In honor of National Pet Rescue Day, we sat down with Stacey Gimbert, President of Friends of Homeless Animals, to learn more about FoHA, adoption during this pandemic, and how we can get involved. #GetToNoVA

I’ve heard wine consumption is up during our current stay-at-home orders. It’s no surprise, but I’m sure many of you miss your local wine bar or restaurant. I know I miss going to our own favorite spot, Wine Styles in South Riding. While they’re open for purchases and the monthly wine club shipments, the in-store sipping and socializing has been halted, as have the tastings.

As my husband and I enjoy favorite Italian varietals of Nero D’Avola or Barbera d’Alba at our kitchen table, I’ve found my mind wandering to some of the model homes I’ve toured over the past year…many of which had innovative wine bars or wine displays.

Create Your Own Wine Bar In Your Home

The great news is that many of these wine set-ups need not involve a fancy wet bar or expensive renovation of your basement. While you can certainly go that route, there are also simpler ways to turn a corner of your rec room — or even the wall of a family room — into a wine-themed nook.

These spots provide great little “getaways” within your own home when you just need to relax and unwind — and have a change of scenery from your home office, kitchen, or couch! You can buy some new varietals from a local wine shop to create your own wine tasting…in your own wine bar! And hopefully, before too long, you’ll be able to invite friends and family over to join you.

For inspiration, take a look at all of these innovative ideas. This is one of my personal favorites and puts me in the mood to pair some wine and cheese…

Wine Tasting Area in Basement

Notice how there are no permanent fixtures needed here, just a long table. The concept concept below also utilizes a long table as the focal point and pairs it with a cool wall display of clear bottles…

Wine area with bottles on wall

Because these arrangements aren’t permanent structures, they can be moved or replaced with other uses of the space in the future.

This one is certainly pricier and gives the appearance of more of a “permanent” bar with the stone work backdrop….but still keeps things simple since it doesn’t involve plumbing for a wet bar.

Bar in basement

You can go an even simper route with a sports-bar type counter and stools in your rec room. Even though it’s basic, it still lends a festive touch to the space and gives people a place to set their bottle or glass while playing pool…or sit down for a beer tasting.

Rec room with counter and bar stools

This is a more traditional set-up for a basement bar, but again, you can keep the cost lower by not incorporating a sink, refrigerator or dishwasher. You still end up with the look and feel of a full bar.

Basement bar

If you’re tight on space, you can always go with a type of baker’s rack or simple, clean cabinets and shelves tucked in a nook…and stocked with your favorite spirits.

Bar for small spaces

Another trend I’ve been seeing is opting for a small wet bar in an upper level “loft” space off the bedrooms. It creates a little retreat where you or your guests can relax with a cocktail while snuggling up on the couch.

Bar in upstairs loft retreat

You can even incorporate the wine theme in a Dining Room, giving it an elegant and creative touch. No need to worry about where to store all your wine…this is utilitarian as well as beautiful!

Dining room wall wine rack

And then, of course, you could go over-the-top with a full-fledged wine cellar like this…

Wine cellar

Stay tuned for other fun trends we’re seeing in model homes. And if you’re in the market for a new home, let us know. While model homes aren’t open for anyone to just drop in right now, most builders are scheduling private appointments so that serious buyers have the opportunity to browse in a safe setting. We can handle all the details for you!

According to the latest Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report from the National Association of Realtors, millennials make up the largest segment of homebuyers today. And, one of the key criteria they have for shopping for homes are features that would be beneficial for their pets. 

  • A full 73 percent of millennials currently own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association.
  • A whopping 89 percent of millennials who bought a home so far this year own a pet, according to
  • For this demographic, 79 percent of pet-owning homebuyers who closed on a property this year said they would pass up an otherwise perfect home if it didn’t meet the needs of their pets, according to a survey.

In addition, approximately 66% of U.S. households currently own a pet or plan to get one, this has increased since COVID-19.  43% of U.S. households would be willing to move or change their living situation to accommodate their pet.

