Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to all....

 Last Year I traveled alot with my son's college soccer team.  I was a day late and a dollar behind the whole holiday season.  I promised myself that I would have the Christmas Tree up and decorated right after Thanksgiving.  Well, that didn't happen.  It was up and decorated by the second week in December.   I chose a pastel theme with lots of vintage ornaments that I have been collecting since college.

I did plant paperwhites right after Thanksgiving and they are blooming!  Paperwhites have a very unique aroma the minute they bloom.

They will topple over if too many bloom at once.  I now tie them together once they start blooming.

How is your mantle looking?  Here is mine, lots of candles and greenery: 

This year I set up a smaller tree for ornaments that are very special, mostly White House Annual Ornaments and Lenox and Wedgewood ornaments given to me by my parents over the years.  I love that a small tree allows one to really look at each ornament. These same ornaments tend to get lost in the crowd when hanging on a big tree. 

Here is my dining room sideboard adorned with vintage ornaments and two snow laced pine trees.  I'm hauling out all the silver  and organizing the table for Christmas Day.  

Here is a shot of a glass canister that I keep on my kitchen counter.  Every year I pick an assortment of super old ornaments that complement each other.  This year I chose silver and what I call "burnt red". Many of the burnt red ornaments have silver glitter on them.

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season...I resolve to be more disciplined with regular posts to this blog in the coming new year.

If you'd like to make the most of your real estate experience call me today, I will treat your transaction as if it were my own....

Carla Brooks

Friday, October 28, 2011

Historical Photos Adorn Tysons Central Long & Foster Office

As the Silver Line is constructed at Tysons Corner, and the Flour Lane/Hot Lane construction continues to progress, many of us that live here are amazed at the drastic changes in the "look" of Tysons Corner.

The 64 mile stretch of the Capital Beltway was approved by Congress in 1955 as a way of diverting traffic away from the city and provide an alternative route for those traveling north. It was originally referred to as the Circumferential Highway in that it was to circle the city. The first section opened in 1961 and it was completed in 1964.

The Capital Beltway now serves the suburbs, countless malls, community colleges and sportsplexes located strategically around it.

Tysons Corner Center was finished in 1968 and is the 12th largest employment center and 11th largest mall in the country. It is managed by Macerich, one of the leading owners, operators and developers of major retail properties across the country.

Ever wonder what Northern Virginia looked like "way back when", say mid 1880's to early 1900's? The Tysons Corner Long & Foster Office is adorned with many historical photos of the the area "way back when".

Here's a group of characters outside the early McLean Post Office around the turn of the century:

Here is "Maplewood" , a prime example of turn of the century architecture, second empire style as noted by Templeman & Netherton in Northern Virginia Heritage. Built in 1870 by John Shipman it was originally called "Villa Nova" and unfortunately was torn down in 1970:

The Town of Vienna, boasts the original Train Station built in 1858. It is still open for tours several times a year. Here is an old photo of the station:

Colvin Mill Run in Great Falls is the original gristmill from the 1800's. It was restored in 1972 and is open for tours, educational programs, outdoor concerts and special events. Here is what it looked like in its heyday:

Take a look at this photo of one of the original Great Falls Firehouse vehicles:

On your way into DC along Chain Bridge here is the area way back when:

We can't forget Fairfax City with its rich history and historical buildings. Here is the Courthouse in its heyday:

Please excuse the glare on the photos as I took them directly from the historical framed photos on the walls.

Tysons Central Long & Foster Real Estate is located at 8227 Old Courthouse Road (right down the street from the DMV).

It is owned and operated by Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. The inside of the office is furnished with lots of the above historical pictures of Northern Virginia Real Estate.

Come see us and enjoy a cup of coffee as you view the photos....


Carla Brooks

PS The last photo is courtesy of

PPS Oh and btw... if you or someone you know would like to buy or sell a home, call me today. I am here to earn your business and I will treat your transaction as if it were my own!

Buyers and Sellers: Protection is the key!

