By Eve Thompson
Don’t Let Your Appraisal Kill the Deal (Part 1)
The other day, a friend told me her appraisal for a home equity loan came in $40,000 less than comps in her neighborhood. Why did this happen? Because she didn’t realize she needed to clean and straighten the whole house (especially the huge cobwebs in the windows); it was a dark, rainy evening and the house looked dingy from the outside; and they need to do some upgrades. Granted, the home equity loan is to pay for the upgrades. But still, $40,000 below market value? That is significant.
Do not let this happen to you.
Here is the thing to remember for any appraisal—whether you’re refinancing, apply for a home equity loan, or selling: appraisers are people, and they are just as influenced by physical appearances as buyers are. Your house has to look it’s best when the appraiser comes through lest they appraise the property much lower than it’s worth.
My friend’s story is so common, I decided to do a two-part series on home appraisals. Part one includes the steps you need to take to make your property physically appealing. In part two, I’ll discuss the things you can do to make the appraiser’s job easier.
Preparing Your House for Home Appraisals
To start, know that physical appearance matters. A lot. Appraisers can assign an “effective age” to your home—this is the age they assign after considering how recent the updates are and the overall condition. Torn wallpaper, vinyl floors curling, threadbare carpets, chipped paint—all of these things add up to the overall age of your home. And that will drive appraisers to comps with the same effective age. So, make your house look good.
1. Spruce it up. Every appraiser I know agrees that it’s important to keep the look, feel, and condition of the property as updated and cared-for as possible. Appraisers probably won’t look under your bed, but they will look at overall how clean the home is. Clean the marks of your walls and the fingerprints around door handles. Wash your windows. Replace the peeling vinyl floor. All of these things actually affect the value of your home, and they add up.
This is also a good time to do some of the upgrades you’ve been thinking about. Paint, new carpets, lights, and plumbing fixtures are relatively low cost upgrades that can make a huge difference in your appraisal.
And keep in mind that appraisers often value houses in $500 increments. Repairs that should be made count against your property. So fix leaky faucets, stained drywall, and cracked windows. Make a list and call your handyman—these things can often be knocked out in one day.
2. Address the curb appeal. The appraiser will start the appraisal at the curb, so make sure the exterior of your house looks good. Mow the lawn and do some weeding. If your home needs a good power washing, do it. Many Reston homes tend to collect algae on the roofs (a downside of the wooded communities)—get it cleaned. You want the house to look like it’s in mint condition so that it isn’t compared to foreclosures or other lower-value homes.
3. Make it comfortable. Along the lines of making your home physically appealing is ensuring it’s physically comfortable while the appraiser is there. You may be comfortable in a cold house, but your appraiser may not be. Turn on the heat in the winter and the air conditioner in the summer. You also don’t want them to think the heater or air conditioner is broker!
Improving the physical appeal of your property alone will increase the value of your appraisal. In part 2, I’ll talk about some of the other things you can do to boost that appraisal.
By Eve Thompson
Lake Audubon is one of Reston’s most beautiful spots, and the neighborhoods that border the lake are in high demand. When a home in one of these communities comes on the market, you have to act fast!
Cedar Cover Cluster near South Lakes is one community to keep an eye on. About 20% of the 66 townhomes are direct lakefront property, and all have lake access. These lovely cedar-sided, 3-story homes have 3 or 4 bedrooms and garages.
The Cluster was built between 1980 and 1989 and is located on Cedar Cove Point off South Lakes Drive in South Reston. This family-friendly neighborhood boasts a large playground for the children and is close to schools.
Walking through Cedar Cove Cluster on a beautiful day with a gentle breeze rustling the many trees, you feel a bit like you’re at a resort. Yet, you are just minutes from the Reston technology corridor, the Reston Metro station, and the Dulles Toll Road. South Lakes Village Center (home to a few of Reston’s favorite mom and pop restaurants) is just ¾ mile up the road.
Cluster residents attend Sunset Hills Elementary, Langston Hughes Middle and South Lakes High School.
This neighborhood is the ideal in lakeside living. If you see one of these homes come on the market, jump on it!
By Eve Thompson
Cafesano’s paninis are the favorite lunch time treat for, well, anyone who has ever eaten here!
In 2003, when Paul Swinley opened Cafesano in South Lakes Village Center, he wanted to create a restaurant that combined quick-casual dining with top quality food in a comfortable environment—he didn’t see why any of those things needed to be independent of each other. He thought Reston needed a spot where people who wanted a quick bite to eat could also enjoy a fresh, tasty meal—with a glass of wine or beer as well.
Everyone in Reston agreed. Cafesano was a success from the moment it opened its doors. Today, this locally owned gem is a favorite for residents and people who work in the nearby office buildings. “My favorite lunch spot in Reston,” is a common refrain from anyone who has eaten here. No matter when you drop by, there will be a steady stream of people coming through to enjoy pizza, paninis, and kabobs (and, of course, baklava).
A combination of Italian and Mediterranean flavors, the primary rule at Cafesano is that the food be fresh. That combined with great customer service and a sleek, comfortable dining area with amazing views of Lake Thoreau contributed to Northern Virginia Magazine naming it the best restaurant in Northern Virginia for lunch in 2012.
Paul’s goal is always to give his guests a memorable dining experience by providing them with flavorful food and outstanding customer service. Drop by and visit—you’ll agree that Cafesano is one of Reston’s locally owned treasures!
