The Marie Kondo Craze: Does it spark joy?

Rather than feeling suffocated amongst the heaps of materials we tend to possess these days, why not make things simpler? At the age of 30, Marie Kondo has become a sensation in the eyes of millions of people who look to her when tidying up their homes. Her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing also inspired a Netflix series, and she has launched a lifestyle brand, KonMari.  

In each episode, Marie Kondo teaches her method by entering people’s homes to help them achieve that homey and stress-free secure feeling that promotes a positive life change. When holding the item, if it does not spark joy, then thank it for its time and set it free.

Below is a video to give a more visual insight of what Marie’s movement is all about:

She recommends 6 basic rules of tidying:

  1.  Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2.  Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3.  Finish discarding first.
  4.  Tidy by category, not by location.
  5.  Follow the right order.
  6.  Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

Marie tells her viewers that you must thank the home for all that it has done for you. Center yourself and really connect with the bones of the house to feel all the joy, safety, and excitement it has given you. Once you do that, you may then get started.

You must put all of their clothes into one pile in the center of the room. Start from the top and hold each article of clothing individually to see if it sparks joy. If the article of clothing does indeed bring you fond memories, or makes you feel unstoppable when wearing it, then you put it in the keep pile. If it does not then thank it for it’s time and remove it from your life.

You then do this with every room in the house with all the items each room has to offer. If it does not spark joy or bring you sentimental value, then it too must go.

Two most useful strategies to keep in mind when tidying up:

1. Problem: For most, when you put your clothes away you end up wearing the first few things on top in your drawer so you end up forgetting about the rest.

Solution: Marie informs her audience how to correctly fold your clothes so that when you open your drawer, you see all of your clothes instead of just the one on top.

2. Problem: Not being able to tell what items you have even stored, and where they are. 
Solution: Boxes are key! Boxes help you store your items in an organized manner. You can put boxes in drawers as well as use bigger clear bins for storage. Clear bins are recommended so that you are able to see everything you have in that bin. This helps so that you do not buy the same thing twice.


How the government shutdown has impacted the real estate market

The partial government shutdown that started right around Christmas and extended through almost all of January undoubtedly put a squeeze on the metro DC real estate market.

We took a look at absorption rates – the pace at which the market is absorbing” the available inventory – in January and compared those to rate the previous January, and there is an inescapable conclusion: the market was slower.

In general, absorption rates were 3% – 5% less in January 2019 than January of 2018. There are always exceptions of course, as markets behave differently, but we even saw a slowing in those areas closest to Amazon’s new HQ2 location. In November and December of last year, we saw rates of 70% and 80% in Crystal City and the north end of Alexandria. In January, those rates dropped to around 50%. That’s still a very strong number, but three things combined to bring those rates down: a slight cooling from the initial reaction to Amazon’s news; the lack of available inventory since so much got snapped up in November and December, and the government shutdown.

We’re not worried about the long-term impact of the shutdown, but it’s going to take a while for the market to return to more normal levels of absorption rates. Of course, that assumes we won’t have another shutdown – and that remains to be seen as this writing!

McEnearney Associates, “How the government shutdown impacted the real estate market”

Amazon’s impact on Arlington and Alexandria continued in December

McEnearney Associates’ EVP and CIO David Howell

December brought some truly incredible absorption rates in Arlington and Alexandria in the aftermath of Amazon’s HQ2 announcement, while the rest of the region continued to see more typical performance.

Compared to the previous December, contract activity in Alexandria was up 13% in December 2018 and was up 20% in Arlington.  The Amazon announcement created a perfect storm – it fueled demand precisely at a time when inventory is seasonally low. In December 2017, inventory was about 40% lower than it was in September 2017 in both Alexandria and Arlington.  As expected, inventory was already headed down before the Amazon announcement, so when contract activity increased in the last six weeks of the year in Arlington and Alexandria there was already less inventory to fight over.  And since we were then in a time of year where relatively few listings come on the market, buyers were soaking up whatever was there.

