Archive for July, 2008
July 30th, 2008 Categories: Real Estate News
Shortly after 7am this morning, President Bush signed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. Widely known as a stimulus package designed to prevent further foreclosures, the bill covers a number of other areas including:
- Higher Loan Limits – raises the GSE (government sponsored enterprise), FHA and VA single-family loan limits on a permanent basis.
- GSE Regulatory Reform - increases regulation of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks (GSEs) by creating a new regulator and regulatory requirements.
- GSE Stabilization – establishes several new powers and authorities to stabilize the GSEs in the event of financial crises.
- Affordable Housing Trust Fund – creates from assessments on the GSEs businesses a fund to help prevent foreclosures and facilitate affordable housing.
- Licensing – encourages a nation-wide licensing and registry system for loan originators by setting minimum qualifications and assigning HUD responsibility for establishing requirements for those states not enacting licensing laws.
- Active Service Members – extends stays of foreclosure and legal proceedings from 90 days to 9 months and extends the 6 percent mortgage rate cap for one year after active duty.
- Truth in Lending Act (TILA) – adds new mortgage disclosure requirements under TILA.
- Veterans Matters- provides home improvement benefits for the disabled.
- FHA Rescue Plan - authorizes a new FHA “Hope for Homeowners Program” to refinance existing borrowers into fixed rate FHA mortgage products.
- FHA Modernization - modernizes FHA programs.
- Redevelopment of Abandoned and Foreclosed Homes – authorizes $4 billion in block grant funds for states to purchase and redevelop foreclosed properties.
- Counseling - authorizes funds for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (NRC)
- Public Housing Authorities – reduces regulatory requirements for smaller PHAs
- Tax Incentives - establishes a range of tax incentives, including first-time home buyer tax credits and expands the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.
- Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) – loosens certain restrictions on REITs.
- Public Debt Limit – increases the Federal debt limit to $10.615 trillion.
For more information or specifics on the higher loan limits, call me at 703.927.4554.
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Large outdoor areas on the King Street corridor in Old Town Alexandria, from Washington Street to the City Marina, are now optimal for free outdoor wireless use thanks to Wireless Alexandria.
The outdoor coverage is the largest of its kind in the region.
The signal is also available for some distance in all directions depending on building locations and other conditions.
Wireless Alexandria is a great draw for residents and tourists alike. Whether sitting in a sidewalk cafe or lounging in a shady nook on the waterfront, the ability to stay in touch or work while distant from a home network is just one more great reason for living in Alexandria.
As with all good things there is a warning – the network is not secured and any sensitive personal or financial information sent across the network will not be encrypted.
And if it’s raining? Head for Old Town’s Queen Street Library – or any of Alexandria’s other public libraries – for their free wireless.
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July 29th, 2008 Categories: Alexandria
Local election officials are predicting a record turnout for the November 4th Presidential Election. No matter who you support or who you will vote for, there are 3 things every Alexandria resident should do before Election Day:
1 – Check your registration to make sure it is current. Call 703.838.4050 or go online to verify that you are registered at your current address. If you need to register or update your registration you may also download a voter registration application.
2 - Check your absentee voter eligibility. If you are going to be out of town or even think a heavy work schedule might prevent you getting to the polls before they close or open, remove the risk by filing an absentee ballot. Voters who are working and commuting 11 or more hours between 6:00am and 7:00pm on Election Day can vote absentee by mail or in person at the Voter Registration Office at 132 North Royal St. in Old Town, beginning in late September. Mail applications are available online.
3 - Serve your community, be an Alexandria Precinct Election Officer. More than 500 election officers will be required at the City’s polling places this year. Election officers, who must be registered to vote, are paid $100 for a full day at the polls (5:00am to 9:00pm) and must attend a required 3 hour training.
I’ve already signed up to be an Election Officer. Don’t you want to do your part too?
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July 27th, 2008 Categories: Scenic Sundays
Whether a bungalow or a townhouse, a bungalow or a Victorian, Alexandria real estate has curb appeal.
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(“The World Famous”) Doggie Happy Hour, a long standing tradition at the former Old Town Holiday Inn, is back in full swing on Tuesday and Thursday Nights at what is now the Hotel Monaco.
We ventured out on an delightfully mild July evening to join the fun and were immediately swept into what only be described as pure entertainment.
An interior brick courtyard makes a perfect setting for humans and dogs alike. Complimentary gourmet doggie snacks and numerous water bowls are available for all visiting canines.
Human companions can order from the outdoor bar and feast on local regional specialties from Jackson 20.
Everyone – dog and human alike – was amazingly well behaved and hotel guests joined right in with the locals to pet, pat and pamper.
“Charlie” a handsome Bischon Frise, oversees the Doggie Happy Hour and helps schedule special events throughout the year.
Charlie is also on hand to welcome newcomers at the appointed hour – and to make sure everyone follows the rules.
Want to join in the fun? Call me at 703.927.4554 and we’ll find your new home in Old Town.
See you next week?
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July 24th, 2008 Categories: Alexandria
Today at 1:00pm, the City of Alexandria will be formally recognized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and The National Association of Realtors (NAR) as one of only six 2008 Ambassador Cities nationwide.
Ambassador Cities are selected on the basis of innovative, successful, and effective programs for promoting home ownership and affordable housing opportunities in the community.
The City of Alexandria’s recognition comes from its successful partnership with The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR) to promote affordable homeownership for low and moderate income families.
Mayor Bill Euille, a Del Ray resident, noted “For individuals, achieving home ownership is an important step in attaining real economic self-sufficiency. These important initiatives also serve to preserve our diversity and stablize our community against the current wave of foreclosures.”
The other five 2008 Ambassador Cities are:
- Allentown, PA
- Ashville, NC
- Bowling Green, KY
- Irvine, CA
- Richmond, VA
The agents listed here can tell you more about affordable housing in each of these cities.
