Connect with us

Real Estate

Chores for the fall before the chill arrives

Clean gutters, replace smoke detector batteries, and more



Get busy now on house projects before the winter chill sets in.

While it may not feel like fall is in the air yet, it won’t be too long before pumpkin spice will explode everywhere — in food, drinks, candles, and body lotions, to name a few places. If you’re not a fan, you’ll find air freshener plug-ins in scents like Frosted Cranberry, Fresh Fall Morning, and Sweater Weather among the offerings at Bath and Body Works.

Soon after, hordes of December holiday decorations will appear in the stores, often bypassing a smidgen of items for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Except candy. Halloween candy will always figure prominently.

But before you hibernate and chow down on mini-Snickers bars, there is work to be done to prepare your home for the winter.

Inside the home. To ensure your safety, check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries or buy new detectors if they are more than 10 years old. Have your chimney inspected and cleaned, and make any necessary repairs, then test your fire extinguishers. Seal doors and windows that might allow drafts to enter with weatherstripping.

Now is the time to take advantage of the discount prices on heating system tune-ups that some HVAC companies are offering. As little as $59 for a check-up will help your equipment function better and extend its life. 

A furnace tune-up should include cleaning all components, lubricating motor parts, checking electrical parts for rust or corrosion, making sure your thermostat is working properly, and replacing the filter. You may want to take this opportunity to have your vents cleaned as well. 

A heat pump inspection includes cleaning and lubricating the blower and fan motors, inspecting indoor and outdoor coils, flushing the condensate drain, and testing the controls.

If you have a boiler instead of a furnace or heat pump, you can expect your serviceperson to inspect, test and calibrate all gauges and safety mechanisms, measure and record the flame pattern concentration and carbon monoxide, check electrical connections, and more. 

Don’t forget to bleed the radiators to release air in the pipes and enhance the circulation of warm water. And if you’re like me, cross your fingers that your 47-year-old boiler will last one more season.

Outside the home. While the leaves haven’t started falling yet, the recent rain and winds may have blown yard debris into your gutters, so make sure they, and your downspouts, are clear. Position the downspouts so they will take any water away from your foundation and regrade the perimeter of your house, if needed.

Check your roof for lost shingles. Look for missing flashing or bricks in need of tuck-pointing or parging on the exterior of your chimney. Walk around your house and note any foundation cracks or unsealed openings. Check retaining walls for missing mortar. There is still plenty of time to make these repairs before the cold sets in.

Now that 90-degree temperatures have receded a bit, plan the power washing and painting of exterior surfaces that you have been putting off tackling. And since the Labor Day barbecue is now over, it’s time to winterize your gas grill.

In the garden. Far be it for me to profess to be an expert in the garden. I’m the first one on the phone to a landscaper to seek help. In fact, there is a barrage of weeding going on at my home this week. Nonetheless, here are a few suggestions.

Prune trees and bushes to promote future growth. Water, aerate, and fertilize the lawn. Select any bulbs you want to plant and enjoy next spring and consult a source such as Better Homes and Gardens magazine for tips on how and when to plant them. 

Drain garden hoses, detach them, and drain the pipes that run to the hose bibbs as well. If you’re lucky enough to have underground sprinklers (I am not), follow the manufacturer’s instructions for winterizing them, or call a professional.

Store lawn furniture and cushions in a shed, garage, or basement. Or do as I do – throw away the cushions that are dirty or moldy and buy new ones next spring. And when the leaves fall en masse, rake them, bag them, and recheck your gutters and downspouts to be sure they’re clear.

Finally, head to the hardware store to buy a snow shovel, some windshield de-icer and washer fluid, and a few bags of salt or pet-safe, snow-melting product before the rush. You’ll be glad you did.

And if you happen to live in a condominium or cooperative, when you have completed any relevant interior chores, relax for the rest of the season and enjoy some candy. I stash mine in the cabinet above the refrigerator. 


Real Estate

What to expect during a home inspection

Foundation, windows, heating, outlets, and more to be checked



Before you buy, consider an inspection.

As we get into the fall market, home inspectors will find that their phones and inboxes are becoming a bit busier. And if you have never bought a home, or the last purchase was during a very competitive period where a home inspection was waived, here is your chance as a buyer to find out what they are all about.  

There are several types of inspections. The inspection for a condo is different than an inspection of a single-family home (SFH). Then there is the length and intent of the inspection.  A quick “walk and talk” inspection is cheaper and faster than one in which the inspector generates a detailed report with photographs and comments or suggestions. As a home seller, you may want to have your home inspected before putting it on the market, to get in front of any concerns a potential buyer may have. A buyer may want to inspect to confirm that the home is worth submitting an offer, or they may want to negotiate based on the results of the inspection report.

