Around Reston: Meet Stonebridge Title’s Marketing Director Tammy Meyer

Tammy Meyer, Stonebridge Title

Moving to Reston is interviewing members of the community who are a part of small businesses that serve the Reston area.

Moving to Reston: Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into the industry.

Tammy Meyer: I am the Marketing Director with Stonebridge Title, LLC and have been with the company for almost three years. I guess you could say sales, marketing and the real estate industry is in my blood. My first job was during my senior year in high school when I worked part-time for the Board of Realtors in Newport News, Va., where I grew up. After graduating with a degree in business from Virginia Tech, I came to Northern Virginia and worked in the relocation department for a real estate company. I also have worked for a real estate developer, a mortgage insurance company and a small builder. The industry has been fun as it is always changing, and I’ve met some really great people along the way.

The home buying process can be overwhelming so building trust, educating and guiding our clients through the process is what motivates me. We have a great team at Stonebridge Title and make it our mission to make the process as painless as possible for everyone involved, whether you are the buyer, seller, lender, REALTOR or other interested party.

I also love photography, and you will often see me out photographing real estate listings. Remember that great professional photos will sell your home faster.

In my spare time, my husband and I love traveling and hiking with our 18-month-old black lab, Bodie.

Moving to Reston: What is the biggest misconception the public has about the title industry?

Tammy Meyer: Many people don’t understand exactly what title insurance is or why you need it.

Simply stated, the title to a piece of property is the evidence that the owner is in lawful possession of that property. Title insurance protects real estate owners and lenders against any property loss or damage they might experience because of liens, encumbrances or the defects in the title to the property.

Most people also don’t realize that they — the borrower — have the choice when selecting a title/settlement company. If your lender and/or agent works with a great settlement company that they feel confident, buyers will look to them and trust their recommendation. We see it as a great partnership!

Moving to Reston: What value do you add?

Tammy Meyer: We do mobile settlements throughout Northern Virginia. We always want to make it easy for our clients. We believe in building strong relationships with our clients. Many of our clients have been working with us since the company’s inception in 2002.

I am very actively engaged in networking — I am on the Board and active member of the Dulles Regional Chamber and co-chair the annual Real Estate mixer. I am also the founder of the networking group, Capital Home Professionals.

Click here for more information about Stonebridge Title LLC.

What agents do behind the scenes

coffee and computerHave you ever wondered what on Earth your real estate agent is doing behind your back?

In the sometimes confusing, occasionally hectic and always stressful world of buying and selling, what are we agents doing behind the scenes?

For every hour an agent spends in your presence, he or she will spend an average of nine hours out of eyesight working on your behalf. Why? Because agents don’t get paid if they don’t close the deal! Unlike lawyers who bill by the hour, agents won’t receive a penny until (or unless) a sale comes through. It’s all a gamble, in which they could shoot snake eyes and come away empty-handed. This is the business.

So if you’re wondering what agents do to earn their paycheck, here’s a list of things we do when you’re not watching (or should be doing — if they’re not, maybe you need a different agent!).

We do research online. Listings come and go fast in the real estate world, so we check their multiple listing service (MLS) database constantly or else you — our clients — will miss out. We also look into a property’s history to check what it last sold for, what the home previously looked like and what other similar homes in the neighborhood (known as “comps”) are selling for.

We do research in person. Of course, there’s nothing like seeing a house in all its brick-and-mortar glory, which is why most REALTORS worth their salt spend tons of time driving around checking out new listings. A home may look great online, but you’ll never know if the oven door open into the cabinets or the fridge door smashes into the wall unless you’re there in the home.

We attend pitch sessions. Agents don’t spend all their time sizing up homes, as they also spend tons of face time with other pros at pitch sessions. Whether it’s at our office’s weekly business meeting, sending out notifications on our company’s Intranet or hosting Broker’s Opens (when agents hold an open house for other agents to come to in advance of the public open house), we’re all about promoting your home the most amount of people.