In addition, there is no doubt that there are homeowners out there who were thinking about putting their home on the market who have now made a strategic bet, to hold off selling for now in the hope of much higher sales prices once Amazon ramps up.

And that squeeze resulted in absorption rates that we have seldom seen.  In Alexandria, detached homes and condos priced between $400,000 and $1,000,000 had 66% rates and townhouse had 50%.  (Bear in mind that anything above 30% is considered a seller’s market.) In Arlington, the rates were even higher. There were only 9 townhomes on the market in all of Arlington at the end of December and there were 28 that went under contract – the absorption rate for townhomes priced under $1,000,000 was 100%. Detached homes and condos under $1,000,000 had absorption rates north of 70%!

But we don’t expect these meteoric rates to continue.  There was an understandable and immediate reaction to Amazon’s news and that fueled speculation, and it likely that some would-be sellers decided to hold their homes off the market, betting that prices will rise.  But we do expect inventory to slowly return to more typical levels over the next few months.

—David Howell, “Amazon’s impact on Arlington and Alexandria continued into December”

Winter prep from top to bottom

As the temperature drops and the weather outside is ever more frightful, be sure your home, townhome, or condo is ready to bear the winter force of Mother Nature. From freezing temperatures to snow and ice, winter weather can be harmful to your home and exceptionally costly. Prepping your home for the winter months seems almost daunting, but it will protect you and your investment. You might also find some energy saving tips helpful to put save some extra cash after holiday expenditures. You’ll have snow problem surviving winter with these tips to help protect your home, your car, and you, as the winter begins to come in full force.

CAR CARE

Be ready for wherever your winter adventures take you! Keep in mind your vehicle’s basic car care needs – neglecting standard maintenance can be detrimental, especially during the winter months. Check your oil, the tread on your tires, wear on the wipers and test your battery. All of these can be done with a quick basic tune-up. For those without a garage, be sure you keep an ice scraper on hand in the house. All of us Washingtonians are all too familiar with the pains of stuck doors and layers of ice from freezing rain. And if you hear a storm is coming, don’t neglect your gas tank.

HEATING AND FIREPLACE SAFETY

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to schedule an inspection of your heating system. The last thing you want is for it to act up during a cold spell, making you wait longer for a technician or costing you more in emergency service fees. The cold winter days will entice some of us to cozy up by the warmth of a fire. Schedule a chimney expert to come out to the house to inspect the chimney and vents. You want to ensure all is working properly, and avoid the possibility of carbon monoxide build-up. This applies to gas and oil as well. Be sure to check all of your smoke detectors and fire extinguishers!

PROTECT AND CLEAR GUTTERS

Give your home the love it needs as we get ready for the next few months of snow. In the winter, clearing your gutters is important so water can flow freely to help prevent the formation of icicles. In addition, gutter protection systems such as LeafFilter can help prevent ice damming and roof damage.

WINTERIZE YOUR ENTRY

Prevent the snow from making its way into the house by purchasing a boot tray, so you not only have your shoes by the front door, but you keep snow, ice, salt and sand from coming into the house. Also, add a small bench to sit on while putting on and taking off your snow gear.

PIPES & PUMPS

To avoid a frozen outdoor pipe shut off the valves inside for your outdoor faucets, then open the spigots to drain any water that may be in the system. With snowy days, the buildup and melting of snow leads to moisture. Test your sump pump by pouring several gallons of water into the sump pit. You will want to make sure the pump turns on, to ensure a dry space.

INVEST IN WARMTH

“Don’t forget to bundle up!” How many times did you hear that as a kid? Well it’s as true today as it was back then. The cold air and drop in temperatures can be harmful to your health. And who wants to burn up all your sick days during the first month of the new year? The key to surviving the winter season is layers upon layers, and invest in waterproof outer layers for those ice storms and snowy days. We also have a few cozy home tips to keep you and your home warm and snug.