What are the items an inspector will be checking? Many of the items can include all or a combination of the following:

  • Structure – foundation, crawlspaces, framing (SFH)
  • Exterior – doors, windows, steps, walkways, decks, gutters (SFH)
  • Roof, drainage, chimneys, skylights (SFH)
  • Plumbing and distribution systems, faucets, hot water heaters, sump pumps, hose and water main valves.
  • Outlets, proper wiring within the outlet, GFCI’s, 
  • AC systems
  • Heating systems
  • Insulation, walls, ventilation
  • Chimneys – (separate chimney inspections are available)

A condo inspection is usually just an interior only inspection, where a single-family home includes more of the exterior and evaluation of the surroundings. If a report is generated, the items will be divided into categories such as the ones listed above, and then usually subdivided into priority levels of concern. 

The agent that is writing the offer for their client can also indicate whether the inspection is just for informational purposes for the buyer, or whether the inspection will inform any repair requests or credits in the negotiation process. Many qualified home inspectors can also recommend home maintenance tips for the buyer going forward. In this landscape of higher interest rates buyers frequently have more time typically to decide, seek an inspection, and negotiate their terms, due to less competition being in the market. When the rates are lower and buyers are out in full force, this more relaxed environment can quickly turn into a competitive and more rushed experience. If you are interested in purchasing or selling a home, please let me know and I can help you find the right resources to help you reach your goals.

Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with the Rutstein Group of Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or [email protected].

Continue Reading

Real Estate

Navigating the 3-2-1 mortgage in a changing market

Tap into affordability and leverage projected rate shifts



Navigating the path to homeownership is a milestone that holds immense significance for everyone. However, for members of our LGBTQ community, the journey often carries unique considerations that demand careful thought and planning. 

With higher mortgage rates on the horizon and the Federal Reserve poised for policy changes, coupled with the ongoing challenge of rising housing prices due to low inventory, finding a mortgage solution that aligns with both financial goals and community values is paramount.

1. Initial Financial Advantage: With a 3-2-1 Mortgage, you initiate your homeownership venture with initial payments set significantly lower than the prevailing mortgage rates. This positions you favorably in the market, allowing you to commence your homeownership journey with manageable monthly payments, freeing up resources for other essential expenditures.

2. Anticipating Rate Adjustments: As the Fed recalibrates its policies and the mortgage rates embark on a downward trajectory, the 3-2-1 Mortgage structure strategically aligns you to harness this shift. Your payments remain highly competitive, ensuring that you gain a competitive edge as the rates transition into a more favorable range.

3. Flexibility Amid Changing Circumstances: The early years of homeownership can be a period of change. The reduced payments in the 3-2-1 structure provide you with financial agility to navigate potential shifts in your life, both personal and professional.

4. Navigating the Refinancing Opportunity: As mortgage rates dip due to anticipated Fed policy changes over the next 12 months, the door opens to explore refinancing. This could lead to further payment reductions or a shorter loan term, enabling you to maximize financial gains in the long run.

5. Long-Term Financial Security: Fixed-rate mortgages ensure stability in a fluctuating market. With a 3-2-1 Mortgage, the consistent payments offer a shield against potential rate fluctuations throughout the loan term.

6. Leveraging Property Appreciation: With housing prices poised to continue their ascent due to constrained inventory, your investment gains momentum. The accrued equity in your home provides options for future endeavors, such as refinancing, capitalizing on a profitable sale, or utilizing the enhanced home value for other financial pursuits.

7. Guidance from Real Estate Experts: Consulting a real estate professional at remains a prudent step before any major financial/housing commitment, including your choice of mortgage. Their insights will help align your unique financial situation and objectives with the optimal decision.

Considering the 3-2-1 Mortgage option in the current dynamic may be a savvy choice, allowing you to tap into the affordability at the outset, leverage projected rate shifts, and stay ahead in a housing market characterized by climbing prices and limited inventory. 

Whether you’re seeking a welcoming neighborhood, navigating the intricacies of mortgage options, or aligning your homeownership dreams with your LGBTQ+ identity, a specialized Realtor is your dedicated advocate.

Don’t hesitate to reach out today for a free, no-obligation conversation with the finest LGBTQ+ Realtors at, and a referral to an LGBTQ+ friendly mortgage lender. Your path to homeownership is a story that deserves to be written with care, authenticity, and unwavering support. Together, let’s make this chapter one of triumph, belonging, and prosperity. Your dream home awaits – let’s embark on this journey together.

