Big Financial News!

Bank of America will be buying Countrywide for 4 billion dollars in stock!   The sale is supposed to close in the 3rd quarter of 2008. This will help to rescue the biggest mortgage lender in our country. I believe this is going to help the housing market in the long run.

If Countrywide was to fail, it would be a huge blow to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are government sponsored mortgage companies.   These two companies are major purchasers of Countrywide’s loans.

Happy New Year

I hope everyone had a great holiday season.   My family and I spent our holiday back in Texas.   One of the new hot trends in home improvement in the South is stained concrete flooring.   It is inexpensive and very stylish.   My husband and redid the flooring in my Mother’s home with this new trend of staining.   The end result was amazing.

I have had many people approach me lately asking me about remodeling their kitchen before they sell.   It is a good idea to do some planning before you call a contractor or visit you local home improvement store.   First, you might want to begin by creating a type of “style book”.     Look through your favorite home magazines and pull out the pictures that YOU like.   Second, think about what you want to use the remodeled space for in your kitchen. Third, come up with an idea of what YOU want to spend.   Finally, decide when you want to start the project and what kind of time frame are you looking at for the completion of your kitchen project.

These tips might sound like common sense to most of you…But when you don’t know what you want or don’t have clear goals, it is much easier to get talked into having things done you don’t want or spending too much money.

Candice Skoby

Interesting article on Remodeling

While conducting research for a client, I came across this article about the positives and negative effects it can bring to your home.

When It Comes to Remodeling, It™s What™s Outside That Counts, Realtors ® Report

 

WASHINGTON, December 03, 2007 –

Many buyers judge a house by its exterior, or so it seems from the results of the 2007 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. Three of the four projects with the highest national percentage of costs recouped this year were exterior upgrades.

The most profitable project on the national level was upscale siding replacement, recouping 88 percent of costs upon resale. Wood deck additions and wood window replacements also returned more than 80 percent of costs, at 85 percent and 81 percent, respectively. On a national average, the only interior project to return more than 80 percent of remodeling costs this year was a minor kitchen remodel, returning 83 percent of project costs at resale.

œThe results of this year™s Cost vs. Value report underscore the importance of curb appeal in the buyer™s eye, said NAR President Dick Gaylord, a broker with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif. œRealtors ® know what attracts buyers in their local markets and can help your house put its best façade forward, so to speak “ it™s another way Realtors ® add value to the real estate transaction.

The 2007 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 29 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels and replacements in 60 markets across the country. Data are provided for nine U.S. regions, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the 10th consecutive year that the report, which is produced by Hanley Wood, LLC, was completed in cooperation with REALTOR ® Magazine, as Realtors ® provided their insight into local markets and buyer home preferences within those markets.

Four new projects were added this year: the aforementioned wood deck addition, a back-up power generator, and both a midrange and upscale garage addition. Nationally, the back-up power generator only returned 58 percent of the investment on resale, although the return was highest in the West South Central region, which comprises Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, at 68 percent. Buyers in the Pacific region of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington value their garages: The midrange garage addition returned nearly 70 percent nationally but 88 percent in this region, while the upscale garage addition returned approximately 65 percent nationally but 78 percent in this area.

Homeowners in the Pacific region could also expect to see some of the highest percentages of remodeling expenses returned at resale, with 13 of the 29 projects returning 90 percent or higher of project costs. Homeowners in the East North Central region of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin might expect some of the lowest returns; only one project “ upscale fiber cement siding “ returned more than 80 percent upon resale (82 percent of costs recouped), while nine projects returned less than 60 percent of project costs.

The least profitable projects were a back-up power generator, sunroom addition, and home office remodel. The back-up power generator returned the lowest percentage of initial cost in the East North Central, New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), Pacific, and West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) regions.

Sunrooms are least popular in the East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee), Mountain (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming), and West South Central regions. Home office remodels return the lowest percentage of project costs in the Middle Atlantic (New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) and South Atlantic (Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia) regions.

