Forget toasters. Try a home registry!

Forget toasters. Try a home registry!


It happens all the time. A couple plans to marry. They’ve chosen the church, the reception hall, the meal, the cake, the band, the flowers. Now it’s time to let guests know what they could use as gifts. But there’s a problem. These two soon-to-be-wed individuals lived on their own before they decided to marry. Not only do they have the basic household needs plus some, they have doubles! The last thing this couple needs is another toaster or another set of china. No, what they could really use is a home to call their own. That’s where home registries come in.

Home registries are the up-and-coming trend in gift giving, not only for people intending to marry but for those expecting a child, those who are hard to buy for and those who simply don’t need anything but a path towards home buying. The concept is based on the traditional registry: the couple makes a list of items they could use, and the gift givers choose from that list of items. Instead of buying household goods, however, the gift givers are “buying” pieces of a home.

No, friends and family are not out at Home Depot purchasing sinks or flooring. Rather, they are using a website like Hatch My House where they pay for pieces of a virtual home, gifting real money that can be used as a down payment for an actual home. For example, a family member might “buy” a window. The suggested value is $75. Another family member might “buy” a front door for $200. The money goes into the couple’s PayPal account, which essentially becomes a savings account for the new home.

There are other ways to use home registries as well. Say there’s a baby on the way. Maybe the family needs nursery furniture. The family can “build” a house and furnish rooms with items they need. Friends can visit the virtual home and “buy” a cradle, a changing station, a dresser or whatever necessities the couple has furnished the virtual home with.

Sites such as Feather the Nest show different uses of the registry, including for home repair and renovations. In this scenario, the home owner describes items necessary to complete a project. For example, a home owner might need a new roof or a new kitchen floor. Or it could be the home needs a complete overhaul. Contributors help “feather the nest” by giving money to the cause.

For first-time homebuyers in particular, the advent of home registries is a boon. Starting out can be difficult, and these registries help ease the burden, giving new homebuyers peace of mind that there is a way to finance their dream. And loved ones are eager to help out, knowing they are giving gifts that matter. It’s a win-win that can really make a difference!

Belinda Jacobson-Loehle is an experienced real estate broker and certified home stager. Contact her at 703-338-9678 or via email, Visit or for more information.

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Autumn is the Best Time of Year to Purchase Land for your Custom Home!

Autumn is the Best Time of Year to Purchase Land for your Custom Home!

Autumn is the best time of year to purchase land to build your dream home so you can move in next spring! See the “lay of the land” when the leaves are falling so you can properly orient your house to have the best exposure. Autumn also makes site testing and foundation work easier for your contractor, which should save you money. If you agree, think about visiting my new listing at 15770 Palmer Lane Haymarket, VA 20169. The land has been certified for a 4+ septic system and has a southern exposure!

15770 Palmer Lane Haymarket, VA 20169

Call 703-338-9678 for more details!

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Make Your Property More Attractive for Homebuyers

Ensure a Good First Impression

Buyers make up their minds about a property in the first few minutes. Make sure your home makes that vital first impression. New paint does wonders. Make sure the front yard is flawless with manicured lawns and attractive foliage. Add a hanging basket or some flower pots at the door. The front door is also critical, make sure the hardware is presentable.

Make them Feel Welcome

Don’t forget buying a home is in many ways an emotional decision, so it’s important to give buyers that warm and fuzzy feeling! Keep the temperature in the home at a comfortable level. Light some candles in the bathrooms and make sure it smells nice and clean. Have fresh flowers around the house.

But don’t make it too personal

Make them feel welcome, but don’t go too far. Too much personality, for example in the form of personal possessions and family photos makes it hard for buyers to visualize living in the space.

Clear out the Clutter

Make sure your property is clutter-free for all your viewings. This will make your home look and feel bigger, and the buyers will be able to imagine how they could make the space their own. Make sure that there is a clean, logical flow through the home by getting rid of all excess furniture. Less is more.

Improve Lighting

This is another way to make your home seem more spacious. Open all your curtains and flood the space with natural light. Make sure the darker rooms are also lit. Invest in some light fixtures and fittings, and place them strategically to illuminate even the gloomiest of areas.

Decorate to Sell That House

Slap on a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color to give it that blank canvas look but do not be too sterile. Have some contrast in the trim as well as the ceiling. Neutral colors make properties appear lighter and brighter, so take advantage of this inexpensive and easy option. You may also add color with decorative window coverings, rugs, and towels.

Clean Up Your Act

Your home should be spotless. Make sure the beds are made and the countertops are free of clutter. The dishes should be put away and nothing should be scattered on the floor. Don’t forget to tidy your garden too: Cut the shrubs back, sweep the patio, and wipe down the backyard furniture.

Those Minor Repairs You Put Off

It is easy to forget things such as broken doorknobs, cracked tiles, holes in walls and damaged but buyers will notice them first thing as they are walking around your home.

Maximize Your Space

The golden rule of selling is to make your space look and feel bigger and better than what your competitors have to offer. We’ve already mentioned that lighting your home, both naturally and artificially, can maximize your assets, but getting rid of bulky furniture can also be a great way of making the most of what you have. Large pieces of furniture make a space feel smaller, so put these items into storage and dress your home with more compact pieces.

Don’t Forget Your Floors

Make the investment of improving and investing in those floors. Worn carpets and damaged vinyl floors need to be replaced, and wooden floors especially should undergo some maintenance. This is not chap by any means, but the prospect of selling your home for the best possible price will likely outweigh the cost.

Remove Pets During Showings

You do not need to remind the potential buyer that the previous owner kept pets.

Try to remove your pets from your home when you are showing the home. Having a pet in the house or yard can create complications for your agent while trying to show the house, and puts your pet at risk of accidentally getting out during the showing. There are also liability issues to deal with as well. They may react differently to stranger and it may cause them stress. All pet-related damage should be repaired prior to showing the home. Make sure to also remove all odors and stains. New visitors will notice smells when they come to view the house. This is not something you want to happen. Have your carpet and floors professionally cleaned or replaced. Pick up any messes in the backyard and have any sod replaced and other damage repaired.

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FHA Financing Becomes More Costly!

FHA Financing Becomes More Costly!

If you are a first-time buyer or a buyer planning to use FHA financing with a 3.5% down payment in 2013, you should be aware of the new changes. Effective April 1, 2013, the MIP ( mortgage insurance premium) charge for newly approved loans has increased. For a $250,000 loan, the monthly loan payment will increase by approximately $20 per month. This may not initially sound like a lot of money but over time (30 years) it adds up! Consult your mortgage loan officer to understand how it will affect you.

More importantly, effective June 1, 2013, the MIP charge will carry through the life of the loan! FHA currently allows the borrow to remove the MIP up charge after the loan amount has been paid down by 15 – 20%. You would simply make the request to your lender to have the charge removed, and upon verification, your loan amount would be adjusted to a lesser amount. This will no longer hold true after June 3, 2013.

The bottom line – Try to have a ratified contractor or lender case number issued by June 3, 2013, to save money that you can be used for home improvements instead of lending fees.

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SELLER LISTING TIP: Use Professional Photography!

SELLER LISTING TIP: Use Professional Photography!

According to the National Association of Realtors approximately 90% of all buyers use the internet as their first step in finding a new home. With that said, you want to have the best photographs possible to showcase a listing. As in home staging, first impressions make a difference.
When seeking a listing agent to market your home ask if they provide professional photography. The days of DIY in real estate are over for sellers and for listing agents that don’t market professional work. The next time you interview a listing agent to market and sell your home be sure to verify the quality of the service they are providing.

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Using QR Codes to Buy and Sell Real Estate

Using QR Codes to Buy and Sell Real Estate

A QR Code or “quick response” code will help you buy and sell real estate by saving you time if your are a buyer and by providing convenience to your marketing effort if you are a seller! It’s a win-win for every buyer and seller and QR codes will soon be the norm for real estate marketing.

QR code

You will see QR codes on many yard signs and in various marketing materials. Although it’s a funny looking square code it is similar to a bar code in that it provides detailed information in a small concise format, but it is much more powerful. A buyer will scan the code from the yard sign with their mobile device and it will “quickly” direct them to the property details such as price, photo’s and material facts about the property. No more phone calls to an agent, and no waiting to find out if the property is in your price range. For the seller, you are providing convenience to the buyer and accurate information in a timely manner.  No more worries about whether there are enough flyers in the brochure box to last through the weekend.

To get started you need to download the “free” scanning software/app for your mobile device, which includes smart phones, ipads, or something similar.  Just search for a QR scanner on the mobile device and download the best one for your product. Once downloaded, press the scanner button, aim the device at the QR code you want to read and it will quickly provide you the details. It’s fun, it’s easy and it’s an effect  real estate tool for buyers and sellers to use. To understand what I am saying try scanning the QR code above. If you need any help contact me at 703-338-9678 or via email,

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Buyer Tips: Save Everyone Time – Get Pre-Qualified First!

Buyer Tips: Save Everyone Time – Get Pre-Qualified First!

If you are contemplating a real estate purchase within the next 3 -12 months be sure to get pre-qualified first! This simply means contacting a professional loan officer at a bank, credit union, mortgage lending institution to review your financial status and provide you a pre-qualification letter for you and your Realtor. When you do so the loan officer will examine your assets and liabilities, which includes your income and debt, to determine if you qualify, or meet the risk guidelines to obtain a mortgage loan. This inquiry is FREE and does not obligate you to use the source for the pre-qualification letter. In fact, after you are pre-quailified for a mortgage loan you may find it’s in your favor to compare loan programs and interest rates in order to receive the most cost-effective loan.

If you are uncertain of who to contact you can always call a local Realtor for guidance. Regardless of who you contact, once you are pre-qualified you can then approach the search for a new home with a clear understanding of what you can afford.  You will also enjoy the peace of mind of knowing you have the ability to move forward, and thus transact real estate!

So save yourself time, build confidence in the understanding of what you can afford, and avoid frustration from the start with a pre-quailification lender letter!

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Seller Tip: How to Market Alternative Use Spaces

Seller Tip: How to Market Alternative Use Spaces

From a home staging point of view I think everyone will agree that it is important to define the use of space within a house to show purpose. Simply put, a bedroom should look like a bedroom and a dining room should look like a dining room.

So what does a seller do when the defined space has been altered or re-purposed such that a living room is an office or a dining room is a play room? You need to CONVERT the space back to it’s original planned use! A potential buyer needs to see the house as it was originally planned. Let them decide how they want to live in the space and not how you hope they will accept it.

And remember:  Don’t give a buyer a reason to say no!

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What is Home Staging?

What is Home Staging?

Home staging is an investment! It is the process of using the principals of space, color, and interior decorating to accentuate a home’s architectural features while depersonalizing the space. Staging makes it easier for the buyer to visualize living in the space and provides the seller top dollar returns.

An Accredited Home Staging Professional (ASP), such as Belinda Jacobson-Loehle, will identify focal points, the best traffic patterns, optimal lighting and coordinate the space using the furnishings and accessories you already have! It’s a “win-win” investment for everyone.

Home staging includes but is not limited to: Interior color and lighting coordination, identification of focal points and traffic flow, clutter reduction and organization, furniture and accessory rearrangement or removal, and prop additions.  Exteriorpaint color selection, landscape improvements, garage and storage organization, suggestions for driveway and sidewalk repair, and cosmetic upgrades.

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Prepare to Sell: Low-Cost Ways to Enhance your Home’s Exterior

Prepare to Sell: Low-Cost Ways to Enhance your Home’s Exterior

You don’t need thousands of dollars to showcase the exterior look of your home. With a little time, effort, and “some” money you can improve your homes curb appeal and get buyers to the front door!

Consider the following ideas:

  1. Install new doorknobs on your front door
  2. Upgrade your outside light
  3. Buy a new mailbox
  4. Clean windows inside and outside
  5. Polish or replace your house numbers
  6. Buy a new doormat for the outside of your front door.
  7. Trim and maintain existing trees, scrubs and lawn
  8. Power wash siding to remove mold and mildew
Take the time to make these changes now to help sell your home tomorrow.

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