Jeff Hammerberg is a distinguished entrepreneur and broker, renowned as the founder behind With an impressive journey spanning more than 25 years, he has played a pivotal role in championing the mission of fair, transparent, and just representation for every member of the LGBTQ+ community in the realm of residential real estate.

Continue Reading

Real Estate

Sidelined by high interest rates?

Consider refinancing options, buying down points



Fall means more inventory, but high interest rates are proving challenging for some buyers.

Unimpressed by the current offerings on these DMV streets? Yeah, me too. Luckily we are heading into the busy “fall market” where we are set to see an influx of new inventory hitting the market just after Labor Day. While you might still be unsure if buying in this current real estate market and with these higher interest rates really makes sense for you, I want to outline a few options that might make sense for you and make that dream of homeownership, in this current market, more attainable than you once thought.


I’m sure we have all heard this by now. Everyone is saying to date the interest rate and you can always refinance. I agree with this sentiment 50% of the time. None of us knows what will happen in the future, right? Will interest rates drop lower than they are currently sitting? Sure, I think that’s a safe assumption. So if we are using that logic then if you find a home that you simply cannot live without then you should buy it and hope that interest rates drop and you can refinance that mortgage into a lower rate. With current limited inventory and higher interest rates we are seeing buyers getting some pretty good deals across all categories of homes (condo, co-op, townhome etc.) and so it still might make sense to buy a home now. Also, your motivation to move out of your friend’s basement or a roommate situation might be the driving factor.


If you are dead set on buying a home right now, I get it. I am an Aries and I want things done NOW. That being said – there is a great option for making the current interest rates a bit more bearable. Adjustable rates are a great way to save in the short term. The way that adjustable rate mortgages work is that you are basically locked into a lower interest rate for a specifically set amount of time and then once that time passes your rate is adjusted to the current market or whatever your terms are set to increase by. Adjustable rate mortgages get a bad rep because of what happened in the last market crash. The loans that were being handed out back in 2007 were what’s called “no-doc loans” meaning that basically mortgage companies were not asking for documentation and would lend money out to everyone with very little verification of credit, employment, salary etc. In today’s mortgage market, the requirements to qualify for a loan are much greater and the same goes for an adjustable rate. Keep in mind that sometimes the terms of an adjustable rate loan do not make sense.


A newer method to make your mortgage more within reach is to buy down points. When it comes to your interest rate you have the ability, with most lenders, to come to the table with a specific percentage of the total loan amount, in cash, to buy down the interest of the overall loan and thus will result in a lower interest rate and lower monthly fee. This is, of course, only effective if you have that cash on hand needed to buy down the points and this would be outside of any down payment amount you have already put down on the loan. This is a costly method and sometimes depending on how long you see yourself in that home – it doesn’t always make sense.


Sometimes the best thing we can do in life is to just take a moment to breathe. This is also helpful in the real estate market, although I never do. Anyway, if you are just super stressed about home buying after writing a few offers and being beat out or if you just can’t wrap your head around the expense of these interest rates, then take some time and regroup. During this regroup you can make a few changes to your finances that will help you in the long run with your borrowing power and overall mortgage health.

Credit: your credit worthiness does affect your mortgage interest rate. Work on your credit score to help with your mortgage outlook and you will notice a change in your interest rate. It is pretty easy to work on improving your credit through healthy bill paying and spending. There are a few groups that can help with this, outside of your day-to-day healthy credit habits, but I always recommend speaking with a lender to help navigate you in the right direction.

Debt: pay off those student loans. Your borrowing power is surrounded by your debt to income ratio. Pay off loans that you have entirely or as close as possible. Just be aggressive with them. This will help you with the amount you can borrow in addition to your overall “image” when a lender looks at your file. While you are sitting on the bench waiting for more inventory or for the interest rates to drop – make smart decisions to buy down debt that you are currently carrying around.

As I mentioned before, economists’ predictions show that interest rates are sure to drop due to our current level of inflation being in a better place. It is likely that rates will drop, however no one has a crystal ball. The few tips listed above put the power in your hands and the ability to control what option makes the most sense for you in your home buying journey. Buying down points or adjustable rate mortgages are sometimes great options for some home buyers. Looking inward and working on your credit worthiness and debt are also great ideas for those that are not willing to subscribe to the refinance option or an adjustable rate mentality where the risk is too high. Home ownership is truly possible and when you have a toolkit outfitted with the right mortgage lender and realtor to help guide you through the process – it really is seamless.

(I am not a mortgage broker and do not claim to be.)

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,  [email protected] or

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade