marijuana usage, and it will not bar them from refusing to hire applicants that test positive for other drugs. There are some exceptions to the new law.

It will not apply to physicians, emergency medical technicians, firefighters or those that have job requirements involving driving and in positions which could adversely affect the safety of others. A copy of the new law can be found here. It is likely to be the first of many similar laws that are enacted in states that have legalized marijuana usage.

Virginia Law Still Criminalizes Marijuana Use

While Nevada and other states have moved forward with decriminalizing marijuana usage and beginning to bar employment-related drug screening, Virginia still criminalizes marijuana usage. Virginia employers remain able to terminate employees for marijuana usage. Attorney General Mark Herring recently suggested changing these laws, which could be the start of a long process in Virginia.

Federal Law Remains Unchanged

Individuals should keep in mind that even as these states legalize certain drugs, these state laws have no effect on federal drug laws barring usage. Furthermore, federal employees and security clearance applicants/holders are still barred and can be fired for marijuana usage.

I suspect that this will likely change in the next 5-10 years, but at present federal employees and security clearance holders can lose their security clearances with even one-time use in a state or jurisdiction that has legalized marijuana.

Conclusion

If you are in need of employment, retirement or security clearance law representation, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Pet of the Week: Pretty Patches

Becky's Pet Care

Meet Patches, an adult female retriever and terrier mix available for adoption locally.

Here is what her friends at Safe Haven Puppy Rescue have to say about her:

Patches is an awesome little dog! She came in with some coat and skin issues, which are totally cleared up now. She will make a fabulous dog for a family with kids… she is friendly and smart as a whip.

She already knows to sit and plops her little butt right down for a treat. Knows “up” and loves toys.

And… she gives great hugs! She also quickly figured out where the cookie jar is kept — very clever girl. This great pup is a nice blend of friendly affection and normal puppy playfulness and will be great company.

Are you and Patches a match? If so, let us know and our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, will send you some treats and prizes.

Want your pet to be considered for the Reston Pet of the Week?

Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks.

Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Reston and Northern Virginia.

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Reno of the Month: Open Concept Living — Is It Right For Your Home?

By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

Unless you live in a new or recently built house, chances are your home was designed with distinctly defined rooms like the kitchen, dining and family room that are closed off from one another.

In some cases, this can be a blessing. If you are using the formal dining room as an office or playroom, it’s a simple step to close the door on the mess (or the noise) when you have visitors!

However, top of the wish list for most of the homeowners we work with is to make their main level feel “more open.”

Most homeowners are ‘over’ walls that block views between rooms or to the outside of the home, the labyrinth of doors that mean one has to be shut before another can be opened, or the dark, closed-in feeling of the kitchen.

Whatever the scenario, creating a more open feel for a space usually starts with removing doors and taking down walls. Although the overall square footage of a space doesn’t necessarily increase, the visual it provides makes it feel like a much bigger space. It’s also a much better way to use space.

With most homeowners rarely using a formal dining room even when they have one, and preferring to be able to see into the eating area or family room when they are in the kitchen, an open floor plan provides better flow between spaces and allows for flexibility in how it’s used. An open concept also allows for more natural light to flow throughout the entire area.

But wait! Before you get too carried away, a few things to consider:

  • A more open concept may not be for everyone. Noise travels, heating and cooling costs may change, flooring may need to be replaced throughout, wall space for artwork is reduced and having a line of sight throughout a space means any messes will instantly be on display. Take time to think about how you use your space before determining if an open floor plan is right for you.
  • Removing load bearing walls can be complicated and costly. Always check with a professional remodeler or structural engineer first to find out if the wall or column you want to remove is load bearing or houses electrical, mechanical or plumbing lines.
  • You don’t have to remove an entire wall to make a space feel more open. Removing a door and taking down part of a wall to create a larger framed entrance between 2 rooms can also make a space feel completely different.
  • Similarly, if square footage is at a premium and you want to retain storage or countertop space, removing the upper half of a wall but retaining the lower half and adding an island countertop (with or without cabinets below) is also a great use of space.

This month, our project highlight features a Lake Townhome in South Reston. It’s hard to beat lake living in Reston!

This townhome has a gorgeous view and a great location, but our clients were ready to update the entire first floor of their home including the kitchen, family room and powder room.

We opened up the space between the kitchen and dining room to maximize the beautiful water view but retained usable storage space by adding under-counter cabinets. The kitchen is now lighter and brighter with an all-season view of the lake.

Our client loves a black and white color scheme, but the backsplash accent tile in the kitchen makes a statement and provides a pop of glorious color.

Ready for your home transformation? We’re always happy to discuss what works in your space!

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Pet of the Week: Aces

Becky's Pet Care

Meet Aces, a small adult female tabby available for adoption locally.

Here is what her friends at Little Buddies Adoption and Humane Society have to say about her:

Aces is just a delightful young lady. She is very sweet and loves to sit next to and cuddle with her foster mom and the child in the home.

She loves being picked up and held by the young child. Aces gets along just fantastically with other cats. She was found living outdoors, perhaps having gotten lost or perhaps abandoned by her previous family.

It is estimated that she is about a year old. Come meet this sweetie!

Are you and Aces a match? If so, let us know and our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, will send you some treats and prizes.

Want your pet to be considered for the Reston Pet of the Week?

Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks.

Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Reston and Northern Virginia.

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Legal Insider: Finding the Right Employment Lawyer

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Finding and hiring a lawyer regarding a stressful and difficult employment issue can be quite overwhelming and intimidating for most people.

There are many things to consider when looking for the right lawyer to handle your employment matter. The below guidelines may be helpful if you are looking to hire an employment lawyer for the first time.

Obtain legal advice early

If you wait too long to obtain legal advice or assistance with an employment issue, you may hurt your chances to amicably or effectively resolve the matter. The earlier you seek legal help, the more likely you are to avoid a more complicated and costly legal problem down the road.

Research the lawyer 

When you are looking for the right employment lawyer, make sure to visit the employment lawyer’s or law firm’s website and review the attorney profiles. You’ll likely find useful information just by browsing the website’s attorney biographies, practice areas and resource sections.

The lawyer’s website may also lead you to additional resources and will hopefully demonstrate that the employment lawyer has the requisite knowledge and experience in employment law.

Of course, the website may not be the only or best resource regarding a particular employment lawyer, but researching the website is a good start and will likely lead you to one or two potential lawyers with whom to make an initial inquiry.

Provide a clear and concise written chronology of your case before the initial consultation

You’ll get more out of your consultation with an employment lawyer if you are able to provide the lawyer with a clear and concise written chronology or timeline of your matter prior to your initial consultation. Remember to include any relevant documentation that you may have.

If you provide written details and relevant documentation regarding your matter at the outset, the employment lawyer will have a better understanding of your matter at the initial consultation meeting. The employment lawyer will be able to spend more time providing advice instead of spending time trying to get up to speed on your matter during the initial consultation.

Don’t hold back important information 

If you leave out crucial information at the initial consultation or at the start of representation, the omission could affect the employment lawyer’s initial advice or strategy, subsequent representation, or ability to effectively resolve your matter. It’s best to be candid and honest about your complete story, even if the details are embarrassing.

In this way, you’ll obtain the best advice and representation. Keep in mind that the information you provide to the lawyer at your initial consultation is privileged and confidential unless you waive the privilege.

Don’t expect the matter to resolve quickly 

Legal matters typically take a long time to resolve. Do not expect to resolve problematic employment issues, especially issues that took time to develop, soon after you hire an employment lawyer.

Discuss legal fees and costs

Do not hesitate to discuss the legal fees and costs that may be involved in your particular employment matter during your initial consultation. Keep in mind that most employment lawyers do not bill their fees in the same manner as other lawyers, such as personal injury lawyers.

For instance, most employment lawyers charge for consultations and bill their time by the hour on a monthly basis. A trust or retainer deposit may also be required before representation begins.

Depending upon the type and timing of your employment matter, you may incur legal fees and expenses over a short or prolonged period of time. The employment lawyer’s fees and costs should be outlined in a detailed representation agreement.

When hiring a lawyer or any other professional such as a doctor, there will be a considerable amount of fees and costs associated with services that are provided to you.

Keep expectations realistic

Unlike big class action, accident, or other personal injury-related lawsuits, most employment matters do not typically recoup extremely high settlement or damage amounts. An employment lawyer should be honest and up-front about what you can expect in terms of a monetary and/or non-monetary resolution of your employment matter.

It’s always a good idea to discuss potential outcomes with the employment lawyer at the outset of and throughout representation to keep expectations realistic and in check regarding what you can expect in a potential monetary or non-monetary resolution of your employment matter.

Conclusion

If you are in need of employment, retirement or security clearance law representation, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Reston Pet of the Week: Roxy Rose

Becky's Pet Care

Meet Roxy Rose from Reston. Here’s what her owner has to say about her:

Roxy has been a resident of Reston for 1 year and 6 months and she loves this time of year when everything is in full bloom and she can be out and about in the yard smelling the bluebells!

