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Reston Real Estate: The Corridor 2.0

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.

I’ve been checking out the new construction that’s popping up along Sunset Hills Road and Sunrise Valley Drive. As a long time Restonian it’s a little unnerving to see the crush of development taking place in areas that were previously office parks and light industry enclaves.

The new Pulte Homes project on Michael Faraday felt especially jarring to me. As I stood in a beautifully finished living room I experienced a kind of cognitive dissonance; every previous trip I’d ever made on that end of Sunset Hills Road has been related to dental appointments, trips to the Post Office or picking up to-go meals from China Star.

Now I was looking at an evolving skyline, two blocks away was the striking face of 1900 Reston Station — the Helmut Jahn building; beyond that the cranes are visible for the other mixed use projects that are coming to Sunset Hills.

The Pulte Homes project is the first of many to come along Sunset Hills Road that will create an entirely new Reston neighborhood, one with a much more urban feel to it than any other we’ve seen before.

The Pulte project is called Lofts at Reston Station. It is comprised of 12 two level row house styled condos and 32 one level condos in an elevator building. The one level condos offer 7 floor plans all two bedroom, 2 full bath units ranging from 1,274 sq. ft. to 1,668 sq. ft. The baseline features include 9 ft. ceilings, hardwood floors, granite counters in kitchens and baths and a full range of energy efficient and smart home technologies.

It will be interesting to watch this area develop over the next several years, transforming into a walkable, transit focused and very dense neighborhood. It looks like this neighborhood is on a path to develop into something that will have a core to anchor it — the Metro Plaza.

It will be interesting to watch that plaza evolve as the community settles in around it as residents rather than commuters. It’s not unlike Reston’s early developments, creating the gathering places, adding the residence and then letting it bubble into a neighborhood.

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Reston Real Estate: Selling In Reston? Start Now to be Ready for the Spring Market

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.

I don’t typically hold to the notion that one time of year is better for selling your home versus another. For as long as I’ve been selling real estate, I have always had at least a couple of transactions around the winter holidays, but conventional wisdom says that there is something magical about spring.

As of this writing there are 87 days until spring. I have two listing appointments this week with sellers that want to go over what they should do to get their property ready for the spring market.

They’ll be surprised when they find there is a long list of “to do’s” to get a house ready for the market.

The first place to start is by cleaning. I don’t the mean the vacuum & dusting kind of cleaning. I mean the scrub the grout with a tooth brush kind of cleaning. I mean you do your best imitation of your crazy Aunt Saddie with the obsessive compulsive cleaning disorder kind of cleaning.

Some clients opt for hiring a cleaning crew; if you’re going to do that you should de-clutter your house before bringing in a cleaning professional. And if your “to do” list includes painting, save the professional cleaning for the last item on your list.

So what does the typical seller “to do” list look like?

  • Reduce contents of all closets by half. Stuffed closets speak to prospective buyers — they say “this house doesn’t have enough storage.” This may not be the case; maybe you’re just really bad about getting rid of the excess we all seem to accumulate.
  • Neutralize your home. Pre-pack most of your personal items like family photos, your ceramic frog collection and other things that can distract buyers from seeing the house.
  • Be prepared to put furniture and other items in storage.
  • 50% of the houses I see prior to listing need to be painted — go neutral.
  • Clean everything — every, nook, cranny, light switch cover, door jamb, door knobs, everything.
  • Do not overlook the utility areas of your home, they should be thoroughly cleaned and organized including the area around the furnace and water heater.

A super clean and orderly home says “I have been well maintained.” A clean house reduces buyer anxiety.

One of the first things I do for clients after signing a listing agreement is to drop off 100 office sized boxes to be used to de-clutter, or as we like to call it, pre-packing.

A home that is free of clutter makes room for the prospective buyer to mentally picture themselves with their own possessions in that home; which in turn helps to move the buyer from thinking to acting…writing a contract.

The more you can do to clean, organize, neutralize, paint and upgrade, the faster your home will go from being on the market to sold.

