Snow continues to fall in Loudoun County, but it’s never too early to start planning for the spring to come. As many of us have spent more time in our homes these past 12 months than ever before, it’s never the wrong time to do some spring cleaning—and home improvements.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, there are a lot of simple, DIY home improvement projects you can tackle to help get your home spring-ready.

1. Build a High Rise Vegetable Garden

An empty raised vegetable garden box

If you’re interested in planting a vegetable garden this spring, now is the perfect time to build a raised bed. There are a lot of different tutorials out there on how to build one, and we opted for this taller version which was made in less than 90 minutes using 4x4s and 1x6s. We laid some landscaping fabric then added soil before planting some jalapeno plants!

2. Install Weatherstripping

Flowers sit in a wooden vase next to the window

While spending more time at home, you might have noticed some drafts coming from your windows. It’s easier than ever now to install permanent or temporary weatherstrippping around your windows and doors to help eliminate those drafts. You’ll also lower your heating bills by making sure your furnace doesn’t have to work so hard. A great time to do this right after you finish letting the paint dry on your freshly painted front door…

3. Paint Your Front Door

A quaint home with a bright red door and white picket fence

If you’re looking to instantly improve your home’s curb appeal, consider a fresh coat of paint on your front door. Front doors often take a beating from and fade over time because of the elements, and a fresh coat of paint is easy to apply and will instantly give your home new life. Make sure you check with your HOA in case there are any rules about colors or a specific type of paint.

4. Upgrade Your Builder-Grade Shower Head

A rain shower head runs next to a window

Most builder-grade shower heads work just fine, but if you haven’t replaced yours in a while, or if you’d like to upgrade your showering experience, a new shower head can make all the difference. For the most part, replacing shower heads is relatively easy—just make sure to follow the instructions!

5. Swap Your Shower Curtain

A new floral shower current hangs in a bathroom

Since you’re already in your bathroom, it’s also ridiculously easy and affordable to change your shower curtain. Your shower curtain takes up a lot of visual real estate in your bathroom, and a brand new one can freshen things up.

6. Frame the Bathroom Mirror

A framed mirror hangs in a gray and wood bathroom

This bathroom DIY project takes a little bit more patience than upgrading your shower head and swapping out your shower curtain, but framing your bathroom mirror can help add some brilliant finishing touches to your updated bathroom. With a tape measure, some molding, paint, wood glue, and a little patience, you can turn your boring mirror into a piece of art.

7. Install (Magnetic) Carriage Garage Doors

Magnets transform a standard garage door to a carriage-house look

We saw this hack on social media recently, and it’s probably the quickest, easiest, and least expensive DIY home improvement project on this list. Carriage house garage doors offer an excellent aesthetic to your home, but they can be expensive. However, you can order some magnetic garage door hinges and handles to give your garage door that carriage-house look for less than $12—and in less than 12 minutes!

Have you completed any home improvement projects recently? Send us the pictures on Facebook or Instagram so we can showcase your work!

Buying a home is a major life decision. Not only is your home the place where you’ll spend a large amount of your time—and maybe even more time as the work-from-home trend continues—buying a home is a large financial investment.

As a result, homebuyers typically need a mortgage from a bank or other financial institution to supplement any cash they’re using for a down payment. Interest on this mortgage adds to the total of what you’re ultimately paying for the home over time.

One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is all-time low mortgage rates. In May of 2000, 30-year fixed rate mortgages through government-sponsored lender Freddie Mac reached their most recent peak at 8.64%. Rates have declined relatively steadily over the last 20 years and have now hit all-time lows, dipping below 3% for the first time ever in July 2020.

Unfortunately, even though rates have come down since the COVID-19 pandemic set in, self-employed individuals and small business owners all over the country are now facing increased obstacles when it comes to applying for a mortgage.

What do mortgage lenders look for?