For those of you that are currently in the process of buying or selling a home (or those who will be) :

The one single thing that you can do to protect yourself is to purchase a home warranty immediately when you list your home or when you put a contract in on a home.  Why is that?

For many reasons.  No party wants to deal with surprise expenses during the course of a transaction or worse yet--- at the settlement table.  The home warranty usually covers all things "that run".  That includes electrical systems, plumbing systems, the heating and air conditioning unit(s), major appliances and so forth.  To replace any of these items would be expensive and a nuisance to say the least.  Just do it--buy a home warranty and be done with it.  No more worry over pre-existing conditions and unexpected large scale expenses during the listing period and for a year after settlement.  And the policies are usually renewable!

Long & Foster has recently put their stamp of approval on the 2-10 and HMS warranties.  What does this mean for buyers and sellers?  It means that with Long & Foster adding their name to the product, this will add them in the picture and hold them accountable should anything go awry.  Hows that for backing up their clients?  Thumbs up for Long & Foster for taking this bold step!

They (we) sincerely want you to have a smooth transaction and we want you to be happy in your new  home!

If you'd like to buy or sell a home call me today.  I will treat your transaction as if it were my own.

Best regards,

Carla Brooks


Ps All photos are a courtesy of:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Washington Vase

Washington Vase by Podmore and Walker

 I have to say that I have always been intrigued with life and objects from the middle 1800's.  In fact, my china is a perfect example.  It is called Washington Vase and it was produced by Podmore and Walker in the middle 1800's.  It was called the "poor man's china" and sold for peanuts at the time it was made.  It is a type of "flow" china.  Many of you have heard of "flow blue".  Well, this is "flow mulberry".

 I bought this china many years ago from a friend.  I wanted the  "flow blue" yet it was highly sought after and  too expensive.  Over the years I have added to my collection by purchasing pieces from various antique dealers, shows and so forth.

Washington Vase by Podmore and Walker

One thing I love to do (and haven't done in years), is to set a whole table with these pieces.  It makes for quite a dinner presentation.  I am now finding myself concerned that pieces will get broken and/or chipped so I haven't used these dishes in years.

If you'd like to make the most of your real estate experience call me today.  I am here to earn your business and I will treat your transaction as if it were my own.


Carla Brooks

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

QRM's: The latest threat to the US economy?

What is a QRM? A QRM is a Quality Residential Mortgage product created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. QRM's, in theory, are being developed to prevent future economic crisises brought on by mass defaults on residential mortgages. Defaults on mortgages are to blame for the "Great Recession" the world has been experiencing from 2005 to present.

No one is arguing with the fact that underwriting standards for home mortgage loans became so lax that those who had no business buying a home qualified for and obtained mortgage financing.

The Frank-Dodd legislation will reguire that the originators of loans maintain some risk along the way so they won't be so quick to hand a "ticking timebomb" to some unsuspecting investor (i.e. bankers, investment firms etc). A reasonable requirement at first blush. Let's examine this further however.

Initially, it was thought that a 20% down payment would be required by the borrower to qualify as a QRM. Banks would be allowed to offer more riskier loans of course....yet higher interest rates would be required to shoulder some risk in each loan. The QRM would be the standard and borrowing costs for other loans would be higher. (Some experts predict the difference between the two types of loan cost could be as high as 3%!) Other proposed QRM provisions include: a debt to income ratio <=28%, no more than two 30 day late payments.

With housing being a significant force driving the national economy its understandable why many economic experts, financial gurus, banks, and realtors are quite concerned that the QRM standards could significantly reduce the number of real estate transactions at a time when the economy needs them the most. Are QRM's an over-reaction to the mortgage crisis? Many concerned citizens feel that they are.

No one denies that loan underwriting standards must be more realistic and stricter than the standards of the late 90's and first half of the 2000's yet has the pendulum now swung too far in the opposite direction? Many believe it has, since hard working people with good credit are now being turned away. If the QRM legislation requires 20% down this could be enough to put the country in a double dip recession.

