Spending more time at home during the holidays is one of the best things about the season itself. After all, there’s nothing better than sitting near a warm fire with your loved ones, just listening to the crackle.

But did you know that seven dates in December are among the Top Ten best days to buy a home based on median sales price and discounts? Well, you aren’t alone – many people don’t realize that the holidays aren’t just an occasion to shop for presents, but actually a great time to shop for a home. In fact, here are some reasons why your best bet is house hunting during the holidays. Discover why.


Home takes on newfound importance during the holiday season, especially this year. Many of us are not able to take the long-awaited trip to visit family or friends but are instead spending the holidays at home this year.

Just because you don’t have plans for an extravagant holiday vacation doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a relaxing holiday break full of memory making moments. Plan a family stay-at-home (SAH) vacation instead!

A family SAH vacation gives you the chance to explore local attractions and is often more relaxing and restorative than traveling long distances. (No packing, no crowded airports, no long-distance road trips with the kids). Here are some tips to help you plan the ultimate holiday SAH vacation. Your Stay-At-Home Vacation Guide.

The Neighborhood Features That Drag 

Down Your Home Value---Ranked

When it comes to real estate clichés, “Location, location, location” has all other contenders (including “Not a drive-by!”; “Cash is king!”; “Is that your checkbook or are you just glad to see me?”; and “Worst house, best street”) beat by a mile. Not only has it been in use since at least 1926 (according to the New York Times), but it’s utterly and inarguably true.

More than any other single factor, when you buy a home in a good location, it’s usually a solid long-term investment. And being the unabashed optimists we are here atrealtor.com®, we focus most on the factors that help maximize your home’s value. But hey, life—and real estate—isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. So this week we decided to take a look at the downers: those things that actually keep you from getting top dollar from your home. Read more [....]


How to Use Comparable Sales to Price Your Home

Before you put your home up for sale, understand how the right comparable sales help you and your agent find the perfect price.


How much can you sell your home for? Probably about as much as the neighbors got, as long as the neighbors sold their house in recent memory and their home was just like your home.

Knowing how much homes similar to yours, called comparable sales (or in real estate lingo, comps), sold for gives you the best idea of the current estimated value of your home. The trick is finding sales that closely match yours. Read more [....] 

7 Smart Strategies for Bathroom Remodeling

Here’s how to get the bathroom of your dreams without making your budget a nightmare.

You dream about a bathroom that’s high on comfort and personal style, but you also want materials, fixtures, and amenities with lasting value. Wake up! You can have both.

A mid-range bathroom remodel is a solid investment, according to the "2015 Remodeling Impact Report" from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. A bath remodel with a national median cost of $26,000 will recover about 58% of those costs when it’s time to sell your home.

Regardless of payback potential, you'll probably be glad you went ahead and updated your bathroom. Homeowners polled for the "Report" gave their bathroom renovation a Joy Score of 9.3 -- a rating based on those who said they were happy or satisfied with their project, with 10 being the highest rating and 1 the lowest. Read more[....] 

 3 Ways Your Tax Refund Can Bring You Closer to Homeownership

Almost 40 million tax refunds worth nearly $125 billion have been issued as of February 20, according to the IRS. The average refund is $3,120. So far, more than 8 out of every 10 filers have already received a refund this year. If you’re one of them, here are 3 ways yours could bring you closer to homeownership:

Save for a down payment. Saving for a down payment is one of the biggest barriers to homeownership. But today’s homebuyers persistently overestimate the size of the down payment they need. Depending on your credit history and other factors, many borrowers can expect to make a down payment of about 5 to 10%.  With Freddie Mac’s Home Possible Advantage® 3% down mortgage, it could mean a down payment of as little as $6,000 for a $200,000 home for qualified borrowers.

Down payment assistance programs can also help you bridge the cash gap – there are hundreds of millions of dollars available! A great place to start is right where you live. Many state, county, and city governments provide financial assistance for people in their communities who are well qualified and ready for homeownership.