When applying for a mortgage—whether you’re self-employed or a W-2 employee—lenders want to make sure you are someone who will make consistent payments toward paying off the loan. Lenders want to ensure applicants have a good credit history, sufficient liquid assets available, a history of stable employment, and a low debt-to-income ratio.

To assess creditworthiness, mortgage lenders require borrowers to submit federal income tax returns from the last two years as well as recent pay stubs to ensure you have a steady income stream. However, because most self-employed people don’t receive pay stubs, they need to provide other documentation to prove financial stability.

What do self-employed individuals need to provide when applying for a mortgage?

Historically, most mortgage lenders required self-employed individuals to provide a two-year history of self-employment earnings to ensure that that income was stable and that the business (whether it be a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation) was currently operating.

Now, in the COVID-era, mortgage lenders are requiring self-employed individuals to also supply a year-to-date profit and loss statement as well as at least two recent months of business bank statements.

Can self-employed individuals qualify for mortgages?

Yes, and—like with anyone else—if you have documented proof of good credit history, available liquid assets, history of stable employment, a low debt-to-income ratio, and patience with paperwork, receiving a mortgage loan can be just as straightforward for a self-employed person.

Can 15 West Homes help you apply for a mortgage?

There are lenders that actually specialize in helping self-employed individuals get a mortgage with a competitive rate. Please reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to pass along names and contact information to you. It’s always good to talk to a couple lenders as you begin the process.

2020. A year for the ages.

Loudoun County, Virginia has always been an opportunistic location to plant family roots, but in 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic, the lowest mortgage rates in decades, and low housing inventory made Loudoun even more of a hotspot for buyers looking to socially distance and embrace more suburban lifestyles.

At 15 West Homes, we were grateful to help more than 30 families either buy, sell, or rent a home this year, leading to more than $14 million in total sales volume. This was in great part due to the expansion of our team and continued support of our community.

Year in Review metrics graphic for 15 West Homes
  • Sales Volume = $14,147,000
  • Total transactions = 32
  • Buyers Served = 16
  • Sellers Served = 10
  • Renters Service = 6

In 2021, we look forward to once again serving families joining us, saying goodbye to, and staying put in Northern Virginia, in a year that’s shaping up to be one of the hottest seller’s market in Loudoun County’s history.

A graph looking at the 2020 real estate trends in Loudoun County, Virginia

The biggest challenge for buyers looking to move to Loudoun County in 2021 will be inventory. Over the last 20 years, there have only been 19 months where there were less than 800 active listings in Loudoun; 11 of those months were in 2020, and we can anticipate December being the 12th. This means buyers need to move quickly, while continuing to do their due diligence in terms of choosing the right home, making sure it’s inspected, and putting in a great offer.

On the flip side, sellers have a great opportunity to make some money on their real estate investments in 2021. Not only is inventory down and demand up, prices are soaring. Through November 2020, average sales price in Loudoun County was up more than $35,000 versus 2019; and in the second half of the year that number climbed to nearly $50,000 more. Additionally, offers are coming in quickly as homes are lasting a mere 18 days on the market on average in 2020 compared to 41 days in 2019.

All indications for the foreseeable future show that homes in Loudoun County will continue to sell. Low mortgage rates paired with the need for additional space in the suburbs, makes Loudoun an ideal location for families looking to move on from city life and take in the great outdoors.

Whether you’re looking to move to Loudoun County and enjoy the many things our community has to offer or you’re looking to move even further out of Washington, D.C.’s metropolitan region, 15 West Homes is here to help you whether you’re selling, buying, renting, or staying put.

Market stats provided by Dulles Area Association of Realtors®

If Q3 2020 was any indication, the real estate market in Northern Virginia is still on the rise. Homes are flying off the market at a record pace for more money than they have since our housing boom in the early 2000s. Location independence, outdoor expansion, the need for multi-purpose sanctuaries, and historically low mortgage rates are encouraging residents of Washington, D.C. and its immediate suburbs to set roots further west—in Loudoun County.

