If you support the Dulles Metrorail line, be sure your elected officials know it!

The second phase of Washington, DC-area’s “Silver” Metrorail line from Reston Parkway to the Dulles airport and Loudoun County deserves the  support of everyone who wants it and/or can benefit from it.

While the first phase  from Falls Church through Tysons Corner to Wiehle Avenue is on schedule and on budget (can you believe it!), the state of Virginia and Loudoun County reportedly are balking at committing the needed financing. See map, below.

Fairfax County recognizes that not only is the complete line integral to the economic growth and improved commutes for Northern Virginians, it stands to elevate the entire region internationally, along with its home prices.

This editorial in the Sunday, April 22 editions of The Washington Post  — “Dulles rail could go off the tracks” — sums up who needs to do what to keep the Silver Line ON track.

Stephen S. Fuller, director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, told the Post that extending the Silver Line into Loudoun would make the difference between the county continuing mainly as a bedroom community that exports workers into neighboring jurisdictions and transforming part of it into a employment magnet for highly educated and well-paid professionals.

In fact, Fuller said, if Loudoun turns its back on Metro, the county would sacrifice more than $55 billion in potential economic activity, and some 40,000 jobs, by 2040, and its rate of growth would be 10 percent slower.

Let it rain . . and rain, and rain some more!

April 18, 2012 — If you’re a spring planter as many of my clients are, the rain we’re finally getting this week is so long overdue it likely won’t be enough to pull us out of the severe drought conditions we’re experiencing throughout the DC metro area.

The red dots in Northern Virginia, above, and throughout most of Maryland, below, illustrate the “severe hydrolic conditions” our region is experiencing, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. CREDIT: USGS

If you’re planting, be sure to shower your flowers and bushes with plenty of water. The same for lawns you’ve fertilized. The regional outlook stretching towards the end of April calls for little or no rainfall in the short term but then near normal rainfall afterwards (let’s hope), according to the National Weather Service.

Take special care if you’re getting ready to put your home on the market. You want maximize your ‘curb appeal’ to prospects.

Temperatures for our region are expected to be near or above normal. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center’s 30-day precipitation outlook for April as well as the 90-day outlook for April through June calls for near average rainfall and above average temperatures. Keep your fingers crossed. 🙂

Washington, DC-area housing market rebound is gaining momentum

The Washington metro area is one of 101 U.S. housing markets that have shown “measurable improvement” for at least the past six months, according to an index released by the National Association of Home Builders April 5. There are approximately 360 such housing markets total.

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Catch the azaleas throughout the DC region while you can. CREDIT: AndyAdvantage Real Estate

In order to make the list, a region must stay above its low point, or “trough,” in housing prices, building permits and employment for six months or more. (The low points are measured from the 2009 housing crash.) That’s harder than it might seem, because a dip in even one metric — it’s usually home prices — below the “trough” would knock a region off the list.

For the Washington area, which includes the District and Northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs, the low point for jobs was February of 2010, and employment has improved 3.7 percent since then, according to an April 6 report in The Washington Post. For home prices, it was January 2011, and prices have risen 2 percent since.

The growth may seem somewhat tepid because some areas saw an improvement of 15 percent or more. NAHB senior economist Robert Denk said that’s because metropolitan Washington’s housing market didn’t fall as far as some areas did. It may be a long road back to a robust housing market for the nation but the DC area appears to be leading the way.

Metropolitan Washington “didn’t have it as bad as other areas, and it is improving at a healthier pace than some areas,” Denk told the Post.

In France and want to see a home in Northern Virginia? No problem. Let’s Skype!

I have another use for my iPad: provide tours of homes in Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland for clients overseas.

Skype is free to use via the Internet computer (or iPad) to computer. There is a charge for Skype phone calls. CREDIT: i-factor.biz

Yep, I found a family two homes new on the market in Fairfax County that on paper appeared to meet virtually all of their needs. While they’re not exactly in a position to see it with their own eyes and feet, we decided a tour using my iPad2 via Skype was the next best thing.

The walk-around and walk-through were a bit clunky at times because of the intercontinental Internet connection. Still my client received a timely sense of the property without having to interrupt their lives and spend a lot of money to jump across “The Pond.”

If you’re not familiar with Skype, simply sign up for an account at Skype.com and find “AndyAdvantage” to connect with me at a pre-arranged time.

Now “Skyping” to assess a prospective home is no substitute for the real thing thing. But if you’re thousands of miles away, it might make sense to consider it, especially if a home is priced competitively and might not be on the market very long.

Have mortgage rates hit bottom?

For anyone searching for a home mortgage over the past year or so, the historically very low rates have been a dream come true.

Recent events in the money markets have pushed 30-year financing above 4%, so a lot my clients and friends are asking how long this really inexpensive money will last. Well during the last two weeks of March, the average 30-year rate has slipped back so the outlook for now, based on numerous assessments, is not yet.

30-year mortgage rates 2007 to March 2012. CREDIT: CSMonitor.com

That said, if you’re in the market for mortgage financing, anything close to 4-5% is a relative bargain if you look at rates dating back to 2007 (see accompanying chart).

Since January, the Federal Reserve has been saying it will keep its easy-money policies in place until late 2014, according to The Wall Street Journal. The goal is to keep interest rates for households and corporations very low to spur the borrowing and investment needed to put America’s recovery on a sounder footing.

Recently, though, investors have ramped up bets that a rise in the Federal Reserve’s key short-term interest rate, the federal funds rate, could come sooner. That has pushed up market interest rates.

The upshot: don’t procrastinate over a few hundred “basis points,” as the mortgage pros call them. Some people refer to that as “bottom-fishing.” In the end, it doesn’t pay if you’re putting your next dream home at risk.

I’ve been working with very reliable and trustworthy mortgage brokers throughout my career and can connect you with very competitive, if not THE lowest cost, offers in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area.