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Where to properly dispose of American flags — The American Legion collects American flags at several county government locations. [Fairfax County]

Fairfax County doctor is preventing opioid addiction —  Dr. Jae Lim, who is credentialed at the Reston Hospital Center, is using a new technique to lower the risk of opioid addiction. [Fox 5 DC]

Real estate development company third-quarter results — Comstock Holding Companies, Inc., which is based in Reston, saw a bump in revenue for the third-quarter, compared to the same period last year. [Globe Newswire]

Blood drive —  A blood drive will be hosted by INOVA Blood Donor Services and the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department at the Fire and Rescue Academy from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill 

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Reston Real Estate: Chadd’s Ford Cluster, South Reston

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.

Restonians love their lakeside living and Chadd’s Ford Cluster is one of the many townhome communities in South Reston to take advantage. This neighborhood of 57 brick and siding townhouses is located off Ridge Heights Road on Lake Thoreau — about half of those are direct lakefront properties.

The cluster was built between 1978 and 1980, and each three-level home has two to four bedrooms. And, all homes have at least two assigned parking spaces.

For those who enjoy boating or rafting, Chadd’s Ford Cluster owns and maintains two docks for the residents and guests to use and enjoy. Any day the weather is nice, you’ll see people making the most of living on lovely Lake Thoreau.

For those who like leisurely walks or runs, the Reston Association paths run through the cluster. It’s a beautiful, short walk to South Lakes Village Shopping Center for dining and shopping.

For families, Chadd’s Ford Cluster is walking distance to South Lakes High School, Langston Hughes Middle School and Terraset Elementary School.

This is the kind of neighborhood where you can see the residents’ pride in the beautifully manicured landscaping. The cluster association sponsors several social gatherings each year, adding to the warm community feel.

Give it a visit and you’ll see what I mean. This is a wonderful neighborhood.

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Reston Real Estate: South Shore and Fairway Drive

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.

Ask anyone who lived in Reston in the 60’s and 70’s what the most “exclusive” neighborhood was, and they’ll likely say South Shore Drive and Fairway.

Why? Because each custom-designed single family home is beautiful, the streets are tree-lined, and you float down to Lake Anne Plaza on your private boat.

Almost 50 years later, it is still one of the most tranquil and idyllic neighborhoods in Reston. The variety of architecture makes it one of the most unique and the proximity to Lake Anne and the Town Center make it one of the most desirable.

The neighborhood consists of 3 to 4-bedroom homes built between 1965 and 1970. Most are Contemporary style with hardwood floors and plenty of windows (the better to gaze upon the lake).

Fairway Drive is off Wiehle Avenue, between the two North Shore Drives (for those who don’t know, North Shore is a horseshoe). South Shore Drive sits on Lake Anne, and residents have private dock privileges — and most take advantage of that with private boats that they take to concerts and events at Lake Anne Plaza.

Children attend Lake Anne Elementary, Langston Hughes Middle and South Lakes High School. It’s an easy walk to Lake Anne Plaza or Tall Oaks Village Center and a quick hop over to Reston Town Center. South Shore and Fairway are also just minutes from the Toll Road the new Reston Metro Center.

Autumn is a perfect time to take walk around Lake Anne and to stop to admire this charming neighborhood.

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Reston Real Estate: Golf Course Island Cluster

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.

I think Golf Course Island Cluster is one of Reston’s gems. From the outside, these contemporary, cedar sided homes look small. But walk inside and it’s like one of those magic tents in Harry Potter — the space just expands. This may be one of the reason’s the community won an architectural design award when they were built in the late 60s.

There is a lot going on in Golf Course Island Cluster right now. Over the last several years, the original owners have been moving out and young families and young professionals are moving in.

As this happens, people are renovating the homes — mostly updating the kitchens. With 188 units, homes come up for sale often — some are fixer uppers, others have been freshly renovated. Whatever you are looking for, you will find it here.

The Golf Course Island townhomes come in various sizes. Most are three bedrooms, although there are a couple with two bedrooms and a few with four bedrooms and lofts.

The hallmark of all is well-designed space that flows, large closets and privacy. Yes, privacy in a town house. The cluster is designed so that every home feels private and secluded — you won’t hear your neighbors through the walls.

