The days are getting shorter, and hopefully we’re in for some nice, crisp fall weather!

Now is a great time to get your home ready for fall and winter — read below for some tips:

Change your furnace filter. This should be done monthly, not just at the change of season, but most people don’t take this simple step, which can save you money by keeping your system running cleanly and efficiently. This is especially important if you have pets. I set up an automatic monthly shipment on Amazon for an added reminder to change it.

Clean your gutters. Clogged gutters are the leading cause of ice dams, which are ridges of ice on the roofline that prevent water from draining properly and can cause water to pour into your home. Clogging can also prevent water from draining away from your home properly via the downspouts. Downspouts should extend 5 feet away from the foundation. Professional gutter cleaning ranges from $75-250 and downspouts are $10-20 each.

Check the quality of your roof. Stay safe and get out a pair of binoculars to check the singles from the ground. Look for any that are missing, cracked or peeling. Have a professional replace those shingles immediately. The black streaks you may see aren’t dirt, but rather algae and aren’t harmful to the roof. If these streaks bother you, hire a professional roof washer who has the proper chemicals to dissolve the algae. Never power wash your roof! It will damage the shingles even on the lowest setting and voids your warranty.

Store your outdoor furniture. Outdoor furniture should be put away each season to keep it looking fresh and prevent damage from high winds and discoloration from rain, snow and even leaves. Outdoor furniture is expensive, so if you can’t store it, consider buying waterproof covers.

Have your fireplace cleaned and inspected. Hire a professional to inspect and clean your fireplace each year. Not doing so can cause creosote to build up, which can cause a chimney fire. Beyond cleaning, have the pro check the firebox and flashing at the top of the chimney to ensure water is being kept out and the overall quality of the fireplace is in good condition. Over time, cracks and poor mortar are expensive to fix; it’s best to catch these fixes early. A chimney cleaning is about $150-250, and the inspection ranges from $80-$250.

Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and check expiration dates. Batteries should be changed every year. Smoke detectors last about 10 years and carbon monoxide detectors for about 6 years. Both have labels with the dates clearly marked.

If you have any questions or want to talk about strategy, please call/text/email. Thanks for reading!

Lynn Cooper is a licensed REALTOR in Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Whether buying or selling, Lynn is 100% committed to her clients before, during, and after the transaction. Connect with Lynn at 202-489-7894, [email protected] or @lyncooperrealestate.

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Homes have been given new meaning with dining rooms becoming classrooms, spare bedrooms are now “Zoom rooms” or offices, and our bathrooms could probably use a facelift to allow yourself to enjoy a relaxing space for self-care.

Keep reading for the top trends in bathroom design I’ve seen in homes this year.

Updated classics: Tile is synonymous with bathrooms, and the classics are hitting the refresh button with new colors, sizes and patterns. Gone are the days of boring white subway tile; I’m seeing large tiles typically used for flooring on shower walls with no grout lines (easier to clean) in bold patterns and colors. Subway tiles have so many new options with elongated sizes and updated glaze techniques/textures, and I’ve seen them applied vertically instead of horizontally for a completely modern look.

Shower updates: Why not turn your primary bath into an at-home spa? Consider installing a rain shower system with multiple faucets with differing temperatures. A plumber can install this without breaking the bank to give your bath a total refresh. Another luxurious update is a steam shower system, which is truly indulgent and relaxing.

Soaking tubs (NOT jacuzzi tubs): Soaking tubs (separate from the shower) are on the rise, and there are some gorgeous new bathtub styles on the market. It’s vital to have at least one bathtub in the home for resale value.

Also important: don’t install a jacuzzi tub! I’ve had real estate appraisers lessen the home’s value because of these. They’re considered dated and undesirable. Ouch — I have one in my own home!

Wallpaper: I have always loved wallpaper even though most think of it as an ’80s throwback. The new styles are AMAZING, especially the graphic modern designs, which can easily be removed. Wallpaper is a great way to customize your space to your style. There are literally 100,000+ options to choose from! If you’re concerned about resale, the new brands are easily removed with no damage to the walls.

