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Alexandria, Virginia Area Real Estate Blog

Stone Realty Services®


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Your Best Investment

by Stone Realty Services®

According to a Federal Reserve report on Consumer Finances, homeowners' net worth is 36 times greater than that of renters. Building on that study, the National Association of REALTORS® believes that by the end of 2015, the factor will grow to 41 times greater.


There can be several factors that contribute to this disparity but an important one is the forced savings that is achieved due to an amortized mortgage. A portion of the payment goes to the reduction of the principal balance of the mortgage which increases equity in the home.

Appreciation is also a major contributor to homeowners’ equity. Homes, in most areas, have consistently increased in value over the long term and during the past four years have experienced solid growth. Many economists expect home prices to increase in the next five years.

Let’s look at a scenario where a qualified buyer considers three different options to see what their investment would be in five years: purchase a certificate of deposit, invest in the stock market or buy a home. The following assumptions are made: a $250,000 home with an $8,750 down payment with a 4.5% mortgage for 30 years and 3% annual appreciation; CD rate at 2% and a 5% return in the stock market.

The $8,750 would grow to $9,661 in the certificate of deposit, to $11,167 in the stock market and to $69,900 in equity with a home purchase. That is over a six times growth in the same period of time due to the amortization of the loan and the appreciation.

Check out Your Best Investment to compare possible differences in your price range. 

The Cost of Co-Signing

by Stone Realty Services®

It seems fairly innocuous; a friend or family member wants you to co-sign on a loan because they don’t qualify. They assure that they’ll make the payments; they’re quite convincing and very appreciative. You don’t want to disappoint them and after all, it’s not like it’s going to cost you anything…is it?

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Think of it this way. They couldn’t get a loan unless you co-sign for them. If they don't make the payments, the lender is going to look to you to repay the loan plus late and collection fees. The lender may be able to sue you, file a lien on your home or garnish your wages.

And it’s not just money that you could be losing, it could be your credit too. Co-signing a loan is a contingent liability that could affect your debt-to-income ratio and your ability to borrow.

Co-signing is an obligation to repay the debt if the other signer is unable. You could be out the money and unable to recoup the loss because you don’t have control of the asset. The impact on your credit could take years to recover.

Before you obligate yourself, consider all of the ramifications involved in co-signing a loan for someone.

Finding the Best Mortgage

by Stone Realty Services®

As rates are inching up but still very affordable, buyers should remember that there is an alternative to a fixed rate mortgage that can provide the lowest cost of housing for the homeowners who understand the parameters.

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A $300,000 fixed-rate mortgage at 4% has a principal and interest payment of $1,432.25 per month for the entire 30 year term. A 5/1 adjustable mortgage at 3% has a $167.43 lower payment for the first five years and then, can adjust, up or down, based on a predetermined index.

Another interesting fact is that the unpaid balance on the ARM at the end of the first five years is $4,624 lower than the fixed-rate mortgage. The total savings in the first five years on the ARM is $14,669.00.

Adjustable rate mortgages are not the right choice for everyone but buyers should at least consider the options based on their individual situation. It could be an obvious choice for a buyer who is only going to be in the home for five years or less.

Use the ARM Comparison worksheet to see what possible savings you could have based on your actual numbers. A trusted mortgage professional can help you to understand the advantages and disadvantages based on your situation. You need the facts to make the best decision. 

Cut Mortgage Insurance

by Stone Realty Services®

Making additional payments toward the principal of your mortgage will do three things for the homeowner: save interest, build equity and shorten the term on fixed rate mortgages.


These things should be beneficial enough to justify the extra payments but another huge advantage is available to those who have private mortgage insurance on their loan. Mortgage insurance rates vary but can range from seventy-five to two hundred dollars a month on a $200,000 mortgage.

Lenders are required to automatically terminate mortgage insurance when the principal balance reaches 78% of the original value of the property. It is important for homeowners to monitor their balance because sometimes lenders may inadvertently fail to terminate the coverage.

Mortgage insurance is a necessary but expensive requirement for many people who are limited to a down payment of less than 20%. Eliminating the need for it can save thousands of dollars over time.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, CFPB, issued a compliance bulletin on August 4, 2015. 

Lower the Rate & Deduct the Interest

by Stone Realty Services®

A home can easily be a person’s largest personal asset and it can be a powerful tool to increase financial stability also.

Since most mortgages are amortizing, the loan becomes a forced savings account that reduces the unpaid balance with each payment. The equity could be used to improve a homeowner's financial position involving other loans.


While every homeowner recognizes that they can deduct the interest paid on their mortgage, it is surprising how many don’t know that they can write-off the interest on up to $100,000 of home equity debt assuming there is sufficient equity in the home.

The real advantage to a homeowner is that the money borrowed can be used for any purpose and the interest is still deductible. Homeowners could payoff high-interest rate credit card debt or student loans with a considerably lower rate on a mortgage and deduct the interest on the home-equity debt.

Replacing debt with lower rate loans that have deductible interest can be a strategic decision to financial stability and a debt-free environment. A trusted mortgage professional can help you analyze your individual situation to determine if it would be better to refinance with a cash-out first-mortgage or a dedicated home equity loan.


Checking for Leaks

by Stone Realty Services®

An unexpected, larger-than-normal water bill could lead a person to think that they might have a leak. Before incurring the cost of a plumber, it is fairly easy to run your own test.

