Thursday, April 30, 2015

5 Outdoor Projects To Get You Excited For Spring

     You know you have to tackle the clutter that has built up in your house over the winter— but it’s just so NICE outside!  Get outside this spring without squandering that productive attitude with some of these done-in-a-weekend projects for the outdoors.  They’ll boost your curb appeal and allow you to take advantage of the nice weather.  I like to call it “productive procrastination.”  Save the indoor cleaning for those rainy spring days!

Dress Up Your Doorway
     This could mean a lot of things, depending on how far down the rabbit hole you’d like to go.  A new coat of paint on your door and trim instantly brightens your entrance.  Add a screen door to welcome in the spring breeze and save on your cooling bill!  Upgrade your hardware and your security by installing a new deadbolt system.  Lay stone tiles for a new finished entrance and walkway.  Really, sprucing up your front entryway could be as easy as sweeping, using a damp cloth to clean the doorway and surrounding siding that has been dusted with pollen.  Buy some potted shrubs and plants that you love, along with some new door mats and call it a day! Pick the size of your adventure!

Lighting Effects
     Enjoy your garden and landscape, even at night!  If you want to add a magical element to your outdoors, light it up.  Use low voltage lighting, or even solar powered footlights, to really accent the curve of your garden beds.  They will showcase the texture of your landscaping and highlight any stand-out architectural elements of your home.  Get some midnight inspiration by putting some glow in your garden! 

Celebrate Arbor Day
     Okay, so it may have already passed this year (April 24th), but it is never too late to plant a tree.  Why not go for some long term landscaping that not only helps with cooling bills, but heating bills, too!  It’s recommended to plant at least two to three shade providing trees.  If needed, consult with a landscaper about placement to get the most benefit out of the shade.  They probably have some really good species to recommend for your area as well.

Clean Your Siding
     Now, lots of people think you cannot do this without a professional power washer but that’s just not true.  Vinyl siding requires a spray down with your household water hose twice a year.  Sometimes using a power washer can bend the vinyl enough that water gets underneath it.  If you have maintained the cleanliness of your siding an overall spray down should be sufficient.  If it has been neglected for a few years, a 3:1 mix of water to bleach will provide a little more cleaning power, just be sure to cover your plants.  If you have brick siding that requires little to no maintenance, walk around your home and do some spot cleaning.  Specifically check for water damage towards the foundation or where any rainwater continually drips on the brick and behind any plants.  Using a bristle brush with the same bleach/water combination can clean up any mold or mildew growth.

Stain Your Deck
     This project does require a pressure washer and probably the whole weekend.  After all the furniture is removed, power wash your deck.  You may have to use some soapy water and a scrub brush to remove more stubborn dirt or mold and let it dry overnight.  The next morning, stain your deck with a gorgeous fresh finish using a paint roller!  It should be dry by nightfall, however, save putting your furniture back for the next morning to save your furniture and the finish from getting damaged.

It’s shaping up to be a wonderful, productive weekend!  Make sure you wear a tank top along with SPF for some safe, pre-summer sun kissed skin!


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Donating Is Not Just Money But Also Time

Sometimes we want to do something good for our community but when we're busy and we have a business that is thriving, it may be hard to find the time. The easiest thing you can do, if you are able to, is write a check to a charity. It takes no time to do that and it can also serve as a tax write off. Sometimes, that's just not enough or what's needed. I have said it before but I will say it again, I believe that if I can improve the community that I live in, then i'd be more fulfilled both in my career and in my personal life. Does it feel good? Absolutely, but by helping some of these causes, we're improving the community as a whole - something that we can all benefit from.

As a Realtor, I know that buying a home is an exhilarating feeling for most. There's people who save their whole lives just to be able to buy a house, but for some, it may be a dream that they may never achieve. This is where Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity comes in, they make affordable housing for those individuals that fall in the low income category and don't have the means.

From their website:

"Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 as a non-profit, non-proselytizing Christian housing ministry. Since its inception, Habitat has helped build over 400,000 homes for more than 2 million people around the world.

The Richmond Habitat chapter joined the affordable housing effort in 1986. Since then, we’ve built more than 300 homes for deserving families. Along with our partner families, generous volunteers and donors, we have restored the hope and dignity that poverty housing often strips away."