Heated flooring: What better way to treat yourself (and your feet) than to have heating flooring with a timer that automatically heats up at designated times.

If you have any questions or want to talk about strategy, please call/text/email. Thanks for reading!

Lynn Cooper is a licensed REALTOR in Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Whether buying or selling, Lynn is 100% committed to her clients before, during, and after the transaction. Connect with Lynn at 202-489-7894, [email protected] or @lyncooperrealestate.

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Kitchens have become top of mind for many as we’ve spent more time at home since the pandemic, some developing a new love of cooking! While open concept kitchens (opening up to a family room or another space) are still hot, read below for trends that have become popular this year.

1. White cabinetry

White cabinets look clean and neutral plus help your space appear larger. Dark cabinets tend to look dated and make the room seem dark. White also allows you to change up your wall color over time which is the most affordable way to stay on-trend. Of course, white cabinets are the most appealing to buyers should you decide to sell your house down the road.

2. Extra storage and pantries

Storage of small kitchen appliances, such as stand mixers, has become popular as people want to increase counter space for a more minimalist look. Crowded counters look messy and give a sense of disorganization. The need for pantries has increased over time as many have been eating at home more often and want a place to store extra food items.

3. Kitchen islands with statement lighting

As trends have been moving toward larger kitchens, consumers have been adding kitchen islands as a place to dines — plus they allow family members a place to do work or do homework. Installing a faucet or small wine fridge enables you to grab a drink without entering the main cooking path. Many are choosing contrasting island cabinet colors to add a splash of color. To finish the look, consider adding statement pendant lighting over the island area.

4. Interesting tile

Adding contrast and interest, we’re seeing colorful tiles and patterns on backsplashes and behind ranges as pictured above. Even traditional subway tile has gotten a face-lift with new colors, textures and elongated shapes. Consider grout in a contrasting color or even match the grout to the island color to really tie the look together.

5. Gold finishes

Gold has made a huge comeback in kitchen trends with fresh looks in cabinet hardware, faucets and pendant lighting. There are many choices in finishes as well including matte finishes, mesh and mixed metals (gold/silver/bronze together).

6. Decorative range hoods

Decorative hoods are a new way to add interest and style to your kitchen. They’re available in all shapes and materials such as stone and copper. They can be bought online in standard sizes or customized to make a big statement or to match your kitchen cabinetry.

If you’re considering renovating your space, give me a call! I know plenty of excellent kitchen designers and contractors to refer to you.

Lynn Cooper is a licensed REALTOR in Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Whether buying or selling, Lynn is 100% committed to her clients before, during, and after the transaction. Connect with Lynn at 202-489-7894, [email protected] or @lyncooperrealestate.

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Buyer fatigue is what I call the effect on buyers who have seen so many homes, written multiple offers getting rejected each time, and are exhausted with the buying process.

Searching for a home can be a huge emotional undertaking, and when you are losing time and time again, you start to feel like you will never win a bid. Potential buyers, especially those just entering the market or looking for more affordable options, are getting worn out from having so few options in a competitive seller’s market like this one.

Here’s what you can do about it:

  1. Work with an experienced agent. Ask them how they won contracts for their buyer clients in the transactions they’d had this year. Learning their strategies are vital to you winning an offer!
  2. Don’t be discouraged by the lack of inventory. This market can be frustrating, but waiting for more options isn’t the solution. The best thing to do is push through. Mortgage rates and home values are both on the rise, meaning buyers who wait will end up paying more in their monthly payments years down the road.
  3. Don’t be afraid to go ‘all in’ with your first offer. Make the strongest offer you can from the beginning with a high earnest money deposit, no contingencies, and consider offering over asking or writing an escalation clause to beat competing offers. If you’re worried about waiving the home inspection contingency, buy an excellent home warranty to cover any major systems/appliances that may need repair or replacement after you make the purchase.
  4. Update your wish list. If you’ve lost in previous offers, reevaluate your wish list. You can increase the number of potential homes by broadening your preferred neighborhoods or simply consider homes that may need a little updating, which have less competition. A turn-key home is bound to have multiple offers with escalation clauses and in my experience, are selling in mere days.
  5. Check for back-to-active listings. Ask your agent to set up a search for back-to-active listings, which are homes that went under contract and the buyer backed out. Perhaps they lost their financing or simply got cold feet; it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with the home, which many buyers perceive to be the case and this means less competition.

