The Great Space Debate

The Great Space Debate
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Open, Contemporary Floor Plan at PRESTON at Potomac Yards



The story behind the home focuses on key elements of history, design, location, and community. When all of these come together, we create a value story that defines your home’s distinctive value, style, and luxury that connects people to the best properties available in any market.

As you know, I am a certified residential specialist proudly serving professionals, military, and foreign service professionals across VA and MD. A common thread when listing or buying homes is the concern over square footage. It’s typically the first thing that sellers want me to know. More often than not buyers will start out with a certain amount of square footage requirement as they search online or among the selections I provide during their search.

Sure, square footage is an important consideration. But, consider this: focus on the floor plan! Take a look at how the square footage of your home is used. In essence, is your floor plan functional? For sellers: If your home boasts a great amount of square footage think about how you use that space now. Then, think about what areas you use a certain way that may be taking away from the layout potential for buyers who walk through. When we meet, I typically walk through the house with potential clients so the floor plan becomes more familiar to me. That way, when we discuss the market analysis I can offer distinct differences–pros and cons–about livability. In the end, it’s easier to connect with those spaces most similar to how you live in your current home.  As you encounter different spaces, you can continue the comforts of current life and imagine better ways to use living areas, new rooms, and indoor and outdoor spaces at your new home. It solidifies the reason behind a move or makes a move happier. You know, “that feeling” you get as soon as you walk through the front door.

Most buyers search tirelessly for “that feeling” which I emphasize is the intangible that the data, numbers, and analysis just can’t do for you. So, the space debate among buyers takes on a unique perspective as we tour your favorite properties. When asked about how much space buyers need or want the response I get most often is a number i.e. 2200, 3000 or more and then the number of beds and baths. Clients narrow down my suggestions and add their own preferred properties to visit. Let me be clear that while the debate starts at the first meeting with a typical response in numbers, it doesn’t really take on true meaning until we actually visit homes and experience a floor plan first hand. For example, do you love or not love your kitchen? Need more cooking or counter space? Look for similar layouts like these from BUILDER magazine. More Kitchen Less Hallways You don’t have to build your own home to find a floor plan that fits your favorite places at home.

I encourage you to think about, talk about, and walk through every inch of space and think about how you live at home. Then, decide which elements of each property reflect your current favorites and connect with your expectations for your new home. When the debate is considered in that context, it tends to be easier to prioritize properties, and rank your preferred properties that have potential to meet and exceed your expectations. Here’s a real life example of a recent listing in Vienna Woods. More Can Be Better

What do you think?


Hopefully, you’ve found some guidance here and some floor plan food for thought ;-). That way, you can decide for yourself as you consider a sale or purchase. Here are some real examples from BUILDER magazine and how space, style, and design make the most of 1600 square feet for the best use of every inch of these 4 house plans.Best Use of 1600 Square Feet

Read this. Then comment. Considering a sale or purchase? Contact Me. The story behind the home connects people with the best properties available. Clients connect with a home’s existing story or they can create their own. I’d love to show you how.


The Story Behind Your Home Remodel

The Story Behind Your Home Remodel

I admit to being a bit nostalgic. I love people, places that bring back great memories. Most of those memories include a time, place, people, and things I’ve learned that I still rely on and build upon personally and professionally. In fact, my best memories and experiences bring back some of the most educational and useful data and resources that I have been using and sharing to keep growing, improving, and educating clients, their friends, family, and colleagues. A special resource that harkens back to my Hanley-Wood special projects days is the annual Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling Magazine.

It happens often. In fact as recently as a few weeks ago, a past client sent a description and photos of his fantastic kitchen and bath renovations. I was initially impressed with the photos that looked great. We didn’t get into specifics until I see it in person after an additional family room upgrade happens soon. So, when he asked–and I get this a lot– if these projects would help with resale value prior to a sale, I responded as I typically do with this: “… according to the Remodeling 2016 Cost vs. Value Report ( …” and then this:  2016 Cost vs. Value Report for Virginia and MD clients. Remodeling magazine is a trade journal published by Hanley-Wood, Inc., utilized as a key resource among licensed, professional remodeling contractors across the U.S. You’ll find a systematic, descriptive, and data-filled report broken down by region right down to the city in which you live.

For my relocating clients, military families and Foreign Service folks who live outside of the South Atlantic states identified, you’ll find a drop-down menu for each region in the U.S. It covers 30 markets and 100 projects from mid-range to upscale. You’ll find project descriptions along with estimated costs and projections of your potential return on your investment.

The measure of quality and value of any resource, report, or metric is how you utilize the data. I’ll break it down into 3’s so you can better understand which clients find it helpful, how, when, and why you may use it as you plan and prepare for your next remodeling project.