They not only rely on charitable donations but also in people's time. This is a cause that speaks directly to my industry and therefore felt it was important for me to help them out. Matt and I we're fortunate enough to volunteer at the "Restore" location. This is another source of income for them, in which building and home improvement supplies are donated and they resell them for a discounted price. The donated items sometimes need organizing, cleaning or just stocking. The day that we volunteered there was a lot of other people there offering their time which was very uplifting.

To learn more about this organization and all the good things that they do for Richmond, visit their site by clicking here.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The 4 Keys to a Successful Flip

The one thing that home buying and property investment projects have in common is the amount of preparation you have to do to make sure your experience is a successful one.  Being prepared and informed about what it takes to flip your first house is the first step to a prosperous project.  Everyone has their first flip, even large contracting companies once had their first flip, so don’t be intimidated.  While there may be some unexpected bumps along the way, if you do your research and preparation, there is no reason you’re investment shouldn’t bring you a return.  Follow these best practices to be on your way to finding the right investment for you.

1.     There are still so many distressed properties on the market to snatch up despite the market’s recent boost.  You can take advantage of that, by finding the potential in the homes you’re looking at as investment prospects.  You can find these neglected properties either through auction, or a relationship with a local real estate agent.  You as the investor should be excited when seeing outdated kitchens or worn out carpet as an obvious improvement that will get you a return.  It’s important to get these homes inspected as there could be major underlying problems that may cost you more than you’ll make.  It is also important to understand and respect what’s within your scope to improve.  If you have a good relationship with a contractor, or have DIY skills yourself, it’s important to know whether or not you’re up for an entire gutting of a home, or if just want to handle the updating of things like cabinets and flooring.

2.     Do the numbers and then do them again.  There is only money to be made in your investment if the after repair costs in addition to the purchase price is less than the resale value.  Being solid in knowing what your repair costs will amount to is imperative.  A real estate agent who knows the market and what similar properties in the area have sold for is helpful in calculating the after repair value (ARV).  It is important to build some wiggle room in your budget for unexpected costs, and it’s best for first time flippers to avoid speculation.  Stick to the numbers and you’re more likely to have a return that you expect.

3.     Don’t be afraid to call in a professional.  This is along the lines of knowing what’s within your scope to repair.  Lots of first time flippers have a good understanding either from personal home renovations or from DIY television shows about profitable cosmetic improvements, but look past the technical aspects of a home.  Plumbing repairs, roofing issues, water damage repairs are all improvements that can be costly.  Trying to learn a trade as you go, like electrical, can end up costing you more time and money than hiring a professional.  Make sure you get assessments and bids from multiple contractors.  A real estate agent that is familiar with property investments can usually recommend lots of qualified contractors that they’ve worked with before. 

4.     Design your home for resale, not for your taste.  Stay conservative with your colors and hardware choices.  Buying the flashiest accessories might make your home stand out, but not in a good way.  Look at what appeals to the surrounding neighborhood and target your market.  Features such as crown molding, hardwood floors versus carpeting or a kitchen island are all things that can appeal to buyers.  The goal is to sell your beautifully refinished home fast. Including things that appeal to a greater audience can achieve that.

     As long as you’re practical and diligent in your investment, there’s no reason you’ll get in over your head on your first flip.  The main keys are to stick to the numbers and what you know.  There’s no reason you should try to skimp on renovations by doing everything yourself.  Spending that little bit of money by getting the job done right the first time will not only save you stress, but you’ll see it in your return.  After all, that’s the name of the game when it comes to property investment.

So Much Good From One Single Non-Profit

When I first got involved with the Good Samaritan Ministries I thought it was just another organization that helped those who were down on their luck and just needed a little boost. Maybe a place to eat and sleep for a few months while they got their lives together. I had heard about them but didn’t know much. I met Pastor Mike, who oversees the operations of the facilities, and he was kind enough to give me a walk through of what their program actually entails. 

Their program begins with help for those individuals who may not have a place to go to due to drugs or alcohol abuse. Some of these individuals may have gotten out of jail and have no loved ones or friends who can help them out, getting a second opportunity can be very challenging for some of them. So they have a shared living space where they are placed and monitored, they are given a place to sleep, hang out and are properly fed. This doesn’t all come for free though, they are required to do tasks like help with cooking, do laundry and clean the quarters. They take turns doing this because the Ministries' mission is not just to help them but to teach them to help themselves. Which brings us to our next point. 

