Virginia Real Estate Blog

What are dark sky ordinances?

Dark-Sky Ordinances – What It Means To A Homeowner

Dark-sky ordinances are popping up across the country. The movement started when a few amateur astronomers realized that urban lights were blotting out the stars, causing a disruption in sleep for both wildlife and humans alike. This nocturnal light pollution hurts the environment and affects the feeding, mating, and living patterns of local wildlife.

To combat this effect, more and more communities are adopting dark-sky ordinances designed to limit the negative impact of artificial light. Compliance with the dark-sky regulations is the responsibility of not just the city, but homeowners within those zones as well, all designed to illuminate skyglow.

Skyglow is the reflection of light caused by the saturation of artificial light. It’s the orange glow in populated areas that prevents one from seeing the stars. Dark-sky rules are designed to combat this and use a variety of methods to reduce or illuminate this light pollution. In addition to limiting the time and type of lighting, they also employ specific light strategies to comply with the ordinances.

Homeowners in a dark-sky location must also adjust the lighting on their property to avoid citations. As with commercial properties, the use of directional lights, lower “lamp” bulbs, and compliant fixtures allow the homeowner to have adequate lighting, while observing dark-sky practices.

The International Dark-Sky Association, or IDA, offers resources for communities, business owners and homeowners that identify best practices and compliant lighting strategies. As more cities recognize the benefits of dark-sky policies on the environment and their citizens, expect to find more dark-sky ordinances across the country.

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Questions most new home buyers ask.

10 Most Common Home Buyer Questions

Buying a new home is exciting and confusing. There are a lot of steps to buying a home, and people have questions. These are the most common questions home buyers have, and the answers.

1. How do I get started? – The first step is to speak with a lender and get a pre-approval. This will tell you, and potential sellers, how much you can afford.

2. How long does it take to close on a home? – Typically, it takes about 30-45 days once contracts are signed to complete the lending, appraisal, and inspection processes.

3. What does my agent do? – A buyer’s agent will negotiate terms and manage the closing process from start to finish.

4. How much do I pay for a buyer’s agent? – Nothing. The seller’s agent gives the buyer’s agent a portion of their commission from the seller.

5. What credit score do I need to qualify? – A 620 FICO score or higher is required for most home loan programs. Talk to a lender for other options for lower scores.

6. How much money do I need for a down payment? – It varies. FHA loans start as low as 3% and most lenders offer standard programs for a 5% down payment.

7. What other fees will I need to pay? – Closing costs and loan origination fees will add another 2-4% to the costs.

8. What if I change my mind? – Your agent will work with you to build in contingencies for condition,...

Home Security Basics

Home Security Basics

News reports all over the country are filled with stories of rising crime. Homeowners and business owners alike are concerned and looking for better ways to safeguard their properties and lives. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of options available on the market; from full-service security companies to DIY smart home systems, there is a solution available for every budget.

Following a few simple strategies can help protect you and your belongings from theft and crime.

· Install a Security System – Security systems are one of the most effective ways to protect your home. Many systems include motion detection video surveillance as well as two-way communication.

· Be Unpredictable – Burglars love routine. Using smart home devices, it’s easy to create unpredictable patterns for lights and sound. Leave a car in the driveway if you’re traveling as well, that makes it look like the home is occupied.

· Think Like a Criminal – Spend some time looking at your home and identify the weak points. Secure all doors and windows. Lock all entry points and be creative with a hidden key. Look for hidden entry points; where would you try and break-in? Do you have dark areas that are not visible from the street?

Finally, don’t make it easy for the criminals to track your movements. Refrain from advertising your trips on social media and consider asking a friend or neighbor to visit your home occasionally while you’re gone. The more your home seems occupied, the less appealing it will be to criminals.

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Has your listing gone stale?

Are Buyers Avoiding Your Listing? Strategies to Revive A Stale Listing

It may seem like every listing sells the first weekend these days, but as the market begins to slow down, more sellers are facing the dilemma of an aging listing. If your listing has been on the market for a while, buyers naturally assume that there is something wrong with the home and avoid viewing the home. Fortunately, there are strategies to renew the listing and re-engage buyers’ interest.

If your listing is losing steam, the first step is to understand why. Typically, if a home is not getting offers, it’s priced too high. Even homes in terrible condition will sell quickly for the right price. In a market where homes are selling quickly, it’s common for sellers to assume they can push their listing price even higher, but savvy buyers and agents will reject overpriced homes.

Another strategy is to put the home on hold and make a few updates. In most cases, simply adding a fresh coat of paint or new carpet can offer a more appealing look to buyers. In other cases, to garner a top price, sellers may need to replace appliances or more. Always weigh the cost in dollars and time before making significant updates.

Finally, some Multiple Listing Services (MLS) allow an agent to refresh the listing by temporarily taking it off the market for a few days and then placing it back on “active” status (with seller authorization). This triggers new alerts to both buyers and agents who are looking for a comparable property. If your listing is not getting the attention it deserves, speak to your agent about your options.

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Short Term vs. Long Term Rentals

Short-Term vs Long-Term Rentals

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of excitement about owning a short-term rental as part of an investment portfolio. This marks a dramatic change from the traditional long-term rental model. As more travelers utilize vacation rentals instead of hotel chains for their trips, you may be wondering if owning a short-term rental may be the right situation for your needs.

Short-term rentals have caused a stir in many communities. Many full-time homeowners do not like having these properties in their neighborhood. Unruly vacationers often bring a party atmosphere to their quiet streets and some cities have banned them completely. In other areas, they are severely restricted in their use.

Another consideration is the amount of time a short-term rental will take to manage. Unlike their long-term counterparts, short-term rentals often require more repairs and maintenance as the tenants do not treat these properties as their homes, as long-term tenants do. Short-term rentals also require someone to be available 24/7 to address any needs of the guests. Of course, you can hire a property management company to handle these issues, but that will cut into profits and average 20%-30% of rents.

Short-term rentals can have a larger return on investment than long-term rentals, but they come with more work. They also have significantly higher vacancy rates, advertising costs, cleaning, and maintenance costs. On the other hand, having a vacation property you can enjoy yourself may tip the scale. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to real estate investing. Consider what works for you and make the best choice for your goals.

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