Much of the cluster backs Hidden Creek Country Club’s golf course, and the main living areas open to the common areas and green space. While it appears that the private golf course is likely to be redeveloped, the plans we’ve seen so far call for a 100+ acre public amenity in the form of a park and recreational facilities.

The common spaces of Golf Course Island are beautifully maintained. For the children, there is a great playground with wonderful slides in block 12 (there are 12 blocks in the cluster). The children love it.

On most nice afternoons, you will see the neighborhood families sitting on the bench while the children run around the quad in delight. For those with dogs, there are many paths through the neighborhood, and plenty of squirrels to chase.

Each townhome is assigned one carport space, and there is ample open parking for every unit to have a second car. For visitors, there is parking on Links Drive and North Shore Drive. Golf Course Island is about one mile from the Reston Metro, Reston Town Center, and Lake Anne Plaza. And there is easy access to the Reston Association pools and other recreation areas.

Prices are ranging here depending on the condition of the home, but for the most part are in the upper-400s to upper 500s. Check out this beautiful and friendly cluster.

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Reston Real Estate: The Clusters of Moorings Drive, Lake Anne Reston

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.

Have you ever parked on Moorings Drive on your way to the Reston Farmer’s Market and wondered what kind of houses the street leads to?

Let me tell you — it’s a wonderful mix of the different styles of Reston town homes. This neighbor is not only charming, it’s quiet and close to everything.

The first cluster on your left is Brookshire, one of the first clusters built in Reston in 1964 and 65. It’s one of Reston’s smallest clusters and has an impressive ratio of green space to homes — 5 acres to 26 homes.

Lush green foliage, magnificent old oak trees, interconnecting paths and recreational areas surround the cluster. These two and three bedroom townhomes feature an average of 1,500 square feet of living space.

Then comes Chatham Colony Cluster. This is also a small cluster, with about 45 homes that each has a wooded backyard. These colonial style townhomes have brick exteriors, shuttered windows, and two designated parking spaces.

With three bedrooms and full basements, each home offers plenty of space for growing families and empty nesters alike. And like most Reston homes built in the 1970’s, each has beautiful hardwood floors and large windows.

Next on the tour is Wyndmere Cluster, the newest addition to this area. Like all of the townhome clusters off moorings, residents have access to Lake Anne.

Finally, there is Moorings Cluster, built between 1971 and 1972. These spacious three to five-bedroom townhomes have fantastic views of Lake Anne (70% are direct lakefront properties). Unlike many lakeside townhouse communities, each of the 50 homes in this neighborhood has a garage.

All of these clusters off Moorings Drive have easy access to main roads and public transportation. This is the kind of neighborhood where you can take full advantage of everything Reston has to offer — you can walk to Lake Anne, jog on the nearby Reston Association paths or be at Reston Town Center in a matter of minutes.

It’s also close to ballparks, pools, tennis courts, the sprinkler park (off North Shore Drive) and more. Many residents have small boats and canoes that they take out on Lake Anne, enjoying a leisurely paddle to the plaza for concerts, festivals and dining.

In the summer, residents can walk to the popular Farmer’s Market and Reston Market. Neighborhood residents attend Reston’s Lake Anne Elementary, Langston Hughes Middle and South Lakes High School.

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Reston Real Estate: Remember “Cost of Ownership” When Buying a Home

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.

Originally published November 30, 2013

Question: “I’m a first time buyer. I’ve been looking (online) at townhouses and condos in the Reston area.

It seems like I can buy more if I get a townhouse because there won’t be any condo fees. My father says that the condo fees pay for things that I’ll have to pay for eventually.

What do you think?”

Answer: I think your Father is a pretty smart guy. Let’s look at the question from a different perspective. For most things we own there is something called the “cost of ownership” which means simply it costs money to maintain things.

Cars need maintenance. Pets need to go to the vet. Some clothes can only be dry cleaned.

It is the same with property. It requires maintenance and repair and to maintain its value.

Hopefully part of your plan to purchase a property includes understanding what it will cost to keep it in good repair.