Homes Continue to Sell

When the coronavirus first caused shutdowns throughout the nation’s capital region in March, Q2 home sales in Loudoun County in stalled to six-year lows. However, those numbers quickly rebounded in Q3 when 2,023 residential units were sold, the most on record since Q3 2005. That trend also seems to be continuing as 737 homes were sold in October 2020, the most homes sold in October in more than 20 years. For reference, 538 homes were sold in Loudoun in October 2019.

Average Sales Price Continue to Rise

While the number of homes sold continues to trend upward, so does the average price. In Q3 2019, homes in Loudoun County sold for an average of $548,440. In Q3 2020, homes sold for an average of $613,333. The near 12% year-over-year increase is the highest increase in average sale price in Loudoun since 2004–2005. That trend continued into October when Loudoun homes sold for an average of $605,000, a 10% increase versus average sales price in October 2019.

The average home sale price in September 2020 was the highest average sales price for homes in Loudoun in a single month…ever. With inflation, increased home sale prices might seem normal, however, before September 2020, you had to look back to August 2005 for the month with the highest average home sale months in Loudoun.

Homes Continue to Fly Off the Market

Lastly, the listed homes in Loudoun are not lasting long. In Q3 2020, the average home in Loudoun was on the market for just over 18 days, the shortest amount of time on the market in more than 20 years. In Q3 2019, Loudoun homes were on the market for nearly double that at 35 days.

Are These Trends Here to Stay?

We are now nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and people and businesses are fully recognizing the benefits of remote work options. Technologies like Zoom, Google Docs, and Slack or Microsoft Teams mean that coworkers don’t have to be sitting in side-by-side cubicles to keep businesses moving forward. Additionally, many companies are reporting increased employee morale—due to better work-life balance and less time sitting on the Beltway—actually leading to increased productivity outside of the traditional office.

We saw the typically active spring market slide into summer and October was a major indicator that the typically active summer market will slide into the fall. Trends show that people are fully embracing wanting more space, more nature, and more privacy. And smaller communities outside of Washington, D.C. are embracing the changing needs of their changing demographics as well, adding new infrastructure, entertainment venues, restaurants, and shopping centers further supporting the westward shift in Northern Virginia’s home buying trends.

Whether you’re looking to move to Loudoun County and enjoy the many things our community has to offer or you’re looking to move even further out of Washington, D.C.’s metropolitan region, 15 West Homes is here to help you whether you’re selling, buying, renting, or staying put.

Market stats provided by Dulles Area Association of Realtors®

In 2017, Gallup published its most recent iteration of its State of the American Workplace report stating that more than 75% of Americans work remotely at least once a week, 43% work remotely at least half time, and 20% work remotely full time.

Up until 2020, those numbers seemed to be on a slow and steady rise. Then in March of 2020, those numbers started to skyrocket due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Before working from home was a realistic, long-term option, home buyers and renters often wanted to live reasonably close to their offices in order to avoid long commutes—and in the D.C.-met, those long commutes were often unavoidable either way. As companies around the world start to recognize the long-term benefits of a remote workforce, and with public schools in Loudoun County introducing distance learning as the primary form of education for the time being, the needs of American home buyers continue to evolve. 

Dedicated office space

One of the major benefits of working from home is the opportunity for better work-life balance. However, without dedicated office spaces, work life often bleeds into home life. As more companies commit to at least partial remote work policies long term, buyers are looking for homes with dedicated office spaces where they can focus on work during working hours then physically leave work behind to spend time with their families. Even if you don’t have a traditional office space at home, there are ways to get creative with your interior design to utilize unconventional spaces as dedicated working areas.

Large outdoor space

A major concern from working from home is not spending enough time outdoors, so, now more than ever, home buyers are interested in houses with large, usable, outdoor spaces. Fenced yards to allow kids and pets to play without needing 100% adult supervision, covered decks where you can get some fresh air during the work day while limiting the glare off your computer screen, and patios where you can barbecue with family and friends in the evening and on the weekends are great features to help you spend more time outdoors. Additionally, houses near parks, recreation areas, and walking and hiking trails offer home buyers alternative and convenient outdoor spaces.

