Thursday, February 26, 2015

New Website & Making Online Leads Work For You

One of my personal goals this year was to launch a new website, if you ever got a chance to visit my old one you’d understand why. My old site served its purpose but it wasn’t great to look at and as my business grows I understand the importance of having a professional online presence. I know that my clients may hear my name from others that I have helped in the past, but the first thing that they are going to do is look me up online. Whether this means they’ll check Facebook, LinkedIn or just pay a visit to my site. I have spent quite a bit of time making sure that my image is not only clean and professional but that it is also consistent throughout the different platforms that I am in so that my “brand” is readily recognizable. 

In fact, I am holding a seminar dedicated to converting online leads to actual sales. I know there are a lot of people out there still holding on to the idea that social media and a web presence has no impact on sales but I know from personal experience that that couldn’t be further from the truth. You really do have to put yourself out there constantly to make sure people know that you’re there, it’s not even about requesting their business but just to have some sort of presence so that when it is time for them to use your services they'll remember your name. There’s been many studies done about this subject, in fact, a study conducted by Nielson points out that people spend about two of their day online, whether it is on their smartphone or PC. It's hard to ignore the importance of internet in this day an age and it would be silly not to help people find your business online. 

I of course could not have done this without the help of a few people - as far as the online marketing and website is concerned i've been fortunate to have stumbled upon Design By E. They specialize in helping growing businesses create an online presence with: websites, social media and just general marketing practices. They are really great so if you're struggling or just don't have the time, you should give them a call! 

Below is a screenshot of my old website but you I suggest you visit my brand new website by clicking here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Home Maintenance & Inspections 101

As I was watching my Facebook feed get inundated with my friends' houses suffering water damage because of frozen and burst pipes, it got me thinking that a lot of the time we take home maintenance and care for granted. We procrastinate and forget because we have more “important" things to do but next thing you know we’re stuck with huge bills from broken heaters, AC units, pipes and even flooding from faulty or backed up septic systems. 

Home inspections can help us discover some of these issues before they are actual emergencies and problems, saving us THOUSANDS in the process. Yes, a home inspection can be a few hundred dollars but it is a good way to figure out what kind of shape our house is. Honestly I spend a lot of time looking at all types of homes for a living and I overlook things that the home inspector picks up. Putting something off like examining your pipes, heating and cooling systems, foundation and roofing, can be some of the most expensive repairs in a home. Yes, you may spend a few hundred dollars fixing some of these things preemptively, but it will be a lot cheaper than having to fix something like a leaky roof that has not only collapsed but has also ruined precious belongings in the process, or like in the case of some of my close friends over this past snow storm, having to take care of massive water damage due to frozen burst pipes. 

I guess what I am getting at is that you don’t have to wait until you are about to sell your house in order to do proper home maintenance. Sometimes, it’s just good sense to make sure that everything in your house is in order. Make a checklist of the things you need to check every season. Winter should be focused on your heating unit, your pipes and maybe your air filters since you’ll be breathing that air constantly. Spring should revolve around organizing your home, also checking your filters and maybe making home improvements since the weather is usually pretty nice. Summer should be all about your A/C unit and ensuring your home is properly insulated in order to save money on cooling bills. During the Fall you may want to clean your gutters and check your roof to make sure that there aren’t any leaks or cracks. This is a very basic list of things to check and there are many other things you should be on the lookout for. 

Taking care of your home, which is probably your most expensive investment, requires care and maintenance so make sure not to neglect your home until you have to sell.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I've Been Accepted Virginia Leadership Academy

Left to Right: Steve Overgard (agent), John Finn (Richmond Association of Realtors 2015 President) Rhonda Howlett (me) and Philip Innes (agent)

Recently I’ve received the honor of being accepted into the Virginia Leadership Academy.  As a member of the class of 2015, this program will prepare and groom me for leadership roles within my community, my company and within the Virginia Realtors Association.  This is a great privilege for me as a young professional because only around 20 colleagues throughout all of Virginia are excepted in the biannual program. I am a very motivated individual, sitting as the Vice Chair of the Young Professionals Network and Treasurer of the Women’s Council of Realtors among other community involvements that I am very proud of, this appointment into the VLA will equip me with the knowledge and confidence to effect change within the Association and within my community.  I am so lucky to be accepted into the Academy and will take full advantage of all it has to offer to better serve the town and state I love.

