September Newsletter

Here Comes Fall (and all things pumpkin spice)

The Global Pandemic has not slowed down the real estate market here in Northern Virginia. Low inventory levels continue to be the main issue as there are many buyers in the market and not enough homes to purchase. Couple this with historically low-interest rates, and we have a solid seller’s market, which also means we have an extremely challenging buyer’s market. Today, the median days on the market are a mere six days, and the average days on market are only 19. Now, of course, there are some properties in specific locations and price points that are staying on the market longer, but generally speaking, most houses are selling quickly. Buyers need to make decisions swiftly and make solid offers if they want to be in the running to be the next owner of their home of choice.  This truncated decision making environment understandably puts a lot of stress on folks who like to analyze and consider, and especially on first time home buyers. I acknowledge and appreciate that and have a robust preparation and education process for my buyers so that we can mitigate some of the angst this type of environment engenders.

In today’s market, we do have some additional challenges, not just the shortage of homes for sale. A remarkably close second challenge we are experiencing involves the lending process if the buyer does not select the right lender. For example, we are encountering long lead times for appraisals, lack of urgency to close loans on time (they treat the purchase transactions like a refinance and the loan is in the order it was received,) numerous appraisals coming in low as buyers are escalating prices above market price and inadequate response timeframes from the loan officer as they are overwhelmed with refinances.  And guess what?  Good listing agents know which lenders are performing in this market and which ones are not.  So in addition to creating drama for you as a buyer on the loan, electing to use the wrong lender can cost you the chance to win a house!

This segues to an important point for home sellers. it is extremely important to pay attention to the prospective purchaser’s lender amongst the other terms. The highest offer is not always the best offer.

All of this is creating a significant level of stress on the market. Buyers are losing out on multiple homes, which causes frustration and despair.  Sellers not receiving offers as high as they believe they should make them anxious. Agents can be rude, arrogant, unresponsive, and unprofessional, which causes everyone to stress out.  It is so important today to hire the right agent to guide you through the home selling or home buying process, an agent that knows how to navigate with you for a smooth and seamless process. So, if you are looking to sell or buy a house today, call me – I have helped many others successfully buy and sell properties in today’s unbalanced market.

I hope you had a great Labor Day!

It’s a good life.



6 Things You Need to Do Now If You Want a Fabulous Garden This Spring

Source: | by Lauren Phillips

Garden now, enjoy the green later.  April showers might bring May flowers, but those May flowers are going to need a little fall garden prep to bloom their biggest. Fall might be considered yard clean-up time— trimming dead branches, raking the leaves, cleaning up plants that withered in the heat of summer— but it’s also a great time to prepare select outdoor plants to bloom come spring. Add a little fall gardening to your list of fall activities, and you’ll be thanking yourself when spring arrives.

If you hang up your gardening gloves and stop watering plants in the yard once mid-September hits, you’re probably not alone—but you are missing out on the key steps of fall gardening for a beautiful spring garden. It’s not the most popular (or most widespread) piece of gardening knowledge, but fall is actually a great time to get your hands dirty in the garden.

“Air temperatures are dropping, but the soil is still quite warm—perfect for root development,” says Lester Poole, live nursery specialist at Lowe’s. “Cooler weather means plants are less stressed by heat, and more plentiful rainfall can help roots as they continue to grow and store up energy reserves for the next growing season.”

So doing a little now can make your plants stronger when their time to shine arrives—sounds like a good deal, especially if you’re committed to an outdoor greenspace. If you’re more of an indoor green thumb, fall’s still as good a time as any to buy plants online or start filling in a vertical garden, but it’s especially key for plants, trees, and shrubs exposed to the elements. Your indoor plants and container gardens will thrive year-round, but there’s a limited window to get spring garden prep right.

  1. Plant hardy spring-flowering bulbs

Hardy bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths should be planted no later than October, Poole says: “This time allows the bulbs to root and offers the necessary cooling hours to flower properly.” The      emphasis here is on hardy spring-flowering bulbs: Tender bulbs such as elephant’s ear, caladium, gladiolus, canna, and dahlia should be planted in the spring. Lily bulbs can be planted between mid-September and mid-October, and peonies are best planted in early fall, so their feeder roots have several weeks of growing time before the ground freezes.

  1. Give shrubs and trees time to develop

Poole suggests planting shrubs and trees in September, so they have time to develop their root systems before winter freezes hit. If you’re concerned a particular specimen isn’t best-planted in the fall, check the tag or ask a nursery employee before buying the plant.