Updated, functional kitchens

The American kitchen is one of the most popular entertaining spaces for family and friends, so wanting an updated kitchen is nothing new. However, as restrictions on restaurants continue and with the additional time remote workers save by not having a commute, cooking at home has become more popular, so more than simply wanting an updated looking kitchen, home buyers are looking for more functional kitchens, including state-of-the-art appliances and creative storage options. 

Moving to the suburbs

When searching for more functional space—both indoors and out—the Loudoun County suburbs become an obvious choice. Even as growth continues, Loudoun maintains an excellent amount of green space with larger houses and larger lots than city living often allows for. Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, or stay put in Northern Virginia, 15 West Homes is here to help you make your house a home.

How have your home needs changed since schooling and working from home? Let us know on Facebook!

Although this summer has presented all of us with some abnormal circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still fun to be had. Here are five family activities to try in Loudoun before summer comes to a close.

With quarantine restrictions continuing to lift throughout Northern Virginia, a day of fresh air (and wine) could be the perfect escape from what’s become the new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Luckily, Loudoun County is home to some of the finest wineries in the country. Here are three of our favorite wineries in Northern Virginia and why you should visit them.

Stone Tower Winery

19925 Hogback Mountain Road, Leesburg, VA 20175

Stone Tower Winery is a picturesque destination for weddings, social events, or a laid back weekend with your family and friends. Mike and Kristi Huber chose to sow their vineyard into their roots on Hogback Mountain in Leesburg, Virginia with a very specific mission in mind: to produce world class wines, handcrafted from their estate vines. The choice of location on Hogback Mountain was very intentional because mountain vineyard sites have proven to be resilient to Northern Virginia’s high rainfall and humidity, leading Stone Tower to the creation of numerous award-winning wines. If you’re in the mood for a red, Stone Tower loyalists recommend the Estate Hogback Mountain; and for those looking for a white, try the Wild Boar Sauvignon Blanc. Our favorite is the Wild Boar Brute Rose Sparkling.

Quattro Goombas

22860 James Monroe Highway, Aldie, VA 20105

Italian for “four close friends,” Quattro Goombas’ founders Jay and Jody DeCianno and David and Carole Camden wanted that tradition of friendship to reign true at their beautiful property just off of Route 15 in Aldie. Quattro Goombas is more than just a winery: it’s a place where close friends and family come together to enjoy great wine, great brews, great pizza, and even better company. On these hot summer days, you can kick back with your close friends and enjoy a red wine frappe made with Cabernet Sauvignon and a handmade pizza from the Quattro Goombas Pizza Kitchen. Summer Friday’s have started with live music as well as food and drink specials—what a great way to kick of the weekend!

Fabbioli Cellars

15669 Limestone School Road, Leesburg, VA 20176

In 2001, and a decade’s-long dream, Doug Fabbioli and Colleen Berg planted their first vines in southern Lucketts, sowing the seeds of what would become one of the most awarded wine operations in all of Virginia. Since 2012, Fabbioli Cellars has seen nearly 40 wines receive Virginia Governor’s Cup medals, five of which were gold. Two of those wines—a 2011 Tannat in 2014 and a 2012 Cabernet Franc in 2016—were placed in the Governor’s Case, a placement reserved for the top 12 wines in the state of Virginia each year. While neither the 2011 Tannat or 2012 Cabernet are available any longer, Fabbioli Cellars does have a 2016 Cabernet Franc Reserve, a 2018 Cabernet Franc, and a 2015 tannat available for purchase.

We’d love to explore Loudoun’s majestic wine country with you. What’s your favorite winery in Loudoun County? Let us know in the comments below, then let’s grab a glass or two.