And what about you? Do you need information about affordable housing in Alexandria? Call me at 703.927.4554 and let’s work through this together.
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July 23rd, 2008 Categories: Book Report
The not-so-long ago heady years of real estate often seemed to be about making an investment, making a profit and moving on.
TV shows like “Flip this House”‘, blogs on flipping, and even a “Dummies Guide to Flipping” added to the idea that houses were little more than commodities for consumption.
But what about the old fashioned notion of buying a house to make it a home? A place to grow and nurture family and friends? A place to create memories and experiences? A place, that no matter what, is always “home.”
Akron, Ohio resident David Giffels (a journalist with the Akron Beacon Journal) has written a funny, heart-warming and, at times, heart-breaking memoir about that very process: All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House.
David and his wife, pregnant with their second child, and desperate for more room, finally settle on a run-down, soon to be condemned, early 20th century mansion. The once grand residence lacks functional plumbing and electricity, leaks like crazy, and is infested with all manner of wildlife. There is also beauty – an old staircase, a fireplace in the master bedroom, brass hinges, carved moldings. What follows is a heart-breaking/heart-warming story of how the work, the process of a house becoming a home, affects all their lives.
As I listened to Diane Rehm interview David the other day on her nationally syndicated show, two things caught my ear.
One was a caller who asked about the couple’s realtor and did he “push” them into buying what could easily be considered a “bad investment” just so he could get his commission. David’s response was what I hope we all aspire to.
The realtor did not want them to buy the property at all and thought it was a terrifically bad idea. But, once the Giffel’s made up their minds, the realtor did everything possible to make it a smooth transition – even going to bat with the Department of Health when it was declared uninhabitable!
The second thing? David says that when he is asked how much is house is worth now, he can’t even begin to answer the question. It’s no longer a house, it’s a home – for friends and family and memories.
Do you want to make a house a home for your family? Call me at 703.927.4554 and let’s see what we can find.
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July 22nd, 2008 Categories: Dining Favorites
On Thursday, July 17, we bought a copy of the 2009 Zagat Guide for Washington, DC and Baltimore at our local book store.
On Sunday, July 20, we roamed Alexandria taking pictures of the eight local restaurants that were being named as new additions to the guide.
On Monday, July 21, we wrote our post, added the pictures of the new eateries and published it for all our readers.
AND YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!
Yesterday afternoon (Monday) we got a call from the Zagat offices in New York City asking us to take our post down. Seems there was a “national media embargo” in place until Wednesday, July 23.
This perplexed us.
It’s not like we had hijacked a delivery truck or slipped a carton off a loading dock or broken into the receiving room of the book store. The books were out, front and center, waiting to be purchased.
They were also available on line through several sources. The information was already in the public domain. Why should we remove our post? We were just fulfilling our mission of writing for and about Alexandria.
We thought about it for a while and then we politely declined. Would they have asked Matt Drudge or Arianna Huffington to remove a post? I don’t think so!
So folks, just thought you would like to know that you heard it here first - our modest blog (although we have readers from all 50 states and numerous countries around the world) “scooped” local and national media to bring you local information as it became available.
Want to read more timely information about Alexandria and what’s happening in the local real estate market?
Enter your email in the subscription box below. And, just because we are having so much fun with our “scoop”, the first FIVE subscribers (email subscriptions only, no RSS feeds) responding to this story will receive a Starbucks Gift Card*.
Ummmmmmm, wonder what story we can “break” next?
*You have to stay with us for at least 6 weeks . . . .
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July 22nd, 2008 Categories: Real Estate News
Are we really in a real estate crises or is it just a problem blown out of proportion? In Alexandria and Northern Virginia, Coldwell banker offices reported a 17.5% increase in homes under contract in April.
In May sales numbers rose 2% across the country and in some parts of the mid-Atlantic there were double digit increases over April.
And finally, just last week the National Association of Realtors reported four straight months of sales increases.
Consider the following:
- There are 120 million homeowners in the United States.
- Of that 120 million, one third are owned free and clear with no mortgage.
- One half of the remaining 80 million homes were bought before 2000 and still enjoy a 34% increase in median home prices.
- 95% of all homeowner pay their mortgage on time.
The homes in foreclosure? It’s 2%, with most of that in states like California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida. In fact, California has more foreclosures than 40 other states combined.
Want to hear more about what the numbers really say? Listen to Dennis Kneale on CNBC’s Business Nation, I think you’ll be glad you did.
As for the problem? For first time home owners it could be a real opportunity. Call me at 703.927.4554 and let’s add you to the growing numbers of home owners in Northern Virginia.
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July 20th, 2008 Categories: Dining Favorites
The 2009 Zagat Guide for the Greater Washington DC and Baltimore area is hot off the press and eight Alexandria restaurants have made the new list.
Zagat’s ranking are from the diner’s point of view and take food, decor, service and cost into consideration.
The Washington area guide received input from 7,235 frequent dinners.
Of these surveyors, 53% are women and 47% are men.
The breakdown by age shows 15% in their 20s; 25% in their 30s; 19% in their 40s; 21% in their 50;; and 20% are 60 or above.
Alexandria restaurants making this year’s list are:
Bookbinders, 109 S. St. Asaph St. 703.683.1776. This steak and seafood emporium springs from the legendary Philadelphia favorite of the same name. Taking over the space formerly occupied by Portner’s Saloon, Bookbinders oak paneled setting is classic and makes it right at home in Old Town.
Carlyle Club, 411 John Carlyle Drive, 703.549.8957. Nightly dancing to “live big band music” or jazz in a room that recalls an early forties art deco supper club. Definitely for persons of a “certain age” the fare is strictly American.
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