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Holiday Light Displays in Northern Virginia

by The Stone Wood Team


It’s the first day of December and we are already stoked for the holiday season! One of our favorite activities are viewing the beautiful holiday light displays. Here are our favorite locations!

 

Meadowlark Winter Walk of Lights

Location: 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court Vienna, VA 22182

Price: $5-$13 per person

Hours: 5:30 to 10 p.m. (last tickets sold at 9:30 p.m.)

 

Dominion GardenFest of Lights

Location: 1800 Lakeside Avenue Henrico, VA 23228

Price: $5-$13 per person

Hours: 5:00 to 10:00 p.m.

 

The Bull Run Festival of Lights – Drive Through

Location: 7700 Bull Run Dr Centreville, VA 20121

Price: $15-$55 per vehicle

Hours: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

 

Illuminated Light Show – Drive Through

Location: 13191 Dawn Blvd. Doswell, VA 23047

Price: $25-$100 per car

Hours: 5:00 to 10:00 p.m.

 

Leftover Thanksgiving Recipes

by The Stone Wood Team


Hope everyone has a great time with family and friends this Thanksgiving! After all the festivities, the leftovers you have can be used in other recipes! Here's our Top 5 favorites.

  1. Turkey Pot Pie : Who doesn't love a good pot pie? Just throw all your leftover together and voila! 
  2. Extra Veggie Fritatta : For the vegetarians out there ...
  3. Stuffing Stuffed Mushrooms : Stuff-ception going on here! 
  4. Turkey Chili : We all love a good chili in this office! This recipe is great with ground beef too.
  5. Leftover Thanksgiving Nachos : You can't go wrong with smothering anything in cheese.

Inheritance versus Gift - Is there a difference?

by The Stone Wood Team




A person called into a radio talk program with a situation that was troubling to the caller and disturbing based on the potential tax liability that may have been avoided.

The caller’s elderly father had deeded his home to his daughter a few years earlier because in his mind, his daughter was going to get the home eventually and this would be one less thing to be taken care of after his death. The daughter didn’t really care because the father was going to continue to live in the home and take care of it so that it would be no expense to her.

Obviously, unknown to either the father or the daughter, transferring the title of a home from one person to another could have significant tax implications. In this case, when the father “gave” the home to his daughter, he also gave her the basis in the home which is basically what he paid for it. If she sells the home in the future, the gain will be the difference in the net sales price and her father’s basis which could be considerably higher than had she inherited it.

If the home was purchased for $75,000 and worth $250,000 at the time of transfer, there is a possible gain of $175,000. However, when a person inherits property, the basis is "stepped-up" to fair market value at the time of the decedent's death.  If the adult child had inherited the property, at the time of the parent's death, their new basis would be $250,000 or the fair market value at the time of death and the possible gain would be zero.

In most cases, there are less tax consequences with inheritance than with a gift. There are other factors that may come into play but being aware that there is a difference between a gift and inheritance is certainly an important warning flag that would indicate that expert tax advice should be sought before any steps are taken.

Loan Principles

by The Stone Wood Team

 

It's the Principal of the Thing

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Most people think they’ll have a house payment and a car payment for the rest of their lives but it doesn’t have to be with a plan and a little discipline. The plan is to make additional principal contributions to a fixed rate mortgage to shorten the term and save tens of thousands in interest.

If a person were to make an additional $100 payment each month applied to principal on a $175,000 mortgage, it would shorten the loan by five years six months. If the person were to make $200 a month additional payments, it would shorten the loan by 9 years. $459 additional payment would shorten it to 15 years.

If a person does make a decision to regularly pre-pay their mortgage, it will be their responsibility to verify that the lender is applying the money to the principal each time as opposed to being placed in the reserve account for taxes and insurance.

In today’s market, a savings account pays around 0.5% or less. Even with the low mortgage rates available, there is still a considerable savings. People who might need the funds in the near future should carefully consider this option due to the difficulty to access equity easily from one’s home.