  1. Go for a country drive and stop to pick up curbside lunch at Roots 657 featuring house-made soups, salads, sandwiches, and fresh-baked goods.
  2. Enjoy some time at the Vine & Leaf picking up specialty wines, teas, and chocolates to enjoy at home!
  3. Host your own wine tasting on Zoom. Take a drive to one of our amazing wineries like Bluemont Vineyard!
  4. Love the outdoors? Take a hike a Sky Meadows, a historical parcel of land.
  5. Enjoy a warm cup of tea with friends on Facetime with Dominion tea. They offer tea tastings to go!
  6. Relax in the Lavender Fields of Blooming Hill.
  7. Indulge in a piece (or more) of scrumptious Pie freshly baked daily at Mom’s Apple Pie.
  8. Whether you like to Fish, play frisbee golf or play ball, Franklin Park has a place to do it.
  9. Get your walking shoes on and go to Loudoun Heights. Stop at the Overlook for an amazing view.
  10. Looking to learn about Fox hunting or just want to walk the hounds? Check out the Loudoun Hunt.
  11. If canoeing, Kayaking, or shoreline fishing is your thing head out to Sleeter Lake!
  12. Does cold Beer sound good? Check out all the options we have one the Ale trail!
  13. Have an aircraft piloting experience with a Discovery light over Western Loudoun.

On behalf of the 15 West Homes Real Estate team, we hope you, your family and loved ones are healthy and safe during these uncertain and stressful times. Given the last few week’s events and looking ahead to what we all must do to get through this challenge together, I want to update you on our actions and the Northern Virginia market perspective at 15 West Homes.

From the outset of the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), our priority has been the health and safety of our team, clients, partners and the community. We have taken multiple measures to reduce risk through education, virtual meetings and showings and have adopted precautions outlined by the CDC. While we are staying laser-focused on a “Health and Safety First” mission (Guidance for Sellers with Showings & Public Open Houses- Click here), we recognize our responsibility to help you decipher the overwhelming volume of incoming information and navigate through heightened uncertainty. The continued strength in the real estate market locally and the unprecedented strong fundamentals of the industry in Northern Virginia before the coronavirus outbreak are two main factors to consider when deciding to sell or purchase a home at this time of uncertainty.

In fact, depending on the length and depth of the measures needed to reduce community passing of the virus, we could see a rapid economic recovery on the other end of the current curve. This is why we are taking measures to contact potential buyers and sellers in this market to meet virtually and begin planning now. So whether you need to buy or sell a home now for relocation, employment, or any reason, we want you to know we are here to help you to move through the process and are as dedicated as we have ever been — all while keeping your health and safety a top priority. If you have decided to wait to purchase a home or list your home due to COVID-19, I still advise you to contact us to set up a virtual meeting so we can discuss the next steps to ensure you are prepared for the economic recovery.

For over 5 years, long-term relationships and partnering with our clients through thick and thin have been our guiding principles and still drive our team every day. We hope you view our resources and knowledge as an extension of yours and that you continue to count on us to support you as you evaluate your home selling, purchasing or general real estate needs. We look forward to getting through this chapter together with health, safety and success.

We find ourselves at an interesting point in the real estate market right now. Within just a few weeks we’ve gone from a frenzied sellers’ market and a flurry of re-financings as mortgage rates hit historic lows…to our “new normal” of closures, cancellations, and shutdowns that the tragic COVID-19 has brought.

People are wondering if the strong sellers’ market in northern Virginia will continue — after all, it’s been one of the most resilient markets in the country.

If you find yourself questioning whether it’s a good time to buy or sell…or if you should “wait it out,” please read on for some perspective…

Is now a good time to BUY?

If you have a secure job and have been considering a move — especially “moving up” to a larger home, low interest rates and the new economic uncertainly can certainly work in your favor. You’ll be able to get more for your money, and sellers may be willing to negotiate a bit…something that wasn’t happening in the midst of our low inventory environment. As an example, in February Loudoun County’s active listings were down over 20% from February 2019. But February sales were up over 11% over February 2019. There were more people buying, but choosing from a decreased supply of homes. This resulted in a lot of frustrated would-be buyers.