As always, feel free to call me to discuss buyer fatigue or any other real estate subject. I’m happy to help!

Lynn Cooper is a licensed REALTOR in Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Whether buying or selling, Lynn is 100% committed to her clients before, during, and after the transaction. Connect with Lynn at 202-489-7894, [email protected] or @lyncooperrealestate.

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Many of my buyer clients ask what title insurance is, and why they may need to purchase it at the time of closing on their new home.

Simply put, title insurance is an insurance policy that protects you against loss due to an unknown defect in title or an interest in your home. (Real estate title is a legal document stating you are the rightful owner.) It’s a one-time payment; the cost is about 1% of the home’s value, and if you need to make a claim, there is no deductible to pay. Additionally, it covers you for the entire time you own the home. Claims from previous owners or their heirs, judgments against prior owners or permanent easements from utility companies can be extremely costly to the new buyer!

Most common uses of title insurance:

1. Judgment against the prior owner: If the title search didn’t find the judgment or if a new judgment has been issued against the previous owner and the court indexes aren’t updated, a judge can order a lien be put on the home, which you could be responsible for paying. The most common example is a lien put on the property due to costly unpaid medical bills the prior owner has incurred.

2. Easement on the property: Title insurance protects against easements/rights of way that are not recorded properly and can diminish your property value. For example, a cable company could have a permanent easement on your land and have the right to dig large trenches in your yard. If you have title insurance, the company will send you a sum of money based on the purchase price and the type of easement.

What if I chose not to purchase title insurance and an issue arises?

1. You can hire an attorney to help you clear the lien in court and correct the title on your home. Most attorneys charge a $10,000 retainer for such a service.

2. You can simply pay the lien, which can be extremely expensive, and you would still be responsible for clearing/correcting the title at the courthouse.

About 90% of buyers elect to purchase an Owner’s Title Policy to protect them against the risks of an issue arising, and title insurance companies are paying $100 million per year in title insurance claims.

If you have further questions, please reach out to me.

Lynn Cooper is a licensed REALTOR in Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Whether buying or selling, Lynn is 100% committed to her clients before, during, and after the transaction. Connect with Lynn at 202-489-7894, [email protected] or @lyncooperrealestate.

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In an industry like real estate, where first impressions can make all the difference, it’s easy to see how staging has become an integral part of the selling process. Yes, even in this sellers’ market!

How does staging help?

Staging can make the space feel bigger and transforms it into looking brand new. That’s why buyers will pay top dollar. Staging highlights the home’s best features and the home’s potential.

First-time buyer Alissa Cauley had the following to say: “As a first-time homebuyer, I was so excited to decorate my new place — new couches, chairs and tables! But I will be honest I didn’t know where to start. Walking into my future home and seeing it staged made ALL the difference. Staging lets you picture your new life in your new home. Picturing where you will be laying while watching TV, and how to make your place look bigger than it is, really helps. Staging takes the stress out of figuring out where you should put furniture and decorations and lets you really enjoy your move. I love my new place, and I will say, the staging absolutely had a part in that. It was the reason I chose the home over others that were vacant or cluttered with the owners’ belongings.”

What are my staging options?

The process of searching for a home always starts online. It’s important your home looks inviting to “online shoppers.” Professional photography can determine whether or not a future buyer will tour your home. There are a few ways to stage your home, from hiring a professional staging company to virtual staging, which is incredibly affordable. Or you might stage the home yourself, using your own furniture and adding fresh items such as on-trend throw pillows and artwork.