The reality is that a 20% down payment would be a hardship for many hard working buyers with great credit scores. Some experts have guestimated that it typically would take a good 15 years for a first time buyer to save up the 20% to buy in high priced metropolitan areas such as the Washington, D.C..

Similarly, the FHA's conforming loan limit of $729,750 is expected to drop to $625,500 in the fall. High priced housing markets will feel the repercussions from this change as sellers and buyers struggle to negotiate their way to the settlement tables.

Its a good time to call your local congressional representatives and let them know how you feel about the proposed QRM legislation. Every voice counts when the stakes are as high as they are!

Keep in mind that according to a recent article in the Washington Post "about 90% of the home loans written these days are guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the Federal Housing Administration. The remaining 10% are loans didn't qualify under the Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or Federal Housing Administrations underwriting guidelines and are part of the originating banks portfolios. Currently, a majority of investors, are not generally interested in purchasing the mortgages not backed by the federal government. Can we blame them?

If you'd like to make the most of your real estate experience call me today- Your transaction will be treated as if it were my own!


Carla Brooks

PS All photos displayed in this post are from

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Persuasive Power of Professional Design!

Been to a model home lately?

Even if you're not interested in purchasing a new home, touring model homes is a great way to keep up with home interior construction trends, fashion, and the latest and greatest in home accessories . As many of you already know, builders typically hire high-end quality home interior designers to create that irresistable "wow" factor for potential buyers.

I recently stopped in to view a model home in Vienna by Courtland Homes. The entire interior color scheme is grey neutral with organic fabrics, nature inspired accessories and artwork and functional "purpose" based living spaces. I took lots of pictures and will share them with you:

Here are a few of the light fixtures, many of which, are of European origin:

The entryway is light filled, spacious and accented with wood paneling that looked more like clapboard siding than the traditional wainscoting found in many upper end homes:

The living room, decorated with painted furniture and sand dollars framed in a neutral setting, invokes a sense of calm and understated elegance:

The dining room, with tone on tone wallpaper, a worldly sphere light fixture, painted furniture, pussy willow filled vase and casual makeshift sideboard evoke lifestyle choices made for functionality versus pedigree:

The library, complete with fireplace, is located in a light filled corner not in the center of traffic:

The kitchen sports painted cabinetry, small tiled backsplash, soapstone countertops, stainless steel appliances, butcher block topped island, shaded lighting fixtures--clearly arranged to welcome all visitors to share the experience of whatever meal is being prepared and whatever sport game or movie is being viewed:

The main level family room, an open continuation of the gourmet kitchen continues the theme of relaxed living and understated elegance geared toward functionality:

First floor optional master bedroom: A plus for those transitioning to one level living and/or those with a handicapped or elderly relative.

The upper level master suite is a delight to behold. The nautical theme continues with all the latest and greatest in home construction materials.

An ocotopus inspired framed piece:

Master bedroom dressing area with nautical window and light fixture:

gorgeous shower!

love the carerrra marble!

The hallway bathroom is loaded with earthy state of the art materials:

oiled bronze fixtures look great with the soapstone counters,

The jack and jill bathroom on the upper level features double custom square cut sinks with stone countertops and small tiled flooring.

The 2nd bedroom is decorated with a pale pink paint & bedspread. Accessories include:

a grassy casual throw rug under the bed, drippingly sweet bedspread & painted furniture...

The third bedroom continues the theme of understated elegance with muted pastels and casual furniture:

Sweet gingham curtain panels add loads charm and a casual air....

The lower level is a fabulous multi functional collection of casually arranged furniture and accessories all intended to satisfy the needs of todays modern family ( combination craft/laundry room, billard & bar area, workout room with sauna, movie sized flat screen, game tables etc.

chess anyone?

crisp and playful...

Pool table and bar area...

combo craft room, laundry room....

sauna anyone?

At around 6,000 square feet this home has it all....

Hope you enjoyed the tour. The design firm that decorated this model home can be found here:

If you'd like to make the most of your real estate experience call me today. I am here to earn your trust and I will treat your transaction as if it were my own!

Carla Brooks