When you purchase a condo some parts of the property maintenance are the responsibility of the condominium association. Your condo fees include a contribution to both the day-to-day operations and something called the reserve and replacement fund.

The reserve and replacement fund is where the money for things like a new roof, replacement flooring in commonly shared hallways, maintenance of parking lots, garages and all the other things that the condo owners share in common.

What that includes will vary from condo to condo but it typically includes the entire exterior except for windows and doors.

When considering the purchase of a condo it is important to look at the condo’s financials and audit report to confirm that the reserve fund is large enough to cover anticipated repairs; an under funded reserve account is a future special assessment.

A special assessment occurs when something breaks and there’s not enough money for the repair — the condo association then has to collect extra money from the members to make the repair.

So, the short answer to your question is that your dad is right. If you buy a townhouse you’ll have to take charge of saving to replace your roof, your water heater, your furnace, etc. In a condo some of that will be saved for you through the payment of your condo fee, but you’ll want to make sure that the condo association is well run and in good financial shape.

Follow this link to a more detailed blog post about understanding condo fees.

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Reston Real Estate: Is Condo Living Right For You?

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.

I’ve lived on Lake Anne Plaza for about 16 years now. Rick and I originally purchased our first condo, a 1 bedroom in the high rise, to help out one of our kids who needed a stable place to live while struggling with the transition into fully launched adulthood.

As we painted and prepared the condo for our daughter we were smitten with the property. Later, as we watched the community embrace and support and care about our daughter, our infatuation grew and we knew we’d found a place where we wanted to connect.

It wasn’t long before we sold our single family home and moved into a townhouse in Washington Plaza Cluster — a few years after that we moved into a large condo in the high rise on Lake Anne Plaza.

Throughout our time on Lake Anne we’ve been active in the community. I served for years on the condo board, the landscaping committee, ran the Saturday Craft Market and was active in the Merchant’s Committee. Rick has served on the condo board of directors for the past 10 years.

Whenever I work with clients that are considering condo living I try to explain the unique environment that is created when people live in such close proximity to one another. It puts a little more demand on one’s ability to interact with others in a civil manner.

It’s not that there aren’t all kinds of disagreements and even out and out feelings of hostility — but to give in to those ignoble feelings has much deeper consequences when one lives in community. It’s hard to pass someone in the hall way that you’ve publicly demonized; it divides and tears down the community.

I used to joke that living in the Lake Anne Village Center has taught me a lot about forgiveness — because when you live this close to people your only real choice is to forgive them — otherwise at the end of your first year or so you’d have to lock yourself in your condo.

I think often of hearing Bob Simon saying he wished everyone knew “how nice it was to live in close contact with your fellow humans.” I don’t think Bob was being saccharine when he said that — he was a realist about people’s short-comings, but he understood the great richness that living in community brings into one’s own life; certainly for me a great gift.

Current Market Conditions in Reston

  • 203 Active Listings
  • 139 Pending Listings
  • 144 Sold in the past 30 days

Average Days on Market = 31

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Reston Real Estate: Road to Less

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.

Last week I wrote about what drives a move. It’s rarely as simple as “I want a different house” and almost always “I want or am being driven into a different life.”

I think that one of my strengths as an agent has been to listen carefully for the driving cause of a home move and to be sensitive to the other issues associated with that cause. One of my favorite kinds of clients are the downsizers, or empty nesters. It can be such a great time of life — but one that can be fraught with a potent mix of excitement and nostalgia.

I remember the day my husband Rick and I knew it was time to give up our single family home on Buttermilk Lane. It was the fall; we were bagging up our 100th plus bag of leaves on a cold blustery November day and I thought, “Wow, I am so over this.”

Our youngest daughter had left that August for Georgia Tech so we were rattling around in our house, forever shouting to one another from the upstairs to the downstairs. It wasn’t a huge house but it was so much more than we needed and more importantly so much more than we wanted to maintain.

It seemed every weekend was dedicated to house maintenance or other related management. We were both seriously over it!