Gaylord explained that the resale value of any given remodeling project depends on a variety of factors. œWhen considering a remodeling project, particularly with an eye toward resale, it™s important to evaluate your home™s current condition, how the project will change the existing space in your home, as well as how your remodeled home will compare to other homes in your community, said Gaylord.

œFor example, using a breakfast nook to expand the kitchen seems like a good use of space, but using the same space to add a first-floor bathroom in an older home that doesn™t have one will draw more buyers, Gaylord said. œRealtors ® see hundreds, if not thousands, of homes every year with their buyer clients and can provide valuable insight into what projects and improvements will make a difference with buyers in your area.

Results of the report are summarized in the December 2007 issue of REALTOR ® Magazine. To read the full project descriptions, access national and regional project data, and download a free PDF containing data for any of the 60 cities covered by the report, visit www.costvsvalue.com. œCost vs. Value is a registered trademark of Hanley Wood, LLC.

Hanley Wood, LLC, is the premier media company serving housing and construction. Through four operating divisions, the company produces award-winning magazines and Web sites, marquee trade shows and events, rich data, and custom marketing solutions. The company also is North America™s leading provider of home plans. Founded in 1976, Hanley Wood is a $240 million company owned by JPMorgan Partners, LLC, a private equity affiliate of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The National Association of Realtors ®, œThe Voice for Real Estate, is America™s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

VRE in Gainsesville and Haymarket

You can almost hear the train a-coming….

In October, Gov. Kaine announced that there would be an increase in funds for transportation at the state, regional  and local levels.   It looks like they will be using some of these funds to extend the Virginia Railway Express by 11 miles to service both Gainesville and Haymarket.   It will still be five years or so before VRE riders have a few more stops!

Prince William Schools get new ID system

On December 3rd, Prince WIlliam Schools are starting a new electronic visitor identification system in all schools.   The system involves scanning visitor’s government issued identification, and issuing a visitor badge that includes the school name, visitor name, date and location of visit and the visitor’s photograph.  

 This system logs volunteer hours and also cross references sex offender databases.

Upcoming Projects in Prince William County

Here are some projects in our area that will be coming soon according to the Prince William Planning Department:  

* Pembrooke Subdivision, 12255 Sudley Manor Drive,   Construction of 71 townhouse units

* Merrifield Garden Center, 6895 Wellington Road, Construction of a 141,915 square-foot nursery

* Bolt Property, 8412 Linton Hall Road, Construction of 58 single-family houses

* Dominion Valley Country Club, 4804 James Madison Hwy., Construction of 42 townhouses.

*Gainsville District Volunteer Fire Department, 5901 Antioch Road, Construction of a 17,467-square foot fire station.

Congress is Cracking Down on Easy Credit Home Mortgages

Last week, the House of Representatives voted (For-291/Against-127) to tighten restrictions against easy-credit institutions (HR 3915) that have contributed to the weak housing market.   The bill requires states to license all mortgage providers, allows borrowers to sue institutions that knowingly repackage unsound loans into securites, and requires lenders to certify that borrowers have a reasonable ability to pay.   The bill also scales back prepayment penalties on loans, bans commissions to brokers for steering borrowers to mortages they can’t afford, and requires states to toughen lending rules or submit to the federal lending rules.   This bill has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

New FBI Office

Close to 300 FBI agents will be moving into the brand new Northern Virginia Resident Agency office just west of Manassas.   Jason Grant, spokesman for Prince William County Department of Economic Development stated that having the office here undoubtedly makes the county a more appealing place for businesses to relocate.   Prince William County is becoming more economically strong and independent. – Source, Pulse Newspaper.

 I believe that this office locating to our area will greatly strengthen our real estate market.  

Bull Run Festival of Lights

The Bull Run Festival of Lights will be running 11/21/2007 to 1/6/2008, 5P to 9:30PM.   This is something that I look forward to every year, and is very worthwhile if you have never been to it.   It is one of the great things about living in the Northern Virginia area.   Admission for cars is $15 (Monday thru Thursday) and $20 (Friday thru Sunday).   Vans are $5 more.