The Ministries believe that just housing someone who is going through a rough patch is not enough, because this is a temporary fix. Instead they believe in providing a trade skill that they may not already have so that way when they leave the program they can be on their own and be a productive member of society. They have an onsite car repair shop, they get lots of cars donated to them so they can fix them, turn them around and sell them for an affordable price. This teaches them a skill and in the process they make a small profit so they can house more individuals. A lot of the times these cars are sold back to the individuals that are housed there so they can build their credit back, allowing them to get apartments in the future. 

Other skills that they learn are landscaping, construction, repairs and maintenance, carpentry and cooking. In some cases the Ministries will partner with different companies so they get paid a basic salary which allows them to cover the cost of their stay with the Ministries, teaching them the basics of finances and responsibility. If they decide to buy a car, it is at no interest to them. The skills that they learn are also used to maintain the properties of the Ministries.  

When they first get accepted into the Ministries, they are housed in a communal space for six months but after that time they are transferred to apartments that are located within the property. These apartments house two people so they will have a roommates to give them a sense of independence but at the same time they can keep an eye on each other. They pay rent with some of the jobs and tasks they do on and off site. This is a fantastic way to maintain a sense of independence while getting support and supervision from the Ministries.  

In the downtown area it is difficult to get specialized or private education. For those parents that want a better future for their kids, the Ministries have a full fledged school that includes all grades. There is one teacher for every ten students but it's typically closer to one teacher for every six to eight kids. The Ministries only charge them what the families can afford, which is kind of amazing given the fact that they are getting the closest thing to a private education that the Ministries can give them. They also receive some food because some of these families may not be able to provide them with a healthy meal before and during school.

They also have facilities to conduct masses, funerals, baptisms along any other religious services that are necessary for the community. It’s incredible to see how much this group of individuals, lead by Pastor Mike, can and will do for the surrounding areas. It really is a selfless act that relies on charities and donations from all over including private individuals such as myself and big businesses like local grocery stores and restaurants. I feel a really personal connection to these people because I think giving back to the community will only make us all better. 

They are our Charity of The Month and I encourage everyone out there to get involved with them. 

For more information about the Good Samaritan Ministries please visit their website at:

Or get in touch with Pastor Mike at 

2307 Hull St

Richmond, VA 23224

Monday, April 6, 2015

As Flowers Bloom, Become A Savvy Buyer

It is a predictable trend that as the flowers start budding and the weather gets sunnier, the more houses get listed on the market.  It’s one of the busiest times of year for buyers and sellers.  While HGTV has made small projects on how to better sell your house common knowledge, there aren’t many shows dedicated to being a savvy buyer.  Make sure you are succesful this Spring by following these simple rules:

1. Have a Professional in Your Corner
          There are a lot of ins and outs of buying a property and you deserve a knowledgable professional to represent your interests throughout the process.  Not only will it make your life easier, but having experience in your corner to deal with negotiations, inspections and paperwork is a valuable asset to home buying.  They’ll notify you of recent additions to the market as well as streamlining the search, eliminating any duds before setting foot out the door.  A good agent will understand market trends and how they will affect your personal home buying goals and save you money in the long run.
2. Be Able to Make a Serious Offer
          Understanding your financial profile is key for a seller to entertain your offer on their home.  Getting pre-approved by your lender is the way to be a serious contender in the game.  While there are many mortgage options these days than there ever was, you want to make sure you qualify for the amount you’re budgeting for.  Once you gain pre-approval, you’ll be a heavy hitter when it comes to buying your investment.

3. Prioritize Wants and Needs
          Wants and needs vary by demographic.  Age, marital status, kids, career are all factors that influence where you buy and what kind of home you need.  Outdoor space, ease of commute, good schools are all things to consider when looking for a neighborhood.  Make a checklist of things you need versus what you want and prioritize them.  It’ll make looking at homes an easier experience knowing the things you are not willing to compromise on.  When you’re house hunting remember that you’re also buying into the neighborhood.

4. Incentivize Your Offer
          These days it's not only the sellers who face competition.  You are likely to have to compete with another bidder for your dream home.  If you decide to make an offer on a home, make it stand apart from the rest.  Underbidding is a thing of the past.  There are lots of creative ways to make your offer more attractive by either simplifying the process for the seller or offering more time for them to move out.  You’re agent will know plenty of tricks to make your offer shine above the rest.

As long as you are prepared and proactive about home buying this spring, you’re sure to be a success.  Know what you qualify for and figure out what you want ahead of time, making the decision-making process extremely easy. Having the right person in your corner to ask all the pertinent questions and handle legalities is valuable to your overall experience, also saving you time and money.  They know how to get you what you want!