Our current situation may present an opportunity for buyers to have a fighting chance at the home of their dreams, versus our recent climate of competing against numerous other buyers.

But be aware that with physical distancing, sellers and agent have to be creative about showing properties (likely virtually). Everything, including appraisals and inspections may be done a bit differently. With that said, there has continued to be strong activity in northern Virginia over the past couple weeks, with contracts being ratified and people moving forward with their home buying plans. Activity on the new construction front has also been pretty steady, as I experienced last weekend when out looking at new homes with a buyer client. Showings are by appointment only and need to adhere to safe protocol, but they are still happening in person (or virtually if you prefer).

Is now a good time to SELL, or should I wait it out?

This may be a bit harder to read, but what we’ve learned from past economic downturns is that sellers who list their property sooner, rather than later, tend to be glad they did. We don’t know for sure how long an economic downturn in our country might last, once we emerge from our current business standstill. But I think we can all agree that it may be a long road back to economic strength. It may be better to take a bit less for your home now than risk a bigger price adjustment later on. Fortunately, sellers are coming from a position of strength, and the market is very different than it was preceding the 2008 housing bust.

Demand has been strong.

  • Again, it bears repeating: We’ve just recently been in an incredibly strong sellers’ market with high demand and low inventory
  • The market can certainly support a bit more inventory for sale.
  • Historic low mortgage rates bode well for the housing market going forward, helping to sustain demand.

Supply shouldn’t hit the levels it did in 2008 because…

  • We are unlikely going to see a rash of foreclosures, because sellers aren’t as over-leveraged as they were back in 2008, when many homeowners tapped their over-inflated equity and ended up upside down on their mortgages when the market crashed.
  • Lenders’ standards have been stricter than preceding the 2008 housing bust.

If you’ve been thinking about listing your home but are a bit spooked, remember that buyers are still out there! People who list early — before any downward pressure on the market may set in — are typically very thankful. Contact either me or Maggie to discuss your own situation. At 15 West Homes and Keller Williams, we continue to find smart and creative ways to serve our clients and get business done, even under the toughest and most unprecedented circumstances.

Dear friends, what strange times we are facing. I keep saying it’s like I’m in a “Walking Dead” episode or some other apocalyptic movie. Who could have predicted that we would be experiencing a worldwide pandemic in 2020?

This does totally suck, make no mistake about that, but despite the stress and uncertainty this issue has caused all of us, it’s important to see the opportunities it’s brought us as well. It seems to me that this challenge has made us slow down a bit. Now that most of us are working from home, which in and of itself has been an adjustment, we’ve removed the stress of a commute and are able to see our families more. And, we’re finding ways to stay connected to extended family and friends through FaceTime, phone calls and in person social distancing. How many of you have seen the posts on Facebook with neighbors doing happy hour together but 10 feet apart – that’s awesome!

Just last night, I did a group FaceTime with my girlfriends, one who just had a lovely little boy and one who just got two adorable little puppies. We shared a drink and chatted – it was REALLY NICE. We decided to try to do it most days so we can keep up with one another and support each other through this time. I’ve no doubt this will bring us closer than we’ve ever been, and I am so grateful for that.

I am also able to spend more time with my adult (18 and 22 years old) boys, probably because they are super bored and open to doing different things (like playing backgammon!). Whatever the reason, I am grateful. And, I see my husband and I doing more things together and being kinder to each other; as we all know, we are never promised tomorrow.

This challenge has also caused us to focus on our home as well and to do those things that have been on our lists for an embarrassingly long time. One friend of mine finally got to cleaning up their yard which had been damaged by the storm that came through a few months ago. It’s nice to be able to check those things off the list.

Do I think we’ll go back to our old “normal” once we find a cure for this virus? No, I don’t. I do think we’ll go back to a more “normal” but I sure do hope that we cherish the stronger bonds that came from this tragedy as well as a new sense of what home means.

Stay safe and healthy and I look forward to seeing you in person when all of this is over.