Our downsizing journey started on that cold afternoon in November. We made a side stop in a lovely townhouse overlooking the Van Gogh Bridge and ultimately landed in our perfectly sized Lake Anne condo. The townhouse was ultimately still too large and too vertical but was probably a necessary step for us in the transition process.

At the time that we decided to sell our Buttermilk Lane house I was not a real estate agent so we engaged an agent with good understanding of the Reston market and scheduled a walk-through of our home to discuss what needed to be done to get it ready to sell.

Our place was in pretty good shape — we had a few things to do but the vast majority of our effort was in purging the house of the accumulation of 15+ years’ worth of junk.

I was shocked at how long this step took. We started in November and were listed about 12 weeks later and it took every bit of those 12 weeks to get it ready.

In the end we had less junk, less to take care, less to worry about and lots more time. We also moved into a great community where a snowy day becomes a reason to host a casual pot-luck. Not a bad exchange.

Here are a few great downsizing options.

Open to different kinds of houses but want a great walkable community? Check out these great options.

Want a more urban experience with tons of dining options? Check out these Town Center options.

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Reston Real Estate: It’s Not Just About the Houses

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.

One of the biggest surprises of being in real estate was realizing how little the work turns out to be about houses, and how much more it is about walking with people as they navigate different life transitions.

I love the HGTV real estate shows where the real estate agent shows a buyer 3 homes and voila, they pick a house, write a contract, move in and the next time you see them they’re at a house warming party — all this in 30 minutes.

As is often the case with realty TV, it’s not very real.

In real life people are dealing with all kinds of events that are driving them from one place to another place. Some are happy, some are sad, some are speculative, but it is mostly about life changes, marriage, births, deaths, retiring, divorcing, new jobs and lost jobs.

Sometimes it’s about more than one thing, a new marriage and a new job.

Change is almost always hard for people; we are rarely at our best when we’re moving through transitions. Real estate agents spend a lot of time with people who aren’t at their best, but they might be more real than if you had met them at a cocktail party.

It’s one of the things I like about my job, the connection that is made if only for a short while.

Here are the Reston numbers. There are currently 227 fully active properties on the market in Reston. We have 172 pending properties which leaves us with a little less than two months inventory. The Condo market is sluggish with days on market longer than other types of property. Pricing continues to be critical no matter what type of property you’re trying to sell.

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Reston Real Estate: The Walking Trails of Reston

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.

It was a really cold Spring. After last night’s crazy storm, it might not feel fully safe to venture out, but the good weather is upon us. It’s time to get outside.

I’m super excited about the outdoor season this year. On March 1 I had total hip replacement and am feeling stronger than I have in the past two years — so I’m excited to talk about the walking trails of Reston.

Reston Association maintains 55 miles of foot paths that cover every neighborhood in Reston, and they are a wonderful community asset. Even in Winter RA does a fantastic job of plowing the paths so you can still use them.

Fairfax County has a wonderful interactive map of all the paths so that you can plan your route before you head out. Wandering the RA paths is one of the best ways to get to know both North and South Reston. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite walks about town — but don’t stop with these.

Town Center to Lake Anne, North Reston

This walk is just shy of 1.5 miles and winds through a few of North Reston’s original neighborhoods — Coleson Cluster and Hickory Woods (I have a great house for sale in Coleson — check it out here).

It’s fun to have brunch at Town Center than wander down to Lake Anne to shop at the farmer’s market (starting in early May through November).

Lake Thoreau Loop, South Reston

This loop is just over 2 miles and circles around charming Lake Thoreau (where I guarantee you’ll decide you want to live) and past the Reston Regional Golf Course. Begin and end your loop at South Lakes Village with a coffee or delicious lunch.

Walker Nature Education Center and Glade, South Reston

There are many options for a walk from here. From the Center, follow the trailhead and see where it takes you! There is a short loop (probably a half mile), or you can venture off on the RA path that follows Glade. Whatever you choose, you will feel like you are miles from civilization. It’s a wonderful place to recharge.

North Point Loop, North Reston

This is a 4 mile loop for those who want a little more exercise. This trail is great because it really gives you a sense of the North Point community. I recommend starting at Lake Newport pool.

