Urban Living

Another Way of Living Premiers Saturday 11-7-15

Reston is special. I know I say it all the time, and it's true. The way everything in this community works together creates a sense of balance and belonging. It's something you feel when you move into any one of the beautiful clusters or neighborhoods of Reston. Restonian and award-winning director Rebekah Winger-Jabi has captured the feel of Reston in her new movie, "Another Way of Living, the Story of Reston." I am thrilled the movie is premiering this weekend at the Virginia Film Festival. The viewing will take place at 11:00 a.m. (Downtown Mall: The Southern). Tickets are only $10, and you can buy them here. 

About the Movie

"I knew I was happy, but I didn't understand that my childhood experience had been carefully crafted by planners and developers." -- Rebekah Winger-Jabi, Director/Producer/Editor

Rebekah's story is similar to the stories I hear from people who grew up in Reston, moved away, and then came back to raiser their own families. When Rebekah was a teenager, her family left Reston to move to a traditional suburb. On the movie website, she recalls how surprised she was when this "American dream" didn't pan out. She felt isolated and disconnected. She had to drive to a park to experience nature and the community wasn't nearly as economically or racially diverse as it was in Reston. That experience inspired her to find out what made Reston special and look at the people behind the design. And that led to the movie.

What Rebekah learned is that Reston's founder Robert Simon (1914-2015) had a vision for American life -- one where people valued community, nature, and social equity. Reston was his vision realized, a suburban town that integrated citizens across racial, economic, and religious divides. The movie explores the challenges of making a vision like this a reality (such as the fact investors fired Simon three years after Reston was launched) and how it became an international sensation. Spoiler alert -- Simon retired to Reston, became a community activist, and lived a fulfilling life in the place he envisioned.

Enjoy the film. Better yet, move to Reston and enjoy this amazing community and everything it has to offer.

Is your pooch welcome in your new Reston condo?

It seems like such a simple thing. The phone rings, you answer. The person on the other end says they found you on the internet and are interested in working with a Reston specialist. "That's me! How can I help you?"

The Devil's in the Details...

Long story short, the buyers wanted a one or two bedroom condo in the Reston Town Center area for under $400,000 This was to be a kind of pied-à-terre that they would use during the week while in town for business. Great, I can do this, I can find them a great place. We continue to talk about what they liked and what they were hoping for and then comes the deal changer--dogs, not one but two and they're large dogs, over 50 pounds of loving fun.

Scout

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of dogs, my husband and I share our condo with two French Bulldogs. We started with Scout and then a few months later decided to add Boo. Because I'm active in my condo I knew that we had a pet policy that called for one pet per household and that in order to get an exception I would have to make a case to the Board of Directors before we added the second pup.

Condo Living does mean Rules

Scout

Before I took my pooch loving buyers out I started making calls to the Town Center properties. Every condominium had slightly different rules regarding pet ownership. It ranged from a strict 1 pet per unit, to 1 dog and 1 cat or 2 cats, to 2 pets no weight restrictions. Some properties have breed restrictions. I was so glad that I took the time to make the calls before showing property, it would have been disastrous to find the perfect property only to realize that "Rover" wasn't welcome.

Home Owner's Associations, Townhouse Clusters and Condo living does mean more rules. They can be anything from not being allowed to park your boat or RV on the street to not being able to own any pets--get the scoop up front to save from being disappointed later.

A story of Reston real estate: Prepared to Buy - Prepared to Sell

This is a little story about Buyers and Sellers in Reston.

First the buyers.

This young couple is hoping to buy their first home. After viewing hundreds of homes online and researching different communities they selected Reston as being a great place to start their life together. They were impressed with the amenities, loved the urban vibe of the Town Center, the unique charm and beauty of the Lake Anne area, they were sold on the community. They had a good sense of what was going to be available in their price range, they had already spoken to their lender, and they are ready to buy! We looked at 10 properties that were within $25,000.00 of top of their price range.

Now for the Sellers.

Sometimes it is hard to make your house stand out from the crowd, sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it's easy but it's for all the wrong reasons! Let me start this by saying that I called and spoke to either the listing agents or the homeowners on all of these properties except for the one or two that were vacant, so everyone knew we were coming. Having sold my own home this past year I know how hard it is to leave your home in showing condition EVERY SINGLE DAY. I got so sick of trying to channel Martha Stewart

Stage your home Martha Stewart style and watch you home fly off the market!

Stage your home Martha Stewart style and watch you home fly off the market!

I thought I was going to scream, but honestly Sellers, it's what you have to do.

Two of the houses I showed on Saturday were in the same townhouse cluster. One was extravagantly over improved but had dishes in the sink, unmade beds, toothpaste in the sink, and half way into the showing the home security system went off with an eardrum piercing noise that defies description. The other house on the same street, was in a slightly closer to the main road, which is typically considered less desirable, and it had no significant or showy up grades; but oh what a difference.

The second house was an oasis of serenity. It was immaculate, it was uncluttered, and it was neutral. Everything about the house said "I have been cared for." My buyers were reassured, nothing felt scary, they could see themselves living there.

Tonight the Buyers are going back to take a second look at the tidy little townhouse; the listing agent called me earlier today to say that he has received one contract (after 8 days on the market), so if my buyers are ready to write a contract we'll have to scramble, hopefully it will fall in their favor because they are in a position to write a nice clean offer, but the moral of this story?

We all need to take a clue from the Boy Scouts...we all need to be prepared.

All Reston VA Real Estate - New Name - New Look

Eve Thompson

Eve Thompson

New Year's Resolution: All Reston Real Estate all the time.  I've always loved the New Year. I love clearing out the old and making way for the new. This year feels especially important because it's the end of a decade. I'm making some changes. Most of them will be transparent to you but for me they represent all that is near and dear to my heart.

On the business front I've decided that I'm no longer taking listings outside of Reston, VA. For years I've tried to be a lot of things to a lot of people and I've finally decided...ENOUGH! Reston is what I know, it's what I love and it's where I add the most value to my clients. (If you were just getting ready to call me to have me list your Arlington bungalow give me a call and I will put you in touch with the absolute best agent in Arlington!)

For my buyers of course it's knowing the neighborhoods; from the quiet stately homes of south Reston to the urban feel of Reston Town Center or the sleek contemporaries of North Reston knowing where to find what the buyer is looking for is all about really knowing the neighborhoods.

For my sellers...well I'd like to think that really loving Reston makes me better at selling Reston.

So for the New Year I have a new look and a new website address. www.AllRestonRealEstate.com You'll be getting the same great service, including this blog which will continue to have all kinds of interesting neighborhood news and information throughout the year.

Reston Condo Living, Part Three: Are my condo fees too low??

Coleson Cluster Townhouses Reston VA Lake Anne Area NeighborhoodColeson Cluster Townhouses Reston VA Lake Anne Area NeighborhoodIf 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. It's likely that 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. In today's world of upside down mortgages and foreclosures many condominiums are struggling with a loss of operating revenue (monthly condo fees), due to delinquent condo fee accounts.

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.

Reston Condo Living, Part Two: 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 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, a Concierge? The cost of people always go up, so if you are looking at a condo with these types of amenities you should expect a slow steady rise in condo fees.

Next week: Are you condo fees too low?