REVERSE HEAT

Insulating your windows helps the cold from coming in. Even something as simple as well taped plastic wrap can make a big difference in your heating bill. Remember to use your ceiling fan – it’s not just for the warmer months. Once you start running the heat in your home, go ahead and change the direction of ceiling fans to run the blades clockwise. The reverse motion of the blade will push down the heated air from the ceiling.

PREPARE FOR POWER OUTAGES

Snow and ice aren’t the only culprits of power outages in the winter – the Mid-Atlantic often sees high winds that cause lots of headaches. In addition to the smoke detector batteries, double check your flashlights to ensure they are working. A good practice is to keep one in your bedroom or by your front door so you know exactly where it is. Keep some candles and board games on hand to stay entertained with friends and family as you bunker down and wait for power to be restored. Those of you with gas stoves might even be able to make some hot chocolate. If you do lose power, keep your fridges and freezes closed! While ice packs and coolers will help, dry ice is a great option if you know you’re bound to lose power during a blizzard. If your area is expected to lose power, remember to fill your gas tank!

—McEnearney Associates, “Winter home prep from top to bottom”



Pet safety tips to follow during the holidays

Image credit McEnearney Associates

For pet lovers, the holidays aren’t complete without our furry friends. While we celebrate, we must ensure our pet’s safety is top of mind. What may seem safe to us might actually be harmful to them. We’ve found some useful tips to follow to keep them healthy and happy.

‘TIS THE SEASON
If you have a Christmas tree, keep it securely anchored so it doesn’t tip and fall—possibly onto your pet. This also prevents tree water, which could contain fertilizers that could upset your pet’s stomach, from dripping all over. You don’t need a sick and nauseous pet in the middle of a party. Holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias can also cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Best bet? Stick with artificial plants, and keep tinsel and candles out of the picture as well to ensure pet safety.

SWEETS AND TREATS
This is your furry bestie we’re talking about here, so of course, he or she will be getting lots of treats during the holidays. For dogs, stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible. Kongs can be stuffed with healthy foods or find chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible. Watching your kitty play with a bit of ribbon or yarn is super cute, but if swallowed, you might wind up dealing with an expensive surgery bill if it gets stuck in your cat’s intestines. Try a new ball that’s too big to swallow, a stuffed catnip toy, or an interactive toy.

TOASTY AND TIPSY
Libations are also a natural part of the season for many, so it’s important to keep alcoholic drinks out of reach for pets. If ingested, your pet might get weak, ill or go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure. Keep human foods away from pets as well, especially chocolate or anything sweetened with xylitol. Also be sure that fatty, spicy food, garlic, onions, and bones are not given to your pets. These items can be especially harmful to your furry babies. For best pet safety practice, keep food and drinks out of reach and secure the lids on garbage and recycling cans.

JINGLE AND MINGLE
If you are hosting a holiday party, be conscious of your fur baby’s needs as your guests might not consider your pet’s safety and comfort. For example, make sure your pet has a quiet space to retreat to in case they feel shy or overwhelmed. Check on them occasionally and be sure there is plenty of fresh water and a place to snuggle while they hide out until all the loud humans have left. For a New Year’s party with confetti, fireworks or even poppers, keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in intestines, while the noise from poppers can scare pets and/or damage sensitive ears.

PAW-SITIVELY CLEAN
We love our furry little friends! But we don’t love it when others smell them. If you’re a proud pet parent, just know it’s easy to become immune to the distinctive smells they create. To your guest’s nose, it won’t take much to alert them that an animal lives there too. In addition, good hygiene habits are perfect for practicing pet safety year-round. We’ve put together an article with 5 simple tips to keep your four-legged friends and your home looking and smelling good throughout the season.

BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE
Remember, as the season moves more into winter, no one wants their pet to fur-reeze. Not all types of pets are suited for the winter weather, so be sure you check with your vet at what temperature they might need a sweater or a jacket and remember to take it off inside so they don’t overheat. For dogs especially, take extra good care of your dog’s paws; get them some winter booties, wipe their paws after walks, and be sure to try and avoid them stepping in salt or ice melt. If they do or it’s likely they did, be sure to rinse their paws as soon as possible to prevent ingestion of harmful chemicals or damage to their skin. (Sand is much more animal-friendly!) Be wary of areas your pet might be seeking warmth, certain heat sources pose serious burn risks. Most importantly, if you live in an area prone to power outages during storms or freezing temperatures, be sure you keep medications, food, clean water, and toys handy in case you need to evacuate or bunker down.

The holidays are sure to be happier when you know your pet’s safety is well taken care of!

—McEnearney Associates, “Pet safety tips to follow during the holidays”

Why selling during the holidays can be beneficial

Inventory tends to drop off during the holiday season, which is all the more reason for you to get serious about putting your house on the market. What was once negative feedback – selling your home during the holidays – can actually be beneficial. When buyers start looking, they usually want to get into their new home at a time that avoids interfering with their busy lifestyle. Here are some great reasons why you should consider putting your home on the market during the holidays.

LESS INVENTORY
Sometimes buyers are in a pinch, and need a house right now. There are always serious buyers out there and the lower the inventory the more your home will stand out. It is possible for you to get more action in your home during the holidays than when the market is flooded with homes in the spring.

AVAILABILITY
Naturally, business will slow down for lenders, home inspectors, and appraisers during the holidays. This benefits you and the buyers, as these professionals will have more valuable time to get things in order for your settlement!

HOLIDAY BEAUTY
Don’t think that you can’t decorate for the holidays while your home is on the market. Deck the halls with all things jolly, and show off the beauty of your home. This is a great way to make potential buyers feel right at home.

SERIOUS BUYERS
When you think about selling, you want buyers who are serious, especially during the holidays. Chances are they might have a deadline, maybe a job transfer or the desire to close before the end of the year for tax purposes. Target these buyers – they are motivated!

If you are thinking of, or already are planning on selling your home during the holidays, use our Associates’ tips on home maintenance for the winter and inexpensive home improvement to help make sure your house is ready.

—McEnearney Associates, “Why selling during the holidays can be beneficial”

Amazon HQ2 announcement affects D.C. area contract activity in November 2018

Arlington and Alexandria’s real estate certainly got a boost in the immediate aftermath of Amazon’s announcement that they are bringing 25,000 new jobs to Northern Virginia over the next decade. A couple of weeks ago we talked about the Impact of Amazon’s HQ2 move to Northern Virginia and what to expect in the years to come, but today let’s focus on the immediate changes that we’ve noticed in the month of November.

To provide some context, absorption rates – the pace at which the market is putting the inventory of available homes under contract – is generally a bit lower in November than October. And as we have noted in this space before, rates above 60% represent an extreme seller’s market. (See chart below.)

Amazon made their big announcement on November 13 and the immediate impact on Arlington’s market was electric. Absorption rates for all property types – detached, attached and condos -throughout Arlington County were 14% higher than November of last year, and the same is true for the City of Alexandria. All property types – though not all price categories – are in the “seller’s market” range. And counter to what we typically see, the rates were considerably higher than they were in October.

The impact in Crystal City was even more dramatic. Almost all of the housing stock there is condos, and the November absorption rate was almost 85%! We typically see 6-10 condos go under contract in a given month – in November there were 22, and there probably would have been more if there were more on the market.

But we don’t expect these meteoric rates to continue. There is an understandable and immediate reaction to the news and that fuels speculation. But we think the initial reaction – perhaps overreaction – will settle into a more reasonable set of expectations. Northern Virginia and the whole metro DC area will benefit from Amazon’s move, but this is a long-term play. Those looking to score some quick gains by buying and flipping may be disappointed when things settle down.

—David Howell, “Amazon HQ2 announcement affects D.C. area contract activity in November 2018”