For more information about the Virginia Leadership Academy please visit their website here

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cure Your #Cold End of February Blues

     It's cold outside and some of us are tricked into thinking that means there’s nothing to do but cook and watch movies under blankets, but for Richmonders next week, this is not true.  Slowly kicking into gear is the beginning of Richmond’s wonderful festival season!  So get out there and start shaking off your winter blues starting with the upcoming Bluegrass Jam!

     On February 21, Richmond Bluegrass Jam will be returning for its 6th year.  It's held at the Cultural Arts Center in Glen Allen from noon to midnight.  A marathon of bluegrass, 30 bands from around the region will be playing to help support the Richmond Fisher House.  This event is family friendly and free, but donations are encouraged.  So get out of the house and get your jam on for a good cause.

     If you find yourself culturally lacking on February 26, head downtown to either the Virginia Historical Society, the one of a kind Byrd Theatre, or Bowtie Movieland/Criterion theater to celebrate the Richmond International Film Festival.  It's a fun event for movie enthusiasts or inspiring filmmakers alike! Events and films are being held from Feb 26-March 1.  It's tons of fun, culturally enriching, an inspiring, creative atmosphere and it's great to go with friends or a lovely date ;-).  Plus, you can stay warm indoors!

     Or, if you don’t mind the cold, the Polar Plunge Winter Fest benefitting the Special Olympics Virginia is going down on February 28.  With many different levels of participation, this is fun for the whole family!  Attending is free, but participation requires raising $50 for the cause.  Music and games will be held in the Westhampton Field near Libbie/Patterson intersection.

     Just because it’s technically still winter, doesn’t mean you have an excuse to stay hibernating for much longer!  Get out there and start having some fun.

For more Information visit:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

5 note-worthy restaurants in Richmond

Being blessed with a hint of good weather this past Sunday, my winter hibernation habits were throttled by an urge to explore all Richmond has to offer…at least, for my tastebuds.  One of my favorite pastimes is eating all the wonderful food Richmond chefs have to offer.   There are so many quaint restaurants with just as many unique visions and approachs to food that I thought I’d share with you some of my stand-by favorites.  You know, start with the staples and taste on from there!  Believe me, I’ll keep you updated on my new finds.

Mamma Zu's
Hands down, one of my favorite places to enjoy life and wine with friends and loved ones.  Its unassuming atmosphere and no frills service from knowledgable hardworking servers and chefs make it an easy going place to enjoy some of the freshest ingredients and indulgent Italian food in this town.  A simple, classic arugula salad comprised of only premium Parmesan Reggiano and freshly grated black pepper is a no brainer.  Follow it with just as simple but hard to master Rockfish, expertly cooked to tender flaky deliciousness, or heavier more indulgent treats like Duck, Osso Bucco and Branzino.  The candlelit bohemian atmosphere always puts stars in my eyes and a satisfied smile on my face.

501 South Pine Street, Richmond, VA 23220
(804) 788-4205

In keeping with the laid back, home-cooked theme for now, Alamo barbecue is as fun as a backyard cook out!  Their outdoor dining area is insulated and heated with kerosene lamps for the colder days.  They smoke all of their meat on site and offer a very diverse menu for a typically narrow culinary style.  You can count on the classics like pulled pork and chicken, brisket and sausage to be mouthwatering.  However, they also smoke fish and have a portobella BBQ option as well.  Some of my favorites are their Tex Mex items like tacos and burritos and I always have to get one of their killer sides.  Don’t forget the cherry limeade, please!