Staging tips:

  1. Declutter and depersonalize: Remove items that aren’t integral to everyday life and remove family photos. This helps buyers envision themselves living in your home.
  2. Eliminate bad odors: Odors can turn buyers off the second they walk through your front door. It’s a complete turnoff! Whether it’s an air freshener or an animal smell, it’s important not to cover it up. Replace air duct filters, deep clean rugs and carpets, and clean walls and baseboard to eliminate any lingering odors from pets or everyday life. You might consider hiring a professional to remove more intense odors.
  3. Increase light: Open curtains, pull the blinds to the top of the window and consider painting dark rooms a light, neutral color. Floor and table lamps are helpful, too, and remember to turn all the lights on before showings.
  4. Add “light staging” items: Lots of throw pillows on a king-size bed will make the room look complete and cozy. Add some on-trend artwork and plants — real or fake, either work well to fill up the space and bring more life to a room.

Lynn Cooper is a licensed REALTOR in Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Whether buying or selling, Lynn is 100% committed to her clients before, during, and after the transaction. Connect with Lynn at 202-489-7894, [email protected] or @lyncooperrealestate.

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Like many first-time homebuyers, you’ll first reach out to family and friends when you decide to buy your first home. While the advice you receive has the best of intentions, what you hear may not be the way to win a contract in today’s fast-paced seller’s market.

Consider the following tips:

1. Obtain pre-approval

Talk to a couple of local mortgage lenders (not necessarily large banks) and get your pre-approval early on. Looking at homes without having your pre-approval is pointless; you’ll end up wanting to make an offer and then have to back-pedal to get your financing in order. You may be too late to the party at that point.

Getting pre-approved generally takes 48 hours, and that’s only if you have bank statements, tax returns and pay stubs on hand. If you take this step first, you’ll know what you can afford and better target your home search, plus you’ll be ready to make an offer. Sellers simply won’t consider a contract without a pre-approval letter.

2. Be willing to waive contingencies, including the home inspection

In my experience, very few buyers have the luxury of conducting a home inspection in this market. If waiving the inspection makes you nervous, consider buying a home warranty to cover the home’s major systems should something break. Also, consider waiving the appraisal and financing contingencies. Making a “clean offer” to a seller has been very successful lately.

3. Offer a high earnest money deposit

Show a seller you’re serious! The earnest money deposit (EMD) shows a buyer’s good faith in the transaction. If a typical EMD is $10,000, then offer $20,000. Don’t worry, this amount is credited toward your down payment at closing so simply consider it a technique to get the seller’s attention.

4. Be flexible

Consider the seller’s timeline. If they want to settle on a certain date or with a particular title company, offer to meet those requests. Also, giving a seller extra time to move via a free rent-back can make your offer very appealing.

5. Write a personal note to the seller

Not everything in a home sale is about money. Seller’s feelings about their home are often very strong. Appealing to their nostalgia in a short, personal letter about how you’ll enjoy living there might sway them!

Lynn Cooper is a licensed REALTOR in Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Whether buying or selling, Lynn is 100% committed to her clients before, during, and after the transaction. Connect with Lynn at 202-489-7894, [email protected] or @lynncooperrealestate.

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Paint is the most inexpensive way to transform your home — it makes an incredible impact. As a former interior designer, I’ve seen many houses look radically different with just a simple coat of paint in a new color.

Let’s face it: We’ve been spending a lot of time in our houses because of COVID. Instead of renovating, try paint as an inexpensive alternative!

Choose high-quality paints like Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore. They apply easily without any streaks and contain 40% more pigment than paints from the big box stores so you can paint fewer coats. This saves time and money (and a lot of aggravation!). Down the road, cleaning up small scratches and marks is easier if better paint is used.

My favorite neutral colors this year are City Loft by Sherwin Williams and Edgecomb Gray by Benjamin Moore. I love using those colors on the walls and ceilings instead of using traditional white ceiling paint.

Photo (center) via House Beautiful

Bold colors are also trending now, like a green library/home office (Soft Spruce by Benjamin Moore). If this is too much color for you, consider painting a bold color to just one wall. A condo I recently sold in North Reston was all white with one black wall (Seal Skin by Sherwin Williams), and it was stunning!

Go beyond just walls — consider painting your kitchen/bath cabinets, front door and window sashes or freshen up old furniture with a funky paint color to add punch to your space.