Hopefully, the Q & A format will keep it simple and you can easily decide how to work with the report for positive results. Here we go:


A:Remodeling magazine is the leading industry resource among licensed contractors nationwide. The report AND the magazine provide industry trends in project scope, pricing, and product information. I also recommend that you review and consider previouse reports for a retrospective approach to the data. You can compare not only prices and estimated values over time. It’s interesting to note how the projects and products have changed and/or improved how you can live in the space. Then, you can better set your own expectations for your own project, contractor, and life in your home when its all said and done:


A. I provide this for buyers who have just moved so they can plan ahead in a few ways. First, you can get familiar with project scope and pricing. That way when you’re ready you’re more familiar with what the professionals will assess and how they may price your requests. Plus, you’ll find that the report includes advertisements of remodeling products as industry standards so you can educate yourself on products and materials.


A. Every remodeling project or home renovation has its own nuances and delicacies when dealing with design, architecture, city and homeowner standards, of course. Historically, the Cost vs. Value Report addresses estimates and average projects that can guide homeowners and their contractors to work toward a positive end result in price, project, and completion. In an effort to provide help for clients remodeling an historic home, I did ask the editor, Craig Webb, Editor-in-Chief, Remodeling and ProSales Magazines, Hanley-Wood, Inc. And while he’s not seen any data specific to historic homes and notes that this report may not be useful for such specific properties, He offers, “…We all like to say that every house has unique qualities and unique repair/remodel issues. For historical properties, I’d think that is doubly true…”

Q. I own a home on or near the water. How can this help understand the nuances of an addition or garage on the water?

A. Waterfront and historic properties are unique in location, restrictions and nuances in general. So, the best approach is to identify licensed, professional remodeling professionals with knowledge, experience, resources, and references for similar properties and projects.


A. Yes, in fact, I have used this element of the report for my own edification about what’s trending year over year in terms of types of projects, scope of projects, and the average return on these projects across the board. It’s been interesting to take a step back and look at all of this from a National level and how it lines up with resale pricing and sold prices across the U.S. compared to the regional and city data over the years.

Report content © 2016 Hanley Wood, LLC. Complete data from the Remodeling 2016 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at

The Story Behind Your Mortgage

The Story Behind Your Mortgage

It’s a New Year! Here’s the inaugural post from our local expert among lenders. Peter Accolla, George Mason Mortgage, offers insight into what the New Year means for the mortgage market. You’ve likely heard about the recent rate hike. But Peter offers perspective on what this could mean for you in the near term and throughout 2016. Peter is an experienced lender whom my clients have trusted for the last 10 years. Welcome, Peter to The Story Behind the Home. I appreciate his experience and perspective as a very important part of your real estate story unfolds.

It’s a New Year of opportunities and changes. If you’re considering a sale or purchase, you may be wondering what to expect from the mortgage market going forward. The short answer is that the Federal Reserve (FED) pretty much has full control. A reality that begs the question “How quickly will the FED raise short term interest rates this year?”  The overall expectation is that short term rates (the Federal Funds rate) will be 1.5% by the end of 2016.  Currently, it is .5%.  This means that there is an expectation of a .25% increase each quarter of this year.  My opinion (and the opinion of many local loan officers and lenders in our area) is that if we see the FED hike the Federal Funds rate more quickly than expected–insinuating a stronger economy and the need to control inflation–we’ll see mortgage rates increase faster as well.  If we see a steady increase of the Federal Funds rate each quarter over the year, we’ll see our average 30 year fixed rate go from roughly 4% (where it is now) to somewhere around 4.5% by year end.

The effect on your purchase power, interest rate, and loan approval will vary according to a set group of criteria. I’ve provided my contact information below. If you’ll give me 15 minutes of your time or visit my website to provide responses to a few questions, I can show you what the new year in the mortgage market means for you. 

Let’s get started.

Best regards, Peter

Peter S. Accolla II
Branch Manager/Mortgage Banker George Mason Mortgage, LLC
(703) 259-0731 (O)
(703) 888-6889 (C)
(703) 653-3052 (F)

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The Story Behind the Right Realtor

The Story Behind the Right Realtor

Want to know the real story about how to find the right realtor? Does the realtor you choose really make a difference? What’s the secret to a successful real estate sale or purchase? Well, I was recently asked about how to find a realtor. What steps are required? Which ways are the best? How do you KNOW that you’ve found the right Realtor? 3 questions, 3 answers should be quick and simple, right? After all, the point is the house. It’s about the sale, the purchase, the result, right? It can be for some. The story behind the right realtor starts with you. Before you can find, choose, and know you’ve found the right realtor there are a few things to consider. Here are the questions asked and how the story behind the home, from its foundation, starts with steps to find the right realtor that establish standards, expectations, and measured success so that your story starts in the best possible way. Here we go.