These trails take you through several charming neighborhoods, and you’ll notice an abundance of RA pools and tennis courts (in fact, if you do this in the summer, pop into one of the pools for a refreshing dip). After your brisk walk, cross the street over to North Point Village for coffee, ice cream or a hearty lunch!

Tall Oaks to Lake Fairfax Park, North Reston

I’m not entirely sure how long this walk is, but the park loop takes about a half hour — longer if you’re with a dog who needs to investigate all the great smells.

Park at Tall Oaks Village Center, cross under the underpass and head toward the wooden bridge. When you hit a dirt trailhead, take a left and follow the trail into Lake Fairfax Park. You’ll cross a little creek and then the path opens to what is a large loop. Go left or right and just follow it around.

It’s a gorgeous walk in the woods! Just be careful — mountain bikers train here. They’re very courteous, but they’re also usually going pretty fast!

The trails of Reston are, in my opinion, one of the greatest features of our community. You really can get anywhere you need or want to go on foot, and it’s always fun to discover a new trail and see where it takes you. I’m most often on the trails around Lake Anne — wave if you see me!

Photo by Charlotte Geary

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Reston Real Estate: Do Absentee Owners Impact Your Cluster?

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.

I had a great real estate question this week. A friend who lives in a Lake Anne neighborhood wrote to say that the number of rentals had increased in her cluster; she was worried about the impact of that on the community and property values. She wanted to know “…what, if anything, could be done about it.”  A quick search of her cluster and determined that in her cluster were 27.5% absentee owners.

27.5% investor ownership is probably something that would be noticed in a smaller neighborhood. You might see more a little more transience with people coming and going and it can, not always, leave things looking a little less kept-up.

In condominiums lenders look at investor ownership levels as a part of assessing risk of lending in a particular condominium. If a condominium gets above 35% investor ownership some banks start looking for higher down payments from buyers and if a condominium gets to 50% investor ownership many banks will pass on lending all together.

So what can a townhouse cluster do to minimize the impact of higher investor ratios? Here are the recommendations I made to my friend who originally posed the question.

Push for strong covenants enforcement because this is where real damage can be done to a neighborhood with high investor ratios. Absentee owners can have an out of sight out of mind attitude about maintenance and tenants are rarely responsible for more than basic yard care.

Work with your cluster board to be tough about exterior repairs and maintenance. Form a group that looks for issues, don’t let absentee owners slide on violations. They are profiting from the rental of property and should shoulder their share of the burden of maintenance to keep the neighborhood as whole looking good.

This can be a great opportunity to keep a helpful eye on older owners who may not be as able to do some of heavy lifting required for exterior maintenance. Having a group of “helpers” that pitch in where needed will keep the neighborhood looking good and provide an excuse to check in on neighbors that might need a little assistance.

And finally, remember that tenants are also your neighbors — they don’t have full control of the property they occupy, but the more engaged everyone is in the well-being of the community the better.

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Reston Real Estate: Are Condo Fees a Total Rip Off?

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.

While helping a couple narrow down the focus of their Reston home search recently, the husband made a statement that he would never own a condominium because the fees were in his opinion “a total rip-off.”

As a condo dweller and active in my condo for years, I’ve heard this sentiment on condo fees many times before.

When you own a townhouse or a single family home you understand that sooner or later you will have to replace your water heater, roof, windows, siding, appliances. Hopefully you have a financial plan that allows you to save for the replacement of things as they wear out. It is a “pay me now or pay me later” situation, but you are going to pay.

When you defer home maintenance you won’t get top dollar for your property when you go to sell. Most people would prefer to save a little bit each month in anticipation of home repairs rather than face a large unplanned expense. Condo management requires this forced savings.

Every year condominiums (in Virginia) are required to confirm that they are reserving enough money to repair, replace and maintain the property. If a condo has not adequately reserved (saved) the money needed to make repairs and has a sudden failure in a common element, it must make a special assessment in order to make whatever repairs are needed to maintain the property.

So, a rip-off? Not if your property is properly maintained.

What are my condo fees paying for anyway?