Painting just a little bit can make a huge impact on the way your space looks and feels. It’s amazing how color can impact our emotions, and the way our home makes us feel. The colors you choose creates the foundation of your home’s personality and reflects your own!

Lynn Cooper is a licensed REALTOR in Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Whether buying or selling, Lynn is 100% committed to her clients before, during, and after the transaction. Connect with Lynn at 202-489-7894, [email protected] or @lynncooperrealestate.

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Tell any well-meaning friend or relative that you’re buying a home and be prepared for a ton of advice. Some of it may be good, but the old thinking that you need 20% down to buy a home simply isn’t true.

Susan Ciapparelli, Senior Loan Officer at American Security Mortgage, states: “Only 1 in 4 of my clients are putting 20% or more down when home buying.”

Why? There are many loan programs available to assist buyers in obtaining the American dream without completely depleting their savings.

For example, FHA loans only require a 3.5% down payment, and the lending guidelines are less stringent than with conventional loans. So, if your credit score is less than ideal, you can still qualify for a mortgage. Additionally, FHA loans may be assumable, so when it comes time to sell, a buyer could assume your interest rate making your home much more attractive to purchase, especially given the historically low interest rates we’re seeing today. Loans issued by the Veterans Administration require 0% down and may also be assumable. (Of course, you need to be a U.S. veteran to qualify.) On a conventional loan, you can put down as little as 3%, so for example, on a $565,000 sales price you can put down as little as $16,950.

Let’s also talk about mortgage insurance, also known as PMI (private mortgage insurance). Many buyers fear mortgage insurance simply because they don’t understand it. With conventional loans, your lender will require this insurance if you’re putting less than 20% down to protect themselves if you stop paying the mortgage. Mortgage insurance is based on your credit score and a few other factors. If you have great credit, your monthly PMI could be very low, freeing up your money to make improvements to your new home. Additionally, PMI can be paid in one lump sum at closing; financed in some cases or credited, instead of having monthly payments.

My advice? Have a loan officer run different scenarios using a variety of loan programs to determine the best down payment option for you; each person’s scenario can be drastically different.

Lynn Cooper is a licensed REALTOR in Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Whether buying or selling, Lynn is 100% committed to her clients before, during, and after the transaction. Connect with Lynn at 202-489-7894, [email protected] or @lynncooperrealestate.

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Here is a really important question: What do sellers want in today’s housing market?

Low inventory and low interest rates mean there aren’t a lot of homes for sale, but there are lots of buyers looking to make a move. Sellers are receiving multiple offers above list price, but what do sellers want beyond escalated sales dollars?

1. High earnest money deposits and large down payments

The earnest money deposit shows the seller you’re serious about purchasing. This money is sent to the title company as part of the offer and held in an escrow account before closing. It’s also known as a “good faith deposit” and protects the seller if you back out of the contract. Typically, it’s about 1-3% of the sales price, but if you want to win a contract these days, consider offering more, even as much as 10-15%.

A large down payment also shows the seller you’re serious and have the funds to back up your offer. Sellers worry about buyers’ financing falling through, and these two strategies can help ease their minds.

2. A “clean contract”

This means no contingencies — home inspection, appraisal and finance contingencies all waived. Sellers don’t want to have to negotiate for repairs from a home inspection report and deal with the hassle of having minor problems repaired. Consider waiving the home inspection and purchasing a home warranty to cover the cost of repairs that may arise once you own the home.

Additionally, waiving the appraisal means you’re willing to bring additional funds to the closing table if an appraiser deems the home is worth less than your offer amount. You can shift dollars from your down payment to cover this gap.

Lastly, waiving the financing contingency means you’re confident in your ability to obtain a loan. If you feel secure in your job/financial situation, this may be a good option, but please talk to your lender first.

And don’t forget: Listing agents and sellers do not want to see any mistakes on the sales contract. Be sure your agent is detail-oriented and, of course, read the contract yourself before signing!