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Locate your water meter. They’re usually in the front of the house, near the street. In some cases, you might need a meter key to open it; they can be purchased at Lowe’s, Home Depot or other hardware stores.

Step One - Write down the numbers on the meters to get a current reading. Don’t use any water for thirty minutes. If the meter shows water usage during the test period, proceed to step two.

Step Two - Shut off the valves to all of the toilets. If you have a pool with an automatic filler, it has a similar device. Repeat the test again for the same thirty minute period. If the numbers haven’t changed this time, it indicates that the toilets probably need servicing.

If the numbers have changed during step two, it is an indication there may be a leak and it will need to be tracked down. This could be the time to call a plumber or plumbing leak specialist. Your water department may have a consumer help line that can offer suggestions also. 

More Home for a Lower Cost of Housing

by The Stone Wood Team®

What if you could live in a larger and possibly newer home for less than you are currently? Would you consider moving? Do you want to hear more?

Interest rates, while they’re expected to go up, actually took a small dip and are still hovering at the 4% or below mark for a 30 year mortgage and almost one percent less for a 15 year term.


Let’s assume that you have a $225,000 mortgage currently at 6% which has a principal and interest payment of $1,348.99. With a 4% rate, you could have a $282,561 mortgage with the same payment. A $57,000 more expensive home could help you get what you need most such as more square footage or a different location or a newer home.

If you’re going to be making that payment for years to come, why not allow lower interest rates to help you get the features you want without having to necessarily pay a higher payment. Taking that logic a little bit further, let’s see how utilities can make a difference too.

A newer home could easily have lower monthly utility costs than your current home due to being more energy efficient. Construction materials, windows, doors, insulation, modern HVAC systems and energy efficient appliances all contribute to lower utility costs. A new home with these advantages could easily save a homeowner up to 25-50% on utilities for the same size home.

The concept is simple: get the most home you can for the amount you spend on the payment and utilities. It will take some investigation and your real estate professional can help.

Get Ready for College

by Stone Realty Services®

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One of the important things as a parent is to plan for their children’s education. Let’s look at two different approaches: a savings account or investing in rental real estate.

Assuming your child is five years old and you start putting $250 a month in a savings account earning 2%, in 13 years you’d have $44,497.41 to pay for their college. Anticipating that isn’t going to be enough, you’d have to save $500 a month to end up with $88,995.

Another way would be to make a lump sum contribution of $20,000 today in a mutual fund earning 5% that would be worth $37,713 in 13 years. You’d have to make a $47,196 initial contribution to end up with the same $88,995.

An alternative to savings would be to invest in a $100,000 home in a good area. Assuming a three percent appreciation and rent of $1,000 a month, an initial investment of $23,500 could have a future wealth position of $83,838 at the end of 13 years.

Obviously, this is just an example of why rental homes are the IDEAL investment providing Income, Depreciation, Equity build-up, Appreciation and Leverage. While rentals certainly have more risk and management than a savings account, they do provide an opportunity for a higher rate of return.

If you’re concerned about paying for college tuition in the future, it is certainly worth investigating the possibility of investing in rental homes today.


Wait a Year...It Won't Matter?

by Stone Realty Services®

There is a frequently quoted expression “more money has been lost from indecision than was ever lost from making a bad decision.” Regardless of the extent of its accuracy, most people can recall when procrastination has cost them money.


There are markets so short of inventory that buyers have become frustrated after losing bids for several homes and have decided to wait until more homes come on the market. In the meantime, the shortage of homes is driving the prices up more by the month.

There are buyers who can’t find what they want for the price they want to pay and think that waiting will somehow change things. In some cases, what they want just keeps moving farther and farther away from them.

The other dynamic in play is, of course, the mortgage rates. While they’ve remained low for several years, most experts agree that they’re going to rise; it’s just a matter of when. If you look at what positive increases in both of these would do, it becomes apparent that waiting will matter.

A $250,000 home purchased today on a FHA loan at 4% for 30 years will have a principal and interest payment of $1,151.76. If a buyer were to wait a year and the price increased 5% and the rate went up by 1%, the payment would increase by over $200 a month. In a seven year period, the increased payment alone would cost the buyer over $17,000.

Use the Cost of Waiting to Buy calculator to see how much it will matter based on the home you want to buy and what you think the prices and rates will do in the next year.

Who is Your Champion?

by Stone Realty Services®


The Super Bowl and World Series determine the football and baseball champions. Since there can only be one champion, the other team loses the competition. In feudal times, a knight might champion for the king or a patriotic, romantic or religious cause.

Fierce competition can occur when buying or selling a home because each party wants to get the “best deal” possible. When the buyer and seller are not be equally matched, and they rarely are, it is important to have a champion on your side to fight for your cause.

The price of the home, the type of financing and concessions, personal property, closing dates and possession are just a few of the many things that can be negotiated in a contract. Since the seller wants to get the most for their house and the buyer wants to pay the least, their causes are diametrically opposed.

Even after the contract is signed, removing the contingencies can cause considerable negotiations. The inspections or the appraisal could be the source of reevaluating the terms and provisions of the contract.

Negotiating the sale or purchase of a home is definitely a competition and you need a champion on your side. 

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 111

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