In a condominium, the fees fund two categories: operating expense and reserve funds. The operating expenses are the monthly costs required for trash, grounds maintenance and snow removal, administration and condo management.

The reserve funds represent the anticipated cost of replacing and repairing common elements of the property like roofs, sidewalks and elevators. The amount of money needed in the reserve fund is determined by a study which by law, is undertaken at least every 5 years for the purpose of determining how much money is needed to repair, replace and restore the capital components of the property. Every year condominiums (in Virginia) are required to review their study results and confirm that they are reserving enough money to repair, replace and maintain the property.

Before you choose this form of own ownership consider:

  • Condo life involves a lot of governance
  • Well-run condos always include an active membership

Some leadership decisions might be unpopular, but ultimately protect the membership from unplanned assessments by insuring that reserves are adequate to meet the expected and unexpected repairs

When looking at condominium ownership, you will have a chance to review a resale package that will include the condominium bylaws, rules and regulations, current financial reports and audited financial reports. Review these carefully looking for potential problems. Questions to ask should include:

  • What do the audited financial statements say about the reserve funds? Are they adequate?
  • What major projects/repairs are anticipated for the upcoming year?
  • What projects were completed in the prior year?

The other thing to consider is what type of condo environment are you looking at? Is there a doorman or a concierge? The cost of people always goes up, so if you are looking at a condo with these types of amenities you should expect a slow steady rise in condo fees.

Are my condo fees too low?

If you live in a condo where the fees haven’t gone up for years, or if you are looking to buy a condo where they are advertising a low condo fee as a “feature” take a closer look. The costs of goods and services have not gone down. Try to determine if something isn’t happening that should be happening.

When evaluating the financial position of a condominium there are some cost-of-ownership items that don’t apply in single-family home ownership. One glaring item is the cost of delinquencies — due to owners that are behind in paying their condo fees.

While this isn’t the issue it was during the post-housing crash; a well-managed condos will actually provide an allowance for some percentage of delinquent accounts to insure that they have adequate operating cushion. When looking at a condominium’s resale package be sure to look at the dollar amount of delinquent accounts and ask what that number represents as a percentage of the whole.

So what’s the upside of condo ownership? In a well-run, well-managed condominium where the Board of Directors takes its responsibility seriously, property values are protected through active maintenance and enhancement of the property. You not only get to enjoy a well maintained property while you live there and you can feel confident about the condition of your property when you go to sell.

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Reston Real Estate: Hickory Cluster

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.

Urban planning and architectural students study Reston, VA for a reason — some of Reston’s early designs were groundbreaking.

Hickory Cluster, the first development in Reston, is one. Designed by the famous architect Charles Goodman, they represent why Goodman’s early designs changed the way developments were planned.

Architectural historian Elizabeth Jo Lample noted in Housing Washington, “The appeal of living in a Goodman house is enormous to those who share his avant-garde spirit, plus his ideals for openness, engagement with nature and liberal social values… To those who are fortunate enough to obtain them, his dwellings feel like highly livable works of art, glazed conduits to the natural world.”

One of Goodman’s trademarks is the way he used the land.

In Hickory Cluster, he arranged groups of townhouses around intricately paved terraces, which in turn are leveled into a wooded hilltop. Overlooking Lake Anne Village Center, the Hickory Cluster townhomes features sharp changes in the rooflines, varying sizes and contrasting textures.

The homes come in a variety of designs with 2, 3 or 4 bedrooms, rooftop terraces, balconies, playrooms, private studies, family rooms and recreation rooms.

The cluster backs up to Reston Association path and is just a short walk to Lake Anne, Reston Town Center and Lake Anne Elementary School. The Reston Station, Silver Line Metrorail, is a five minute drive and Dulles International Airport is within 15 minutes by car.

Charles Goodman also designed Hollin Hills, a single family home development in Alexandria VA. For an up close look at Hollin Hills be sure to check out the Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour this April 28th.

Like Hickory Cluster these homes have stood the test of time with spaces that feel just as relevant today as they did more than 50 years ago.

Visit the Hickory Cluster website to learn more about this historic, and beautiful, Reston community.

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