3. A quick close

Sellers want their money and to move on! Most transactions can close in as little as 30 to 45 days depending on title work and lender procedures. Check with your lender about pre-underwriting your loan to close quicker — this can be a huge plus!

Lynn Cooper is a licensed REALTOR in Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Whether buying or selling, Lynn is 100% committed to her clients before, during, and after the transaction. Connect with Lynn at 202-489-7894, [email protected] or @lynncooperrealestate.

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We’re in a seller’s market. We’ve all heard it from our friends and have seen it on the news.

However, I’ve been on showings with buyer clients recently and noticed some sellers are getting too aggressive with their pricing. We’ve seen marked-up walls, dirty floors/carpet, lots of clutter, even holes in countertops! When buyers are touring these homes, they’re either completely turned off, or they’re mentally deducting money from the list price. 

Some sellers are also investing money in things buyers don’t care about, such as unique details that don’t appeal to most people, intricate flooring or flooring that differs from room to room, glass tile backsplashes in kitchens that make the home look dated, dark paint colors, or shoddy work done by contractors, such as painting over switch plates (that drives me crazy!).

The first days your home is on the market are crucial! If you’re not getting showing requests in the first 24 to 48 hours, your home is likely mispriced. Ideally, we want one showing per day on average the first week we’re on the market. 

In fact, the longer your home is on the market, the less it will eventually sell for. As the “days on market” accumulate, buyers AND agents think something is wrong with it and won’t want to tour.

Some sellers think, “I’ll be aggressive and just lower the price in a couple of weeks.” This is called ‘chasing the market.’ The buyers have already moved on and have no interest in your home. Why? They don’t want to negotiate with an unrealistic seller or someone they interpret as being difficult. 

The bottom line: Consult with an agent that truly understands this market and has a solid pricing strategy. 

Lynn Cooper is a licensed REALTOR in Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Whether buying or selling, Lynn is 100% committed to her clients before, during, and after the transaction. Connect with Lynn at 202-489-7894, [email protected] or @lynncooperrealestate.

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The only thing more damaging to your home than fire is water. Water damage can be truly disastrous. Left unchecked, even a slow leak will rot drywall and studs, create mold, and eventually weaken major structural elements like joists and beams.

Much water damage results from easily curable flaws that homeowners can do on their own. Here are some simple repairs you can make to avoid water damage:

Properly Grade the Soil Around Your Home

The soil directly surrounding the foundation of your home should be at a 30-degree angle, encouraging water to flow away. Ground that declines toward the house will result in pooled water, which can enter the foundation at that point or seep downward and enter through the basement floor.

Simply pack the soil down and rake it so it ramps away from the foundation; picture a small ball being placed at the base of the foundation that would slowly roll away from the home. This grading effect should be at least a foot long.

Attend to the Downspouts

Make sure your downspouts are cleared at least twice per year — or more often if you have a lot of trees near your home that drop leaves onto the roof and downspouts causing clogging. Also, clear the base of the downspouts of debris to ensure they can carry water away from the foundation. These downspouts should be at least 2 feet away from the foundation.

Fix Cracked or Missing Caulk

Walk around your home’s exterior to look for cracked or missing caulk around doors and windows. Pay special attention to the top of the window casing where water can easily accumulate.

Inside, peel off and replace any cracked caulk around bathtubs, showers and sinks. Water can easily seep into these cracks and cause drywall damage and eventually mold.

Inspect Your Roof and Attic

Roof leaks can go undetected for years and cause significant damage. Take a pair of binoculars and look for missing/peeling shingles.

Inside your home, check your attic for mold or water damage and to ensure your bathroom fans are properly venting to the exterior. You don’t have to see any daylight in your attic to have a problem.

Lastly, even if you have a new roof, flashing only lasts 10-15 years whereas the rest of the new roof can last much longer. Have your flashing inspected professionally and replaced if needed.

Lynn Cooper is a licensed REALTOR in Virginia with McEnearney Associates in McLean. Whether buying or selling, Lynn is 100% committed to her clients before, during, and after the transaction. Connect with Lynn at 202-489-7894, [email protected] or @lynncooperrealestate.

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