  1. Don’t trim

“Trimming actually isn’t warranted in the fall, as trimming too late in the year can create tender shoots, which may cause major damage during colder weather,” Poole says. If you’re trimming plants, wait until all the leaves have fallen first.

  1. Avoid fertilizing

Fertilizing the lawn at this time of year can actually be counterproductive. Temperatures are dropping, and the lawn needs fewer nutrients during the dormant late-fall and winter. If you do fertilize, it can keep the grass in a state of growth, which can actually lead to frost damage, doing more harm than good.

  1. Grind up fallen leaves

Skip the mulch. “Composted leaves add humic acid to your pants, which is basically a power booster for your garden come springtime,” Poole says. Rake up fallen leaves, grind them or crush them, and use that as coverage in your vegetable gardens and flower beds.

  1. Store garden tools

A garden is nothing without its tools, right? Take special care to properly store garden tools before winter arrives, Poole says. Clean supplies with a stiff brush and spray them with WD-40 to prevent freezing. If you keep terracotta pots and planters in an outdoor shed or in the yard, consider covering them or moving them into a more protected space to prevent repeat freezing, which can crack the containers.


Recipe Corner

Bacon Cauliflower Chowder








Yields 6-8 servings | Total time 35 min

Soup season is upon us! If you want to go full vegetarian with this hearty chowder, skip the bacon and replace with 2 tbsp of olive oil.


· 4 slices bacon, cut into 1″ pieces
· 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
· 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
· 2 stalks celery, chopped
· kosher salt
· Freshly ground black pepper
· 2 cloves garlic, minced
· 2 tbsp. flour
· 2 sprigs thyme, stripped and chopped
· 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
· 1 qt. vegetable broth
· 1 c. whole milk


  1. Cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate and drain all but 2 tablespoons of fat.
  2. To pot, add onion, carrots, and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes more. Add thyme and cauliflower.
  3. Pour in broth and milk and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and simmer until cauliflower is fork tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Garnish with cooked bacon before serving.


Buying a Home – What is an Escalation Clause?

by Leah Curtis

This tactic can help homebuyers win bidding wars – especially in a seller’s market.

A low inventory of homes for sale in the U.S. right now means that buyers are getting creative when shopping for their dream home.

What is an escalation clause?

Sometimes referred to as an “escalator,” an escalation clause is when a buyer submits an offer on a home for sale and adds a clause into the contract stating that they are willing to exceed their offer by a certain amount of money in order to outbid competitors. The buyer would also likely state a maximum cap price to ensure they don’t make an offer beyond their financial means.

Like at an auction, the escalation clause works in the buyer’s favor to prevent them from rewriting their offer contract over and over again to compete with fellow interested buyers.

An escalation clause can be especially useful when the seller calls for “highest and best” – a protocol designed to narrow down offers on the house to the best one possible. In the case of highest and best, an escalation clause can potentially outbid the other highest bidder.

Susan Loparo, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Traditions in Ohio, explains what goes into helping interested buyers construct escalation clauses.

“When we’re writing [escalation clauses], I say to people, ‘If the house is, for example, $350,000, and you only want to go up to $360,000, and then you hear you lost the house for $362,000, will you be upset?’ The buyers usually say yes – that they would be,” Loparo shares.

In today’s seller’s market in the U.S., homes are selling quickly. It could be a matter of days or even hours before the sign in the front yard switches from “for sale” to “sold.” Escalation clauses are sometimes appreciated for their ability to streamline the home-selling process and wrap-up a sale faster, especially when multiple offers have been made on the same property.

Are there any downsides to an escalation clause?

That said, sellers don’t always love grappling with escalation clauses. If a sale closes with an escalator, the seller loses the ability to issue counteroffers to the other interested buyers.

An additional downside can be the buyer’s perception of the home once they know they paid over their initial offer for it.

“At the end [of the homebuying process], buyers sometimes can have high-expectations [from the sellers] because they ended up paying more than top-dollar,” Loparo explains.

However, buyers are often relieved to have locked down their new home without enduring a tedious back-and-forth negotiation process.

Ultimately, an escalation clause is a tool meant to aid a buyer in winning out on their potential new home. With fewer homes for sale and a frenzy of buyers looking for a new place, these clauses have become a more common practice.


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