2202 Jefferson Avenue, Richmond, VA 23223
(804) 592-3138

Rappahannock Restaurant
A relatively new find (for me!) is this more upscale establishment by the Rappahannock Oyster Co.  Boasting fresh Virginia oysters, they serve three different kinds.  Olde Salts from Chincoteague Bay, Stingray oysters from Ware Neck and Rappahannock oysters from Topping, VA.  Did I mention that you can get these at $1 a piece during happy hour?  What an amazing, affordable luxury!  I was blown away by the rich wooden atmosphere and amazingly friendly and professional service.  Their specialty cocktails and extensive wine and beer list add to its charm as a destination for a fancy date night, beers with the guys, or drinks with the ladies.

320 East Grace Street, Richmond, VA 23219
(804) 545-0565

Talk about Richmond staples.  This place has imbedded its name, beer and food in the mind of most Richmonders that I know.  A great place to hang out with great food, an insane amount of beer on tap and weekly happenings like live bands has everyone wanting more.  Now they can have it, The Answer brew pub located behind Mekong and the recently acquired The Commercial Taphouse has reopened with a facelift!  You can enjoy classic vietnamese dishes at Mekong (I love their Pho) as well as their incredibly tasty wings.  Mekong has embraced local breweries and inspired the dynamic beer-loving owner to open his own.  Mekong has certainly become part of Richmond culture and a vehicle for its growth.

6004 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230
(804) 288-8929

Another story of a reinvisioned classic.  Perly’s, formerly a greasy spoon southern comfort breakfast diner reopened its doors late summer last year as a New York style Jewish delicatessen restaurant.  There’s no meat counter or slicer or ticket taker, but you can order your sandwich exactly how you’d like it.  While it’s one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a long time, their breakfast options are something to drool over as well!  In keeping with one of the old Perly’s traditions, they serve breakfast until 3pm daily.  They offer other traditional breakfast staples like a Bagel with Fish, cheese blintzes and a delightfully flavorful Benny Leonard.  This charming place has friendly service and a knowledgable staff to help guide you through a few unfamiliar menu items like kishke and gribiche.  Make sure you try their garlic and dill french fries or matzoh ball soup, named a champion by the soup nazi himself!  

111 East Grace Street, Richmond, VA 23219(804) 332-6434

This is just the beginning of my appetite for new tastes and experiences in this vibrant town of Richmond, VA! As this is only my second installment of events, activities and culture that make this such a great place to live, you can count on more to come.

Friday, February 6, 2015

5 Of The Most Common Homeowner Tax Breaks

Mortgage Interest
Like most things that accrue interest, they can be taxed. In this case, that tax actually works in your favor as a tax break. I think this one of the most important tax breaks that most homeowners can take advantage of because it applies to the majority of people. Your bank should be sending you a statement that you can plug in into your tax return. This tax break applies to a second mortgage such as refinancing, equity loans and lines of credit as long as they are under $100,000.

Have you ever owned a home before? If the answer is yes, then you are probably familiar with the point system that both banks and lenders use. offers a great explanation on points
"A point is a fee equal to 1 percent of the loan amount. A 30-year, $150,000 mortgage might have a rate of 7 percent but come with a charge of 1 point, or $1,500. A lender can charge 1, 2 or more points. There are two kinds of points -- discount points and origination points."

Points offer tax breaks too, so if you’ve paid on points on your mortgage you qualify for tax breaks on them. This only applies to the years that you’ve actually paid points. This also applies if you’ve refinanced, however this will usually span over the course of the life of the mortgage so it works a little bit differently than points paid on a non-refinanced loan. Lines or credit and equity loans are also included.

Taxes Paid
Taxes accumulate over the course of the year which have to be paid at the end of the year, all of these taxes paid can be written off too. This is as long as you own your home of course and have to be subtracted as an itemized expense on Schedule A. If you’ve recently bought your house or sold it, you may only be responsible for “partial” taxes, because you didn’t own the house the whole year, take this into consideration when you’re entering all your information under your itemized expenses.

Selling Your Home
There is a law protecting those making a profit when they sell, as long as you have lived in your house for more than two years and as long as it doesn’t exceed more than $250k, or $500k jointly in sales, you can take that profit tax free! The only other restriction is that you have to have lived in the home that you’re selling at least two of the five years before the sale. It’s incredible that not a lot of people are aware of this tax break because I think that it would incentivize those whose houses have regained value in the past couple of years to make a sale.

If you’re one of the very unlucky individuals that lost their home due to unforeseen circumstances which resulted in a foreclosure, there is light at the end of that dark tunnel. According to the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007, homeowners who were foreclosed, completed a short sale or had their home debt reduced by mortgage restructuring do not have to count the canceled debt as taxable income.

When you have any kind of credit line, default and get it reduced or forgiven by the lender, the bank acts as if this was “income” that you received. The way that they figure this is that the lender has given you something that you were not able to pay back, when you get that wiped out or "forgiven", the government says “you still received that money, and now that you’re unable to pay it back, we’ll count it as income”. No one borrows money with the intention of defaulting, this is why this relief act was introduced, to help those who were already facing hard times.

Is there anymore tax breaks you could get? Absolutely! But these are the most common ones that I encounter when helping people buy and sell their homes. Let’s hope this information helps those homeowners out there save a little money come tax time!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Super Bowl Is Over, But What About That Awesome House Party?

Yesterday was pretty intense, there’s lots of activities that come attached to Super Bowl Sunday: house parties, eating a lot of pretty unhealthy snacks, buying an awesome new TV (and surround sound system), and having a flow of people constantly coming through your home. Which brings the question to mind, what is a great setup for home entertaining? You have to admit having friends come to your home and say that you have a great home is a pretty good feeling, right? There are some homes that are designed for entertaining and some that just aren’t. Here are some things to look out for if you plan on entertaining in your new home.

Yes, there is a pretty big trend of living in housing complexes because of the convenience and affordability. It’s where all the young and hip people live, but you have to watch out for restrictions on these types of places because even though they may offer a common area where you can cook out and hang out outdoors, you may still run into the problem of having no privacy or they may have ban on cooking out. Being able to have a cookout can be a big part of entertaining especially when it comes to things like the SuperBowl: hot dogs and cheeseburgers!

Ample Living Room Space
Having an outdoor space to entertain so you can have a cookout or a fire pit is great, but you can’t always entertain outside. For those days where there is less than ideal weather, you need to be able to bring a big crowd inside. When shopping for a new home, you shouldn’t compromise living room space and a dining room area. Even if you don’t have a big group of friends you may still want to have loved ones over and accommodate everyone comfortably. Make sure that you have easy access or even open space leading to your kitchen. Speaking of kitchens...

Being able to cook and talk to your guests as you prepare meals is important, especially if you’re the kind of person that likes to cook for others. This way there isn’t interruption of entertaining and conversation when people are over. This also makes it easy to transport food and drinks from point A to point B. The kitchen should also have enough room to prepare food and fit more than one person at a time, if you plan on having people over regularly, a small kitchen could be a deal breaker. Also, look for room for appliances such as double ovens or a dishwasher since this could simplify the way you entertain. 

Wired Right
Whether you’re planning on installing a ceiling fan to control the flow of hot and cold air, installing a new surround sound system or a new flat screen tv, you want your home to be outfitted with all the right outlets for it. Some houses are going to need new wiring but that can add to the cost of your home so try to make sure that what you shop for has most of these outlets and wiring installed already. In addition to the right wiring, make sure that your home receives your preferred cable and internet providers since there are areas that not all companies service, this is especially crucial if you plan on hosting parties for any kind of sporting event. Different companies will carry different sports TV packages. 

There will be other things that you want to look for such as making sure you’re entertainment areas are on the same floor as the main entrance and that you have a bathroom near the living room but for now, these are the things you want to look for when buying a house and you’re planning on entertaining.