Neo-Traditional Communities or “Master-Planned” Communities are increasingly becoming the most popular choices for families. These neighborhoods typically provide recreational and entertainment amenities for residents, but what truly sets this option apart from others is the incredible sense of community fostered by close-proximity.
With the summer buying season upon us, we’ve rounded up the five top reasons why a Master Plan neighborhood may be an option to consider for your family:
If you’ve ever watched an episode of “House Hunters” on HGTV, you’ll know that finding outdoor space for Fido is always high on the wish list. The American Pet Association has reported that 44 percent of all households in the U.S. own a dog, which means that a large percentage of families certainly have their pooch in mind when buying a home.
New home neighborhoods tend to be specifically designed to provide a myriad of outdoor options from trails, to parks, to wide sidewalks and backyards. Some even have designated dog parks with ample room for man’s best friend to live his/her best life.
Universal Curb Appeal
A Master Plan community comes with just that – a master plan. When driving by these neighborhoods you will typically find manicured lawns and beautifully designed facades to create a cohesive community feel.
For buyers, these communities provide many design and home options to match your lifestyle. For example, a modern urban townhome might be a perfect fit or a more traditional looking single-family home is more your speed.
As important as it is to be close to work, the interstate, public transportation and your local grocery store, one of the top items on the priority list is also to be in a great school district.
One of the advantages to moving into a new home community in the Greater Washington, D.C. metro area is that your children can get a great education in a variety of counties in the DMV region.
Here is a quick roundup of the best rated public schools:
Loudon County – 2nd Best School in District in VA
Stafford County – 17th Best School in District in VA
Prince William County – 27th Best School in District in VA
Frederick County – 3rd Best School District in MD
Close to Everything, but Away from the Noise
Master plan communities are typically located away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, but are developed near everyday conveniences such as restaurants, stores, healthcare, and schools.
Depending on size and scale, some communities even have dining or shopping options on-site to make sure that their residents have options that they can easily walk to.
“The Home is Built-In”
It’s no surprise that Master Plan communities have all the amenities that a family typically needs – but one thing buyers might be surprised to find is that when you join one of these communities you really will find community spirit.
One great example of this is Embrey Mill, an 831-acre new home community in North Stafford, Va. Just recently the community celebrated the one-year anniversary of providing a deserving military family with a mortgage-free home from Newland Communities, Miller and Smith, and Operation Finally Home. The family is thriving with the continued support of their neighbors, which just goes to show the connections and relationships that can develop.
While house hunting this season, be sure to include a Master Plan community on your list to check out what all the buzz is about. Good luck in your search!
(Courtesy The Team at Embrey Mill by Newland Communities)
Embrey Mill is a new home community set in the rolling hills of historic North Stafford, Va. The 831-acre community is planned to have more than 1,800 homes, and combines 285 acres of meaningful open space and distinct, intimate neighborhoods to encourage community interaction. Embrey Mill is developed by Newland Communities, the largest private developer of planned residential and mixed-use communities in the United States. Learn more about Embrey Mill by visiting EmbreyMill.com.
What to watch for during an open house
Check condition of kitchen, flooring, windows, and more
Anyone who knows me might say that I am detail obsessed. This has proven to be an amazing asset when looking at real estate. When I scour through listings for clients I am analyzing the photos, floor plans, and square feet of each property to ensure that everything flows properly into what my clients are looking for in their home. These items I search for also tell the tale of how recently renovated a property is, how well loved it was and a general idea of how much will be needed to make improvements and get it into the condition and aesthetic of which my clients are dreaming. When the time comes to see property in person, the fun begins and I am going to provide a few simple tips that you can use on your Sunday open house strolls that we all love to do.
The following is by no means an exhaustive list of things that I, and other individuals, keep an eye out for when touring homes, but these are perhaps the most noticeable and least controversial. Let me state here (for my lawyer warned me) I am by no means a home inspector, contractor, interior designer, etc.
• The kitchen truly is the heart of the home, especially with the holidays approaching. Some obvious items to identify are the cabinets. Are they soft close or can you slam them shut in an argument and really get your point across? If they are not soft close this means that likely they are on the older side and as such most items in the kitchen are also on the older side. In the kitchen I focus mainly on items that are difficult to remove, like cabinetry and counter surfaces. Appliances, while sometimes costly, can easily be replaced due to wear and tear.