Make your own projections using the Equity Accelerator

Halloween Events in Old Town Alexandria

by The Stone Wood Team

Ghost ToursFollow a lantern-carrying guide who gives you lots of early history, a little suspense and mystery and a dose of "ghost." Tour begins at Ramsay House Visitor Center! It's great for kids of all ages and large groups. Oct 29-31

Poe In Alexandria - Actor David Keltz returns to The Lyceum’s lecture hall to re-create Poe’s visit to Virginia in 1849, shortly before his death. Enjoy a night of spooky stories and classic poem readings! Oct 30-31
 

Chadwick's Monster Ball -  Feast and drink to your heart's desire! There will be devilish drink specials, a costume contest, and killer tunes all night. They promise that you'll have a howling good time. Oct 29
 

Boo Cruise - Experience a spooky cruise on the Potomac! The ever-popular Halloween BOO Cruise aboard Spirit of Mount Vernon is a Halloween party to take your costume game to a whole new level! Come decked out in your Halloween costume to participate in a live costume contest for the best getup. Oct 29
 

Doggy Trick Or Treat - We can't leave out our furry friends now! Come to The Dog Park in Old Town Alexandria to get your map and have pictures taken. Then tour the rest of the participating stores to get more treats and find a sale or two in town! Oct 30
 

Del Ray Halloween ParadeThe 20th Annual Del Ray Halloween Parade begins at Mount Vernon Ave., south of E. Bellefonte, and continues down to the Mount Vernon Recreation Center play fields at Mount Vernon and Commonwealth Avenues. Children, pets and strollers in costumes are invited to march and show off their finest and scariest Halloween garb with prizes in different categories. The parade and all activities are free! Oct 30
 

Bootiques - Start trick-or-treating early and stop by the dozens of shops of the Old Town Boutique District dishing out treats to goblins and ghouls of all ages from 2 to 6 p.m.! Oct 31

How to have a Dust-Free House!

by Stone Realty Services®

Having a dust-free home isn’t difficult, but it takes a serious commitment and a housekeeping strategy that addresses the dust and its causes. Whether your motive is cleanliness or to eliminate the cause of some allergies and asthma symptoms, it will be worth it.

  • Try to dust your home at least twice a week. Dust the tallest items and work your way down. Dust picture frames, blinds, baseboards and anything that stands out from the wall.

  • Feather dusters can spread more dust than they collect compared to microfiber cloths that attracts dust because they have an electrostatic charge.

  • Filters on heating and air-conditioning systems should be changed often not only to remove dust from the air but to increase the efficiency of the units themselves. Special HEPA filters can improve the overall indoor air quality.

  • Frequently changing the bag or emptying the container in your vacuum is helpful in eliminating dust.

  • Vacuum the floors at least once a week. Vacuum under furniture and periodically, move appliances to clean behind and underneath. Use the proper attachments to vacuum upholstered furniture and under cushions.

  • Eliminate dust magnets like carpet, heavy drapes and upholstered furniture. C10043513-250.jpgonsider hard surface flooring like wood or tile instead of carpet.

  • Keep windows closed to keep dust out.

  • Clean your pillows and drapes.

  • Damp mopping and dusting with plain water helps hold the dust and is environmentally friendly.

  • A humidifier can eliminate static electricity which holds dust.

  • Air purifiers circulate are and capture dust and other pollutants
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Choose a Lower Tax Rate

by Stone Realty Services®

During campaign season, it is not unusual to hear a candidate criticized because they make a lot of money but pay little in income tax. While it might not seem fair, taxpayers are allowed to arrange their affairs so that they minimize the amount of tax paid.

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Salary, wages and commissions, along with interest and dividends are taxed at ordinary income rates which can range from 10% to 39.6%. However, capital gains rates, for property held more than 12 months, are much lower ranging from 0% to 20%. Taxpayers in the 25-35% brackets pay LTCG rates of 15%.

The profit on rental property enjoys the lower long-term capital gains rates as compared to the profit on “flipped” property which is taxed at ordinary income rates.

Investments in rental homes generate income, provide depreciation for tax shelter, have equity build-up due to the amortizing loan, leveraged growth due to the borrowed funds and appreciation. The profits could be considerably higher than alternative investments and the profits taxed at lower rates.

The advantage is available to people who understand the tax laws and choose to arrange their activities so they pay a minimal amount of tax. The advantage is available to all taxpayers, not just the rich. In fact, implementing these types of strategies could lead to an increase in wealth.