Q. What steps would you advise homeowners take when looking for
their own Realtor?

A. It’s not about me, the Realtor. My advice starts with understanding the story behind every home which starts with that homeowner. So, at our initial appointment, we not only discuss the basics, the data, the property, the community and the steps in the process. We start with the home and its owner, You.

3 Steps to Find Your Realtor

1. Your Reasons Why: It’s important that you consider your reasons for selling i.e. relocation, downsizing, need more space.

2. Your Best Results: What’s your best desired result? i.e. net gain, size of the home, location of the home, moving on to the next opportunity in life, work, family. Once they define the why behind their move they can interview agents focused on a realistic set of goals that will motivate them to actively participate and work with me but also stay focused on their desired results. So, as you interview realtors you need to know how they work, what they know, and their process, approach, and success with homeowners who have experienced the same. Better yet, I encourage those I meet to find a realtor whose clients willingly offer honest feedback about their experience.

3. Your Standards: Everyone has standards and they should be set according to your highest family, professional, financial priorities in life. Those standards should translate into expectations and evaluation criteria for your Realtor. There are standards that define licensee vs. agent vs. realtor, etc. There are agents, realtors, and transaction-focused licensees in the area. We all do business differently. I think it’s important that homeowners understand the benefits of working with a licensed realtor who belongs to NAR, their regional association, and subscribes to the Realtor code of ethics. One does not have to be a realtor to sell real estate. Without a set of standards for conduct the road to your best results will likely be a rough one along the way.

Q. How can you find the best Realtor for you?

A. Once you’ve taken the steps above, you’re able to identify the best Realtor for you regardless of how you meet them because you’ve identified a set of expectations based on your situation and desired results.

You Be the Judge

A. Real Results

Finding the right house or the right buyer for your home is only 25% of the process. So, it’s important to know what it means to get results from the Realtor you choose. There are as many ways to find a realtor as there are ways to search for a house. I find it helpful to focus people on what they expect or the desired result beyond the obvious listing or purchase.  It’s more than just the sale or purchase. It’s what the results mean for you not for your realtor’s business, volume, or sales awards. (Althought we as professionals have our goals, too.) Yes, those stats are important and necesssary to evaluate a Realtor’s experience, success, and results. However, finding the right realtor includes matching skill and expertise with your expectations and goals. Most of my business is based upon referrals. 95% of past clients, colleagues, and brokers (U.S. and International) consistently refer me to others. Even so, I have found that regardless of how potential clients contact me, they are consistently pleased with my experience, success, and results that help them reach their family, financial, and life goals. Those goals establish a story that sets expectations and a set of metrics that can quantify and measure the most effective strategies, focus, skills and proven results from your Realtor.

Q. How do you KNOW they’re the best Realtor?

You Don’t Just Know
A.You Know You

 Finding the best Realtor goes back to the beginning of your story as a seller or buyer. The story behind your sale or purchase is about your situation and your goals. You need to have done active research about agents focused on the locations, properties, and clients they serve. Talk with past clients. Read online reviews. Visit websites. Google. Yes, Google Your Agent. 🙂 While designations, awards, and sales are critical and an important measure of success, the experience, expertise, and focus needs to be applied in the right way. When that happens it leads to success, achievements and the best results. The best Realtors have satisfied clients, find solutions to issues that arise, and are committed professionals.

2.  You Know How they Do Business not just how much business they do. You can know the best Realtor based on their success, longevity, and expertise. In addition to how many transactions, clients, and years in business, it’s as important to know the motivation behind the success that builds the foundation of a business and the methods and strategies that define it.

3. You Know their Clients  Once you set your own expectation about the process, properties, and communities, you know the best Realtor according to how they do business, how much they do business, and the clients they serve. For example, if you are relocating or PCSing with the military there are demands of certain types of transactions, there are nuances that require a certain skills set and experience to be effective. A realtor who has developed and executed successfully for people in similar situations, real estate, relocation, or retirement for example will know best how to handle, manage, and execute with ease and enthusiasm. Or, if the kids are grown and your home and yard are getting to be too much to handle or you’d like to travel more often, downsizing, process preparation,and quality of life are just as important.Selling the house you’ve lived in for decades and raised your children all the while searching for enough space, storage, and convenience for a new phase in life requires experience and skill. Lastly, focus on the key elements of the story behind the home you’re buying or selling that will in turn establish a set of expectations and experience required from your Realtor who can help ensure a more meaningful and memorable real estate experience. #StoryBehindtheHome #YourStoryStartsHere #YourHomeStory #professionals #corporaterelocation #militaryfamilies #PCS #transitions #easymove #therightrealtor #realtorkristinmango