Location: South Lake Village Shopping Center, South Lakes Drive, Reston, VA
Click here for the menu.
By Eve Thompson
Cabot’s Point in South Reston is lakeside living at it’s finest.
Many neighborhoods say they are Reston’s undiscovered jewel. Cabot’s Point Cluster in the South Lakes area of South Reston is one with a true stake on that claim. This beautiful community of cedar patio homes borders Lake Audubon, Reston’s largest lake. The neighborhood is so secluded that many people don’t realize there are houses back there.
Many homes in Cabot’s Point have lake front property.
Warm is the way to describe this Reston lake side neighborhood.
Built in the early- to mid-1980s, these townhomes have a distinctive contemporary design with sharp right angles and sun-drenched cedar siding. Rather than the adjoining walls typical of most town house developments, two-car garages attach these units. The yards are beautifully landscaped, and common areas provide a wooded setting. The homes have one or two decks and are staggered along winding, narrow cul-de-sacs that give the impression of a small village. Many units have lake views.
Lake Audubon is Reston’s largest lake.
Access to Cabots Point comes from South Lakes Drive, across the street from South Lakes High School and a quick walk to South Lakes Village Center.
Cabot’s Point may be close to every activity Reston has to offer (including the new Reston Metro station), but for many residents, lazy evenings on the lake are the leisure activity of choice.
Talk to any resident of Cabot’s Point, and they’ll tell you they have no intention of ever moving out of the neighborhood. Homes don’t often come on the market here, so if you see one, jump on the opportunity immediately.
By Eve Thompson
July 26, 2014 was another milestone day in the history of Reston, VA—the long (very long) anticipated Silver Line Metro opened to the public. It was a beautiful Saturday, and Restonians came out in droves to take their first trip on the Silver line. Some ventured just a few short stops to Tyson’s Corner, while others ventured all the way into DC.
To me, there are two primary benefits of taking the Silver Line Metro—you don’t have to fight traffic and you don’t have to look for parking. I may just ride the train one morning simply for the experience of traveling during rush hour without being stuck in gridlock.
As someone who lives and works in Reston, I don’t have to travel into DC very often…if ever. So I don’t. It’s not the driving; it’s the parking. I just don’t want to deal with it. Now with the Metro, that is going to change. Here are my 5 top Silver Line Metro adventures that don’t even require a train change!
- Eastern Market (Eastern Market stop). http://www.easternmarket-dc.org/
Eastern Market is located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of DC, and it offers an eclectic mix of fresh food, community events, and local farm-fresh produce and handmade arts and crafts on weekends. It’s great fun to meander through the market and have breakfast or lunch at one of the many restaurants in the area. If you want a local’s DC experience, this is it.
- The Smithsonian (Smithsonian stop). http://www.si.edu/
Where to start? The Smithsonian consists of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities. If you are interested in it, there is an exhibit somewhere. From fine art to finery to fossils—you could spend weeks exploring the Smithsonian and see only a fraction of what it has to offer. And now, access is just a short train ride away.
- The Kennedy Center (Rosslyn stop). http://www.kennedy-center.org/index.cfm
This adventure is two for one. The Kennedy Center is such a fantastic resource. From concerts to musicals, there is always something interesting on stage. And even if you aren’t there for a show, you’ll have a great time wandering the Hall of Flags and enjoying the views from the terrace. However, most people don’t realize what a treat walking to the Kennedy Center from Rossyln is. It’s a fairly short walk that takes you over the Roosevelt Bridge, which (in my opinion) is one of the most beautiful views of DC. I’m looking forward to heading down on a Sunday for a matinee!
- Arlington (Clarendon stop). http://clarendon.org/
The Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington is chock full of great restaurants, nightlife, and shopping. If that sounds a little like Reston Town Center, it is. Only it’s in Arlington. Clarendon is a fun change of pace if you just want to ride the metro or do something different on a Saturday night.
- Georgetown (Foggy Bottom stop). http://www.georgetowndc.com/
Georgetown is one of those iconic DC neighborhoods that is just fun to wander around. Visit the famous Exorcist staircase or visit the gorgeous Georgetown University campus and then wander down M Street to find a piece of pie or a cupcake. There is shopping, dining, and great people watching to be found around every corner. A leisurely, agenda-free afternoon in Georgetown is always fun.
There are hundreds of adventures awaiting you once the metro train doors open. Enjoy the ride!
By Eve Thompson
“Masterpieces in the Making.” That was the original tagline for Ridgewood Cluster in North Reston, and the claim is fitting. Designer/developer Van Metre won many awards for overall community excellence, interior design, and energy conservation initiatives. Built in 1989, Ridgewood Cluster proudly carries on the tradition of excellence with a neighborhood that elegantly blends with the natural environment.
These richly appointed, 3-level townhomes have lofts and cathedral ceilings to add space and visual appeal. Each home has a brick and cedar siding exterior, and many have a garage. There are five models of townhomes throughout the cluster—some offer luxurious master suites, others offer fabulous areas for entertaining. There is a home here for whatever your style of living is!
Ridgewood Cluster is located on Great Owl Drive, right off Reston Parkway between Baron Cameron and Route 7. This cluster is close to North Point Village shopping, and just a quick trip down Reston Parkway to Reston Town Center and Lake Anne Plaza.