We spend our own money on marketing. In addition to not getting paid until a deal is done, selling agents also spend their own money on marketing: magazine and newspaper ads, fliers, hiring a photographer, glossy prints and premium placements on listing sites.

We write up offers and counteroffers. Offers and counteroffers are an extremely important part of the transaction, as they can save or net you thousands of dollars on a sale. Yet getting to the right price requires written offers and counteroffers every step of the way.

We stick around for inspections. You might not be present when it’s inspection time, but a good agent will be. This gives the agent an immediate knowledge of what’s going on. Anything from termites to an iffy foundation can be relayed to the buyer immediately. Inspections take roughly two to four hours, depending on the size of the home.

We smooth bumps in the road. Not every sale goes smoothly, but good agents try to shield their clients from the high drama unless there’s a reason to fill them in.

We keep you calm when the pressure’s on. Good agents don’t just hand you a house. They can also act as a therapist, making your sale much less stressful. Our ability to keep ourselves (in theory) at an arm’s distance allows us to help you make a business decision, rather than one based on emotion.

If you’re looking for an agent to help you with all of these steps in purchasing a home, get in touch with me at


Think you don’t have enough money to buy a house? Actually, you do.

Image credit

It is typical for real estate agents to suggest that buyers put at least 20 percent down when buying a home, but not everyone has that kind of cash on hand. I find that many Millennials, young professionals and first-time homebuyers — particularly in the metro D.C. area — make a great salary, but because they’re young, they haven’t had that much time to save a great deal of money. However, this doesn’t preclude you from purchasing a home.

Read: Most Millennials in D.C. can’t afford to buy a home (Curbed DC)

Down payment assistance programs can turn owning a home from a dream into a reality. There are grants, nonprofit organizations and lenders that can help with down payments based on a buyer’s credit score and income. These programs are not necessarily designed only for low-income people, but rather individuals who just don’t have a down payment saved up yet.

Click here to see all of the Virginia and D.C. Homeownership Programs available via the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Here’s the link to see the programs offered in other states. 

To see if you qualify, lenders will check your income, monthly expenses/debts and credit history in order to assess how much of a risk you pose to them in terms of your ability to repay the debt. It’s always encouraged do to as much as you can to minimize your debt and increase your credit score in order to obtain the lowest interest rate possible for borrowing money. Lenders have the ability to conduct “what if” scenarios to see how much your credit score would improve if you reduced your debts to a certain amount.

Instead of having a conventional loan (which requires 20 percent down), you are likely to use an FHA loan, which requires only 3.5 percent down. You will have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), which is a kind of insurance policy on your mortgage loan. However, the IRS considers PMI as home mortgage interest, and therefore, may be tax deductible each year.

In Virginia, there is the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) Mortgage Credit Certificate, which offers a dollar-for-dollar credit against your federal taxes equal to 20 percent of the annual mortgage interest you pay. Your income and the price of the home you buy have to be below a preset limit to qualify for the credit, which vary by location.

There’s also the Virginia Dept. of Housing and Community Development Downpayment Assistance (DPA), Fairfax County’s First-Time Homebuyers Program, Virginia’s First-Time Home Savings Plan and D.C.’s Open Doors.

Click here to read UrbanTurf D.C.’s First-Time Primer: Virginia’s Home Buyer Assistance Programs.

In D.C., there is also the Homestead Act.

From Federal Title & Escrow Company: The DC Office of Tax and Revenue increased the Homestead Deduction benefit from $69,100 to $70,200 for those DC residents who own and occupy their property as their principal residence. This results in an annual property tax bill reduction of $596.70.

Per the DC Office of Tax and Revenue, in order to qualify for the deduction, the homeowners must:

  • Submit an application with the Office of Tax and Revenue;
  • Occupy the property, and the property must not contain more than 5 dwelling units (including the unit occupied by the owner); and
  • Use the property as their principal residence

Check out this calculator on to get a quick estimate on what you might be able to afford.