• Moving through the house I take note of windows. What material are they made out of? Are they operational or painted shut? And how many are there? This last piece is CRUCIAL. This not only comes to mind when you need to replace windows but more immediately for the purpose of window coverings — it all adds up quickly.
Flooring is next on the list. Not so much that the warm wood tones will clash with my client’s furniture, but more so the condition of the flooring and how much there is. Again, similar to the windows, coming from a place of utility and replacement. What condition is the flooring in and what type? If I’m lucky enough to find original wood floors my clients have been searching for, how many times have they been refinished and can they be refinished again? If not, then how large is the home and what’s the cost to replace the flooring. As I pointed out earlier, on behalf of my lawyer, I am not a structural engineer either. I would take note of any low points or dips in the flooring and if needed, consult an engineer to take a look at the support pieces of the home.
Moving onto electrical components. An easy thing to look for is outlets. Identify the type of outlets a home has. We are fortunate here in the DMV to have a plethora of older homes. This comes with its own set of challenges. If you see an outlet that only accepts a two-prong plug then likely the electrical system is older and will need to be upgraded. Looking at the electrical panel for the home is also a very important step. If there are two prong outlets and glass fuses in the electrical panel then this is a great time to call Chip and Joanna Gaines as this home will likely need a massive overhaul.
Again, this is in no way an exhaustive list of things to identify as you are house hunting but rather some items that I always look for and point out when advising clients with perhaps one of the most expensive and scariest purchases of their lives. These items above are not meant to condemn a home but instead identify if a home is a good fit for you based on a more in-depth look. Paint and light fixtures can be changed, similar to hair color, but it’s a bit harder to change one’s heart. Ensuring the overall structure of the home and the more expensive components are in working order and have several useful years left is paramount.
Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware Beach needs. Specializing in first time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin is a well versed agent, highly regarded, and provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243 or [email protected].
Investing in real estate: What you need to know
From REITs to flips, tips for getting started
In many cases, buying or selling a home is a very personal experience. Many people buy a home with the intention of living there – making memories, building a family, becoming part of a community. The same is true of sellers. Selling a home, in many cases, is simultaneously difficult and exciting – it means the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. While the majority of buying and selling experiences may be personal – increasingly, others in the market are interested in real estate not just to find a home, but also to make a great investment.
In our current market, it’s easy to see why real estate can often end up being quite a profitable investment. In 2021, sellers often saw huge profits on the sale of real estate – but even in years where profits aren’t quite as significant as this year, real estate has often proven to be a sound and reliable long-term investment strategy. Real estate investments can add diversification to your portfolio, and a very successful venture, particularly if you buy and sell when the circumstances are right.
Over the last several years, many gay neighborhoods around the country have shown steady appreciation, leading investors, and particularly LGBTQ investors, to consider whether the time is right to consider adding real estate to their investment portfolio. For those considering real estate as an investment strategy, here are a few helpful tips:
• Consider REITs: For those just getting started with real estate investment, Real Estate Investment Trusts, or “REITs” for short, might be a good option. These provide the opportunity to invest in real estate without owning the physical real estate yourself. They are often compared to mutual funds, and you invest in a company, a REIT, which owns commercial real estate like office buildings, apartments, hotels, and retail spaces. Generally, REITs pay high dividends, which make them a popular investment in retirement, as well as for investors not wanting to own one particular piece of property.
• Consider investing in rental properties: Rental income can often be a steady, reliable source of income if you do your due diligence researching the property itself, the surrounding neighborhood, and the potential community of renters. While maintaining a rental property will certainly require some investment of time and energy on your part, it can be a profitable long-term investment and one that is appealing to many people.
• Put your skills to work: If you have a skill set that includes being able to renovate and upgrade homes – or if you know a trusted person or team of people who does, flipping a home that could use some renovation can be quite a profitable investment indeed. Getting a home that could use some extra TLC at a good price and updating it can result in a sales price that is significantly higher than the purchase price. This can certainly be a very good investment – and a fulfilling project too.
• Be willing to listen and learn: When trying something new, it is almost always helpful to talk to those with experience in that area. Investing in real estate is no different. Having a mentor who can give you some tips and advice from their own experience is invaluable.