Pay for closing costs.  The average closing costs were $1,847 in 2015, but they can vary widely depending on where you live. See where your state stacks up and understand your costs

Lower your interest rate. You can pay discount points to buy down your mortgage interest rate.  A “point” equals one percent of the loan. It’s essentially an upfront interest payment to lock in a lower interest rate on your fixed-rate mortgage.  So if you are borrowing $200,000, paying one discount point would mean paying $2,000 upfront at closing – but it may end up saving you more in interest payments over the life of the loan. See how paying extra points might lower your rate.

8 Bad ‘Home Improvement’  Habits


Home owners can overdo it when it comes to the upkeep of their home. This Old House recently spotlighted several ways that home owners’ enthusiasm for home ownership may actually harm the house.

1. Having light bulbs that are too bright. You want a well-lit home, but exceeding a lamp or light fixture’s recommended wattage can be dangerous, particularly with incandescents or halogen lights, says John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for Underwriters Laboratories. "Using a bulb with too-high wattage will cause the fixture and its wiring to overheat," he notes, which could then allow the heat to travel to the wall or erode the insulation on the wires and lead to a house fire. Check the fixtures label to make sure you use the correct wattage.

2. Planting trees near driveways or walkways. A line of trees to the house may up its curb appeal but adding young trees near driveways or walkways could be putting your slab at risk. As these trees grow taller, their roots will go outward, potentially pushing up the paving and causing it to buckle or crack. This Old House recommends planting small trees that will remain under 20 feet at maturity and that are at least 10 feet from paved areas. For larger trees, leave at least a 20-foot radius.

3. Overscrubbing a sink. Don’t overdo it with abrasive cleaners; they can scratch the sink. "Cleaners with a grit or grain to them will wear away at the finish and dull it," Kohler's Mike Marbuch told This Old House. "That will make the sink more prone to gunk sticking to it—actually making it look dirtier." Try a liquid cleanser like vinegar or lemon juice on the sink and avoid scrubbing it every day.

4. Overdoing it with can lights. Excessive recessed lighting in a home can cause a lot of air leaks. Recessed lighting is known as causing heat-sucking air leaks, especially when the fixtures are unsealed in vaulted ceilings. Airtight recessed lighting fixtures are available that are rated for insulation contact (IC). Also, use as few recessed lights as you can, especially when it comes to adding them to cathedral ceilings or in rooms directly below unconditioned attics.

5. Spreading too much mulch outside. “Over-mulching will suffocate plants, confuse their root systems, and prevent water from percolating into the soil,” notes the article at This Old House. “If you’ve mulched so much that tree trunks and flowers’ and shrubs’ lower branches are covered by or dragging in it, you’ve gone overboard.” Have mulch no thicker than 3 inches.

6. Using glass cleaner on mirrors. Watch out for store-bought sprays that promise to make your glass sparkle. “A drop of liquid running around the mirror’s edge can cause the reflective backing to lift or craze,” This Old House notes. The black edge can occur from using ammonia- or vinegar-based cleaners. This Old House recommends using warm water and a soft, lint-free cloth to clean mirrors. Or if you do use the sprays, spray it onto a dry cloth first and not directly onto the glass.

7. Repainting too much. “Excessive paint is detrimental – especially on an older house, which may have layers of thicker oil-based paint, which becomes brittle with age,” notes This Old House. To avoid thick, cracked, or peeling paint, be sure to carefully power-wash prior to painting, sand areas that need it, and then use 100 percent acrylic-resin exterior paint.

8. Fertilizing too much. Fertilizing too often can spur more weeds to grow. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency warns over-fertilizing can cause “nutrient pollution,” which is when nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from lawn fertilizers and then leads to an overgrowth of algae that can even pollute local waterways. Some lawn experts recommend only fertilizing twice a year, late summer and fall only.

View all 19 tips at This Old House.

Source: “19 Ways You’re Killing Your Home With Kindness,” This Old House (February 2016)  

Michael Karimi
Michael Karimi
345 Main Street North Potomac MD 20878