She enjoys playtime, napping and occasionally hanging at the Reston Town Center Starbucks and can be found on Instagram where she now has 1,370 followers!

Follow along @roxyrosefromreston.

Want your pet to be considered for the Reston Pet of the Week? If so, let us know and our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, will send you some treats and prizes.

Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks.

Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Reston and Northern Virginia.

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Pet of the Week: Lucky Lenny

Becky's Pet Care

Meet Lenny, a male Border Collie Labrador Retriever mix available for adoption locally.

Here is what his friends at Safe Haven Puppy Rescue have to say about him:

Lenny may be young but he packs a whole lot of personality in that body!

He’s a lab/border collie mix who you can just tell by his face is going to be one sweet puppy!

This little sweetie is just the right mix of sweetness and playfulness and is looking for that permanent home that has his favorite human to love!

Are you and Lenny a match? If so, let us know and our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, will send you some treats and prizes

Want your pet to be considered for the Reston Pet of the Week?

Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks.

Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Reston and Northern Virginia.

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Reston Real Estate: Just Sold

This is a sponsored post from Eve Thompson of Reston Real Estate. For a more complete picture of home sales in your neighborhood, contact her on Reston Real Estate.

Our strong spring market is rolling into a strong summer market.

The past 10 days we had $11.5 million in home sales and had another $16.8M go under contract. The average home price in that same period was $446,000 and the average days on market was 24. So we’re on track for another solid year in real estate sales in Reston.

Here are few of the recent sales in Reston:

12070 Kinsley Place
2 BR/4 BA
List Price: $829,900
Sold Price: $810,000

 

 

1524 Northgate Square #11B
2 BR/1 BA
List Price: $241,500
Sold Price: $239,500

 

 

2307 Hunters Run Drive #2307
2 BR/1 BA
List Price: $275,000
Sold Price: $275,000

 

 

2113 Owls Cove Lane
4 BR/3 BA
List Price: $679,000
Sold Price: $680,000

 

 

1331 Vintage Place
2 BR/4 BA
List Price: $449,900
Sold Price: $450,000

 

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Legal Insider: Preventing Pregnancy Discrimination

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

We represent employees that have been affected by pregnancy discrimination. Here are some tips on the subject.

Prevention of Pregnancy Discrimination 

Pregnancy discrimination, unfortunately, is one of the fastest-growing areas of discrimination law because many employers do not understand the legal requirements that are in place to protect pregnant employees.

The following general guidance is meant to help employers prevent and appropriately deal with, as well as educate employees regarding, issues of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

Know Duties and Rights of Pregnant Employees 

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal for an employer with 15 or more employees to discriminate against an employee in all areas of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training and benefits (e.g., leave and health insurance). It is important for employers and employees to understand these rights.

Example: Rachel applies for a position as a pharmaceutical sales representative. She is also five months pregnant. During her interview, the hiring manager explains that the position will require a lot of walking and asks whether Rachel’s pregnancy will affect her ability to work or return to work.

Due to concerns about this issue, Rachel is not hired as a result of the hiring manager’s belief that her pregnancy will affect her ability to work. Jennifer could bring a case of pregnancy discrimination.

Providing Equal Treatment to Pregnant Employees

If an employee becomes pregnant or is unable to perform her job due to issues during and/or after her pregnancy, the employer must treat the employee the same way it treats temporarily disabled employees. Employers often misunderstand this.

Example: Employees at Smith Co. with two years of seniority can apply for promotions. Mary is excluded from an upcoming promotion process at work. She is told that her three months of maternity leave will not count towards her seniority.

At the same time, Smith Co. continues to give seniority credit to employees who take leave for temporary injuries and medical issues, such as back injuries. Mary could bring a case of unequal treatment and discrimination.

Employers Should Not Interfere with Pregnancy Leave

If an employee is entitled to request leave for pregnancy, an employer should not attempt to interfere with such a leave request. If an employee has worked for at least 12 months and the employer has 50 or more employees, then an employee may be entitled to 12 weeks of leave for pregnancy (paid or unpaid) under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Some states (not Virginia) have additional and differing pregnancy discrimination-related laws covering smaller employers.

Avoid Making Small Talk About Pregnant Employees

One of the most common ways in which an employer gets into trouble for pregnancy-related issues at work is when a supervisor makes comments about a pregnant employee to other employees. There are a number of reasons why this shouldn’t occur, mainly due to an employee’s private medical issues, but it is also a form of discrimination.

We often see this in the context of supervisors speaking with other employees about a pregnant employee, such as commenting about whether the pregnant employee is healthy enough to work or how taking maternity leave may negatively impact the employee’s career. These types of comments can be used against employers in pregnancy discrimination claims.

Difficult Pregnancies Can Trigger Other Employee Rights

If a pregnant employee is having serious medical issues related to her pregnancy, then she may be able to ask for a reasonable accommodation (e.g., teleworking, restrictions on lifting) under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Again, this requirement, among others cited above, can be dependent on whether or not an employer has 15 or more employees.

General Tips from the EEOC

For those interested, more general tips on pregnancy discrimination can be found here in guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Our law firm represents and advises federal employees in pregnancy discrimination and other employment matters. If you need legal assistance regarding a pregnancy discrimination complaint or other employment matter, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc.

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Pet of the Week: Mowgli

Becky's Pet Care

Meet Mowgli, an adult Australian Shepherd male available for adoption locally.

Here is what his friends at Australian Shepherds Furever have to say about him:

Mr. Mowgli is ready for his furever family! This boy is so sweet. Mowgli is a typical velcro pup.

He wants to be where you are. He loves to snuggle and at times he thinks he is a lapdog. He loves to lay on his back and have his belly rubbed, and frequently makes us laugh by just plopping over.

He doesn’t like thunder or loud noises like the vacuum, but his fear just makes him snuggly. He was very scared of the groomer when we took him, so he might need to ease into that. He does very well in his crate and is obsessed with treats.

He knows basic commands and with a little consistency could be well trained. He has a quirk where he barks at new men he meets for about 3 minutes — then plops over for a belly rub?

Are you and Mowgli a match? If so, let us know and our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, will send you some treats and prizes.

Want your pet to be considered for the Reston Pet of the Week?

Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks.

Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Reston and Northern Virginia.

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Free Launchbox This Weekend for Their 1 Year Anniversary

Launchbox — the TopGolf inspired golfing experience at 1757 Golf Club’s driving range — is offering the first hour of play for free this Friday through Sunday!

Imagine playing golf with real golf balls and never losing one in a space where pace of play is never an issue. With just a touch of a screen you can be instantly transported to holes on world-famous golf courses like Pebble Beach. Not to mention fresh food prepared by an executive chef and a cocktail menu at your fingertips.

No, this is not something from the mind of a mystical golf movie-script writer. It’s not really something you can get at a purely golf entertainment center like TopGolf or sitting down at a fancy downtown restaurant.

It’s more like an eclectic combination of all these pleasantries and it’s made possible through the magic of TopTracer cameras — the same technology used to show ball flight paths on TV tournaments.

Launchbox has been around for a year, and to celebrate they’re offering the first hour in a bay for free with contests and giveaways. The resident Long Drive Tour Pro will be having a competition where you can try to out hit his 9 iron to win a prize, and the club will be releasing their own beer!

1757 partnered with Brew Republic Bierworks in Woodbridge to create an exclusive Hazy Session IPA. This weekend will be your first chance to taste Swing Easy IPA, and the owner of Beer Republic and their Brewmaster will be on hand Friday from 3-6 p.m.

For more information visit 1757 Golf Club and to book a reservation click here.

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Reston Real Estate: Just Sold

This is a sponsored post from Eve Thompson of Reston Real Estate. For a more complete picture of home sales in your neighborhood, contact her on Reston Real Estate.

This past week in the world of Reston real estate we had 28 houses go to settlement and another 48 house go under contract.

Across the region housing inventory is very limited and Reston is no exception with just 212 houses on the market.

Here are a few of the houses that went under contract this past week:

11114 Harbor Court
2 BR/2.5 BA
List price: $524,999
Sold Price: $525,000

 

 

1566 Harpers Cove Lane
5 BR/3.5 BA
List Price: $835,000
Sold Price: $835,000

 

 

12108 Quorn Lane
4 BR/3.5 BA
List Price: $605,900
Sold Price: $605,900

 

 

1646 Stowe Road
4 BR/3.5 BA
List Price: $669,000
Sold Price: $639,000

 

 

11020 Ring Road
4 BR/3.5 BA
List Price: $630,000
Sold Price: $632,000

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Reno of the Month: What Not To Do In Your Remodel

By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

At Synergy Design & Construction, we are firm believers in helping homeowners become more informed by providing insights and advice on all things home remodeling.

There are many factors that can result in a ‘renovation nightmare,’ so here are our top 3 things not to do to help you avoid the common pitfalls!

1. Hire the Wrong Type of Contractor

Just figuring out where to get started often leads to many homeowners feeling quickly overwhelmed and giving up at the first hurdle. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you don’t know the difference between a General Contractor and a Design-Build firm, that’s a great place to begin! Knowing who you need from the start is a huge time — and cost — saver.