• Get to know the neighborhood: When making any real estate decision, whether you’re going to live in a home yourself or purchase property for investment purposes, knowing the neighborhood and community you’re interested in is important. A key part of that will be finding a real estate agent who knows and loves the community that you’re interested in, and who understands the market in that area. This can make all the difference between a smooth and successful process, and a stressful one.
(At GayRealEstate.com, we are dedicated to our mission of connecting LGBTQ home buyers and sellers with talented, knowledgeable, and experienced real estate agents across the country who can help them to achieve their real estate goals. Whether you’re interested in buying or selling a home that you live in personally, or buying and selling for investment purposes, we can connect you with an agent who knows and loves the community, and who can help you achieve your goals. Contact us at any time. We look forward to helping you soon.)
Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at
303-378-5526 or [email protected].
Dining without a dining room
Today’s hosts are likely more casual than in the past
With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, you may be thinking about gathering your loved ones and kindred spirits to celebrate the positive things in your life, praise your higher power, pay homage to indigenous people, or just stuff your face and fall asleep in front of the television at the traditional Thanksgiving after-party: the football game.
Thinking back to my childhood, I remember the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. The elegant table in the formal dining room was adorned with a crisp, white tablecloth, “the good china,” sterling silver place settings, a variety of serving dishes for the forthcoming bounty, and a cornucopia centerpiece containing dried fruits and vegetables.
My dad, Ozzie, would carve the turkey and my mom, Harriet, would bring out the pecan and mincemeat pies for dessert…wait a minute…did I really grow up in a 1950s sitcom? Yup, I did, although Ozzie was Don and Harriet was Grayce.
Sometimes we would visit my maternal grandparents in Maine, whose formal dining room was less so – an extended part of the living room in the 1940s version of an open floor plan in their three-bedroom apartment over the general store and gas station that my grandfather owned.
On occasion, we would go to Massachusetts to spend a day or two with my paternal grandmother and her extended clan. There was nothing “formal” about the dining room there. Dinner took place on a litany of card tables set up on the jalousied porch off the kitchen.
When dinner was over, my grandmother would rise from the head of the table and declare, “I made the dinner. Now you do the dishes.” My father and his sisters would scurry like baby chicks to adhere to her demand.
As I grew older, I rarely lived near family. Every so often, I would be invited to dinner as the obligatory guest – the girlfriend of whatever young man I was seeing at the time. Later, I would become part of the restaurant holiday dining crowd.
For several years, I had a standing date with a good friend for dinner and a movie on Thanksgiving Day. We would choose restaurants that advertised dishes like Lobster Thermador, Champagne Ravioli, or Boeuf Bourguignon, but would invariably select the traditional turkey dinner with dressing and all the trimmings from the prix fixe menu.
Fast-forward to 2020 and we may not have gathered at all, content to have Whole Foods or Door Dash deliver Thanksgiving dinner to be eaten in front of the television while watching Hallmark movies.
Now here we are. The formal dining room has gone the way of the good china and the sterling silver. For most of us, they are simply not necessities in our lives any longer. So how do you host a dinner party when there is no room specifically designated for dining?
First, you don’t need to purchase things you have no room to store later. Although “rent” can be a four-letter word to a real estate agent, a party rental company’s website allows you to select items online and have them delivered and removed at a fraction of the cost.
Are you trying to seat a large group for dinner? Let’s start with the premise that all your guests do not need to be at a banquet table. Consider having several tables for two or four placed around the room. It will give you the ambiance of your favorite bistro and still allow for conversation among your guests.
You can also rent folding chairs, linens, place settings, and stemware. Once your order arrives, just set the tables and add candles or your favorite centerpieces to complete a festive look.
If you have no room for a seated event, you can order standing cocktail tables. Your breakfast bar or kitchen counter will make a perfect buffet line.
Better yet, have an open house, inviting guests at slightly different times so you see everyone without feeling like you’re in the middle of a crowded concert.
Is your style even more casual? Rather than worrying about recycling plastic cups and sporks, pick up a bunch of Oftast dinner or dessert plates for 79 cents each at Ikea. Add a 6-pack of Svalka wine glasses and cutlery service for four from the Mopsig collection for $5 each. Pull out some pillows and eat while sitting cross-legged on the floor surrounded by family and friends.
Some of us may have trouble getting back up, but we’ll be in perfect position to fall asleep during the football game.
Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.
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