 

If you're going to play, GET IN THE GAME

by Stone Realty Services®

If competition is a buyer’s biggest concern, for goodness’ sake, get in the game. In a new survey of close to a thousand home buyers conducted by Redfin, affordability is still the number one concern but due to low inventories, competition from other buyers is moving its way up the poll.

26% identified affordability while 19% mentioned competition and 15% mentioned low inventory as their respective top concerns.

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To win, athletes study the competition to come up with a plan and buying a home is not different.

  1. Ask what terms are important to the seller before you write the offer.

  2. Once you decide to make an offer, do it as fast as you can, hopefully, to be the only one the seller is considering.

  3. Make a good (or possibly, your best) offer in the beginning; you may never get a chance at improving it. In highly competitive situations, offer above the list price.

  4. Attach your pre-approval letter from a respected lender. This means you’ll need to get pre-approved before you even think about writing an offer.

  5. Have your lender call the listing agent to reassure them of your ability to qualify.

  6. Include a higher than normal amount of earnest money to show you are serious.

  7. Eliminate unnecessary contingencies.

  8. Write a personal, hand-written letter telling the seller what you like about their home and why you want it. Consider including pictures of your family.

  9. Minimize seller expenses paid for the benefit of the buyer.

  10. Shorten inspection times.

  11. Don’t ask for personal property.

  12. Be flexible on closing dates to accommodate the seller’s move.

Once you find your dream home, don’t take a chance on losing it. Write a winning offer that will be good for both the sellers and the buyers.

 

The Obvious Alternative Investment

by Stone Realty Services®

Rental homes can be a natural alternative investment choice for homeowners because they are already familiar with houses. Maintenance on a rental is not that much different than on your personal home. The same plumbers, painters and other workmen can be used to make repairs.

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Single family homes offer an investor high loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates for long terms on appreciating assets with defined tax advantages and more control than other investments.

  1. High loan-to-value mortgages – most investments require that you pay cash but rental properties can be purchased with 20% down payment.
  2. Fixed interest rates – most commercial loans are based on a floating rate such as prime interest plus one or two percent compared to real estate loans as fixed rates for the term.
  3. Long terms – commercial loans are generally short-term such as six months or a year with the possibility of being renewed for another six months or a year unlike real estate where a 30-year mortgage is commonplace.
  4. Appreciating assets – real estate has a long-term history of going up in value.
  5. Defined tax advantages – many investments are taxed as ordinary income but rental real estate enjoys a non-cash deduction called cost recovery, the profits from sale are taxed at lower long-term capital gains rates or may be eligible for a tax-deferred exchange.
  6. Control – rental homes don’t require partners and afford the investor more options than investing in mutual funds and other traditional investments.

The demand for good rentals is strong and the rents continue to go up in most markets.  There are people who choose not to buy or cannot buy a home who would prefer to live in a single family home rather than an apartment.

 

You may never stop paying for some improvements...

by Stone Realty Services®

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You've saved the money and are ready to pay cash to build a new pool for your home.  However, that's just the beginning of your soon to be increased expenses which will include maintenance, higher utilities and higher taxes.

Homeowners obviously benefit by a larger equity when their home increases in value due to appreciation.   A not-so-obvious effect that will also more than likely take place is that their property taxes will increase.  In most cases, a property's assessed value is generally tied to market value to calculate the property taxes based on the tax rate for that year.

Similarly, a homeowner can affect the value of their home by making capital improvements.  Some small items may never be recognized by the taxing authority but items that require a permit, certainly are brought to their attention.  Items such as a fence, roof, remodeling, windows, new rooms or swimming pools can easily increase the assessed value of a property.

Most states have an established time frame in which to challenge the current tax assessment for that year.  The process is relatively simple and doesn't require professional representation.  It generally involves showing that there is an error which has overstated the value or that current comparable sales indicate a lower value.

If you'd like more information or need the comparable sales data, please let us know.  We would be happy to help you investigate the possibility of lowering your property taxes.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 140

Contact Information

Photo of Stone Wood Team Real Estate
Stone Wood Team
Keller Williams Realty
2165 Jamieson Avenue
Alexandria VA 22314
Office: (703) 739-4663
Office: (703) 739-HOME
Fax: 703-683-9692