And, the one big feature many pet owners want? You guessed it, a pet shower. This feature has been a growing trend for years. I have a friend who started a remodel to build a dog shower for her dogs. In addition, here are other features that are of interest to pet lovers:

  • Pet friendly flooring – Luxury Vinyl plank and laminate flooring are favorites 
  • Feeding stations
  • Hidden trash bins
  • Hidden litter box stations
  • Pet gates (good for little humans too)
  • Ramps for older pets
  • Enclosed patios for cats

What pet features do you have or plan on incorporating into your home?

Even in the days of the novel coronavirus, we are still seeing many situations where there are multiple offers on a home. That’s certainly the case in this resilient northern Virginia market. If you’ve ever been a buyer in this situation, you know it can be confusing and stressful. Even today, it’s wise to assume your offer will not be the only one submitted, especially if it’s a well priced and nicely maintained home.  

Does that mean you don’t stand a chance? Absolutely not. If you work closely with your agent and keep these 9 strategies in mind, you’ll put yourself at an advantage over other competing offers and get noticed by the seller.

  1. Price is not always the main priority of the seller. Make sure your agent contacts the listing agent before an offer is written to find out what’s important to the seller. This should be done as a matter of course in any situation. 
  2. Make sure you are pre-approved from a good local lender. These days, sellers won’t even consider offers from buyers who are not pre-approved (pre-qualification is a lower hurdle and is not as strong). You will always be up against other buyers who are pre-approved. Don’t know where to start? Your agent is a great source of lender referrals, and this step should be taken at least several weeks before starting to look at homes. That way, when you find the home of your dreams, you’ll be ready to take action and have your offer taken seriously. 
  3. Increase the amount of your Earnest Money Deposit (EMD). This shows you are serious and want the home. Sellers know that a buyer is much less likely to walk away from a sale if they put down a significant EMD. The earnest money deposit gets credited back to you, the buyer, at closing, so there is minimal risk in putting down more. 
  4. Do not ask for closing cost assistance. Asking the seller to take money out of their pocket is not a tactic to employ in multiple offer situations. The less money out of their pocket the better. To them, it equates to reducing the price of the home.
  5. Consider an escalation clause to mitigate offering too much. That way, you can offer more, but only in increments and only if necessary. Odd-value increments like $1,200 or $1,500 are a good strategy as most people use $1,000 increments. You also have the option to retain the appraisal contingency so if the home does not appraise for what you offered, you have options — including voiding the contract.
  6. Shorten timelines on any contingency. Work with your lender and agent to minimize the time it takes to get financing approval, the appraisal and any inspections — while still protecting you as a buyer. 
  7. Be flexible regarding the closing date. If you have flexibility, offer to work around the seller’s preference for a closing timeline. IF that’s important to the seller.  
  8. Give the seller money. Yes, you heard it right, offer to pay some of their closing costs (like taxes or settlement fees). It’s a creative way to get your offer to stand out.
  9. “Love letters” to the seller are also an option. Let the seller know how much you love their home and what they have done with it. Make it as personal as possible — a handwritten note is definitely the way to go if there is time. If not, send a PDF of the letter. Try to find commonality or connection with the seller…did something in particular really stand out to you when you walked through the home? Did your agent uncover some relevant information when talking to the listing agent that might put your offer at an advantage? If so, use it. Make sure there are no spelling or grammar errors in your note, and close with gratitude and thanks.

Here’s what you need to know

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our economy has us all wondering how this will impact the housing market, especially for those of you who were planning to sell or buy during the busy spring market. 

As we know from the last major economic downturn, the NoVA area doesn’t seem to be as impacted as the national market. That said, with the impacts the virus has had on employment and the local economy, concern about the real estate market is justified. 

Zillow’s recent housing market projections forecasts a dip in home prices of 2%-3% through the end of 2020 from pre-coronavirus levels. They also predict a pretty steep decline in home sales, forecasted at 60%, before we recover to baseline levels by the end of 2021. That said, our local market data is showing new listings and closings and showings (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2) are tracking closely to 2019 levels. Showings are a bit off (Fig. 3), but clearly that doesn’t seem to be stopping sellers and purchasers from listing and buying. 


Fig. 2

Fig. 3

And, not surprisingly, inventory levels remain low (Fig.4), which means if you targeted the spring to put your home on the market, it’s still a good time to sell.

Fig. 4

If you want to discuss your specific situation and goals, email me at [email protected] and let’s talk!