Also: How much home can I afford? Find that magic number here 

Disclosure: I am not a mortgage lender. For more specific and detailed information about loan programs, contact a loan officer. Don’t have a loan officer? Let me know, and I’ll send you contact information for a number that I work with on a consistent basis and trust. *NOTE: I do not receive any kind of financial benefit from any referrals I send. 

What’s the difference between a REALTOR, broker and a real estate agent?

The real estate industry has a language all its own, not only about houses and contracts, but about the practitioners itself. Here’s a quick rundown of who’s who in the home buying and selling field:

  • Real estate agent (aka real estate salesperson): Anyone who earns a real estate license can be called a real estate agent, whether that license is as a sales professional, an associate broker or a broker. In Virginia, you must take a minimum of 60 hours of classes and pass both national and state-level tests to earn your license. These licenses are typically valid for two years; agents must take continuing education courses to renew their licenses.
  • REALTOR® (a trademarked name): A real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, which means that he or she must uphold the standards of the association and its code of ethics. All REALTORS are real estate agents, but not all agents are REALTORS. In essence, agents must pay an additional fee and agree to hold themselves to a higher level standard of practice to call themselves REALTORS.
  • Real estate broker: A person who has taken 180 credit hours of education beyond the agent level as required by state laws, has passed a broker’s license exam and has actively worked as a real estate salesperson for 36 of the previous 48 months. Brokers can work alone or they can hire agents to work for them. Real estate agents operate under a managing broker, who overseas transactions, signs agreements and helps agents when issues arise — basically, the boss of the office.
  • Real estate associate broker: Someone who has taken additional education classes and earned a broker’s license, but chooses to work under the management of a broker.

“Real Estate Titles Explained: Agent, Broker, REALTOR®” 

Around Reston: Meet Mvix’s Director of Business Development Mike Kilian

MVIX Director of Business Development Mike Kilian. Photo credit MVIX.

Moving to Reston is interviewing members of the community who are a part of small businesses that serve the Reston area.

Meet Mike Kilian, the Director of Business Development for Mvix, a leading provider of turnkey digital signage, video wall, and interactive kiosk solutions with enterprise content management systems (CMS). Mvix is a member of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce.

Continue reading “Around Reston: Meet Mvix’s Director of Business Development Mike Kilian”

7 Real estate apps you need in your life when searching for a new home

Searching for your next home, be it a rental or purchase? Here are seven apps to help you make the most of your search on the go:

  1. homesnap-appHomesnapHomesnap (free) uses your location to find homes on the market around you. You can also narrow down your search by type of home, price and number of bedrooms/bathrooms. The app also allows you to instantly call or email the listing agent for more information.

    Cool feature: Take a picture of any home you’re interested in, and Homesnap will give you details about the home, including an approximate value.

    “The app also keeps track of the history of your snaps, to help you remember the houses you’ve seen. This feature serves a two-fold purpose: one, to help consumers recollect their searches, and two, to help build up a crowd-sourced database containing pictures of homes.” — Sarah Perez, TechCrunch
    Continue reading “7 Real estate apps you need in your life when searching for a new home” is relaunching Sept. 12

When I started this blog in January, it was my hope that it would evolve into a resource for those moving to the Reston area — in terms of housing information, community news and new development, events, real estate advice and more.

Since then, I am humbled to say that my business has taken off and left me with less time than I’d imaged to dedicate to this blog. So, for the next two weeks I will be writing fervously, putting together the posts I’ve always wanted to have, curating information about the area and really re-starting this blog and launching it to be what I wanted in the first place.

In the weeks and months ahead, you’ll see more posts from local small business owners who serve the Reston area, gain a better insight as to what national real estate news means on a local level and learn more about what lies ahead for our ever-growing neighborhoods. I hope you’ll share these posts with others and provide me feedback about what else you’d like to see.

I’ll see you in two weeks!