2. Have Unrealistic Budget Expectations

Having a clear investment goal and communicating it to your contractor at the outset is essential. With so many TV shows setting unrealistic expectations about the time and cost involved in a home remodel, it’s difficult to know if you are being realistic or not. The annual Cost vs. Value Report is a great place to start.

3. Move Forward Without a Clearly Defined Scope of Work and Timeline

Assume nothing! A detailed scope of work ensures you and your contractor are on the same page when it comes to your project. If you are provided with material allowances, do your homework to ensure they are realistic with the level of finish you are expecting. An allowance for low-grade granite when what you really want is gorgeous Carrara marble isn’t going to cut it.

Your chosen contractor should also have a timeline or project plan prepared that clearly shows when they are going to begin and when they’ll be finished with construction. The last thing you want is to be ringing in the New Year with a partially completed kitchen when they said work would be complete by Thanksgiving.

Looking for more insights on “what not to do?” Read 5 Things Not To Do in Your Kitchen Remodel and 5 Things Not To Do in Your Bathroom Remodel.

This month, our featured remodel is a kitchen remodel in Vienna. After almost 10 years in their home and with 2 college-aged kids, our clients were ready to make their space their own. They wanted to create a more open feeling with better flow on the main level with the priority focused on creating a larger kitchen. By expanding into the existing dining room, we were able to do just that.

Although drawn to a casual, warm look and soft textures, they were not afraid of bold color on the island with matching tile accents and other design elements to really make this kitchen shine!

May is National Remodeling month, so if you’ve been thinking about a remodel for a while, now’s the time to finally get around to doing something about it!

We’re always happy to chat!

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Reston Real Estate: Just Listed

This is a sponsored post by Eve Thompson of Reston Real Estate.

We’ve got 206 fully active properties on the market in Reston.

They range in price from $199,000 for a cute 1 bedroom, 1 bath Northgate Square condo in a great walk-able Lake Anne neighborhood, to $1,750,000 for a stunning 14th floor Stratford House Place unit with amazing views looking up Reston Town Center’s main drag to the Blue Ridge mountains beyond.

Properties are generally selling quickly. Average days on market for properties in a pending status, (those that are under contract), is just 17 days; more than half of those pending properties went under contract in a mere 7 days.

If you’ve got something on the market that’s not selling, or worse, not getting showings, it’s time to have a heart to heart with your agent. Ask them to reevaluate list price and then listen and act on that professional opinion.

Here are a few of the new listings in Reston. I thought I might try something different with the “just list listed” so today we’re focusing on new listings priced at less than $350,000.

If you have questions about the current value of your home or if you’d like ideas about getting it ready to sell, feel free to call or email me.

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D.C. Area Professionals Benefit from Experiential Learning Approach

The working professionals who pursue the Arlington-based Executive MBA at Virginia Tech get a rich education in the fundamentals of business — accounting and finance, marketing, operations, ethics, communications and leadership.

But woven around those foundation courses are “experiential modules” designed to accelerate development in four essential and current areas:

  • Business analytics
  • Entrepreneurship & innovation
  • Leadership & governance
  • Global business

Each module includes two concentration classes plus a “big experience” course that puts the learning to work immediately, says Barbara Hoopes, academic director for Virginia Tech MBA Programs.

Corporate leaders are brought in “to provide guidance and bring real-life projects to students,” adds Parviz Ghandforoush, associate dean for graduate programs in the Pamplin College of Business.

What does this look like on the ground? For the analytics module, which covers BI and data mining along with marketing analytics, Hoopes brought in four software vendors — Microsoft, Qlik, SAS and Tableau — to provide access to their products and act as coaches.

Students addressed pressing issues with U.S. infrastructure using publicly available data to analyze Congressional airport funding and its relationship to economic growth, identify causal factors for large utility outages and predict hazard classifications of dams in order to prioritize inspections.

Hoopes asserts that students really “need to understand how data can be used to support their decision-making.” That means “learning how to tell a story that convinces others” — in other words, traversing that last mile between the data scientist and the people at the very top.

Ghandforoush notes that students often arrive with an expectation that the data work they will do during their MBA is a throw-away “because they don’t need it or they have analysts at work who will do this for them.” And yet faculty hear back from former skeptics that those lessons turned out to be the most valuable in the program “because they’re actually using it at work and they’ve seen the results.”

That’s just what Virginia Tech had in mind when it undertook its redesign of the MBA for working professionals. “It’s not like students graduate and four or five years later we will hear if they have benefited from their MBA,” he concludes. “This is like a laboratory. We get to watch this as it’s happening right before our eyes.”

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