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Lockboxes: pros and cons

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If you’re selling your home, your realtor might suggest keeping a set of your house keys in a lockbox. Though this can make it easier for potential buyers to view your home, is it a good idea? Here’s what you should know.

The pros
Lockboxes are convenient, especially when the property up for sale is vacant. Sellers don’t need to attend each visit and buyers can take a look at the property when it’s most convenient for them. In addition, some buyers prefer visiting homes when the sellers aren’t around.

The cons
No matter how secure the lockbox is, there’s always some level of risk that a burglar could access it. Mechanical lockboxes, however, are more vulnerable than electronic models.

Electronic lockboxes often use smartphone applications to enter a personal code, creating a record of who opened the box and when. While secure, they don’t eliminate the risk of human error.

Keep in mind that the use of a lockbox requires your consent following a thorough explanation of the risks. If you’re not comfortable with the idea, it’s your right to refuse. Finally, remember that realtors are never allowed to give the combination to anyone who isn’t a registered real estate agent. If you see this happen, report it right away.

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Popcorn ceilings: how to patch, paint and remove them

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A popcorn ceiling, also known as a stipple, stucco, or acoustic ceiling, is a type of textured ceiling that has a noise-dampening effect. It was a common feature in houses 50 years ago, and many homes still have them. Here’s what you should know about renovating them.

Patch
If your popcorn ceiling is stained or cracked, you can patch it. There are special products designed for this purpose that can be purchased in either an aerosol can or a container. These products are easy to spray or paint on.

Paint

As long as the ceiling is in good shape, it can be painted. Begin by removing all dust with a soft-bristle brush. Then, apply a stain-blocking ceiling primer. Once the primer is completely dry, use a thick nap roller or paint sprayer to apply the paint.

Remove
Removing a popcorn ceiling can be messy, dangerous, and time-consuming, but it isn’t difficult. If it’s painted, you’ll need to apply a specialized stripping product. It should be rolled or brushed on and given time to soften the ceiling material, which can then be scraped away with a trowel.

To simplify patching, painting, or removing your popcorn ceiling, hire an experienced contractor to complete the job.

Warning
Before renovating a popcorn ceiling, you need to determine if it contains asbestos. If it does, make sure to hire a professional asbestos remediation company to remove it.

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Exterior siding: how long do various types last?

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Siding protects your home from the elements but inevitably takes a beating in the process. Your choice of material, however, will determine how long this part of your house endures.

• Vinyl typically lasts 20 to 40 years and is easy to maintain. The grade and thickness of the panels will impact their durability. If damaged, vinyl panels are easy to repair or replace.

• Wood siding (usually cedar) can last anywhere from 15 to 40 years. It offers unrivaled beauty but also requires much more maintenance than other types of siding. The wood should be resealed every five years and inspected annually to stave off potential rot and pest infestations.

• Aluminum has a lifespan of about 30 to 50 years. However, expect the paint to peel after about 15 years. Fortunately, aluminum siding can be repainted. Though it’s possible for aluminum panels to be scratched, dented, or pitted, they can usually be fixed or replaced

• Fiber cement planks have a lifespan of about 25 to 40 years. Their color may eventually fade, but the planks can be repainted. Fiber cement can resemble wood but is resistant to termites and rot. This type of siding requires little maintenance.

Siding should always be replaced when it can no longer protect the internal structure of your home. However, it may deteriorate long before this and should be replaced once it becomes shabby, brittle, or discolored.

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Should you invest in a sump pump?

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A sump pump is a device that can be installed in a basement, either beneath or above the floor. It’s designed to pump out the water collected in a sump basin and discharge it to the outdoors. Consequently, your home is kept safe from the damage that can occur as a result of flooding.

If your basement is at risk of flooding, you should consider buying a sump pump, especially if you live somewhere with a high water table. If possible, select a submersible rather than a pedestal pump, as they’re less noisy when covered with a lid. You should also opt for a model with an iron core since it’s more durable than the plastic alternative. Plus, you should think about getting a pump with an alarm that alerts you if the water in the basin reaches a dangerous level.

In addition, you may want to install a secondary sump pump next to the first one, especially if you have a finished basement. This way, if your primary pump fails or becomes overtaxed, the secondary pump will automatically take over.

A battery backup pump can also be installed. In the event of a power outage, this type of pump will continue to work for up to two days.

To install a sump pump in your home, speak with a qualified plumber in your area.

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Popular window styles and where to use them

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Do you want to update the windows in your home? If so, here are some popular types and where they might look best.

• Double-hung windows feature two large sashes that slide up and down along vertical tracks. They perfectly complement rambler, farmhouse, bungalow, and other modern-traditional style homes. They have many customization options and look good in almost any room.

• Slider windows are available in a variety of styles, materials, and finishes. They open horizontally rather than vertically, which makes them ideal for spaces with horizontal features. For example, they look good over a counter or in a hallway. Since slider windows are easy to open and close, they’re also practical in hard-to-reach spaces.

• Casement windows open inward or outward with a mechanical crank. They’re well suited to contemporary homes and great in rooms where you want to let in a cool breeze.

• Bay and bow windows extend outward from the home and are traditionally composed of a picture window flanked by one or more pairs of double-hung or casement windows. Place them anywhere that overlooks a view or in a living room, family room, or bedroom that needs a focal point.

The best windows for your home will depend on your budget and style. In all cases, however, it’s best to make sure they’re energy-efficient (look for the Energy Star label) and installed by an experienced contractor.

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Touchless design features for a germ-free home

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Touchless technologies have long been featured in public spaces to limit the spread of germs. Now, these motion-activated innovations are making their way into homes. Here are a few you may want to adopt.

• Light switches. Illuminate your home by walking past conveniently placed sensors.

• Faucets and toilets. Touchless versions will help keep your bathrooms sanitary.

• Soap dispensers. Wash your hands without getting the dispenser dirty.

• Appliances. Dishwashers, refrigerators, and ovens are increasingly featuring technologies that allow you to open and close them without using a handle.

• Garbage bins. Open and close your trash can with motion-activated technology.

You can find touchless technologies at hardware and appliance stores in your area.

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Virginia’s 2020 home sales top 2019 sales by nearly 11%

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According to the December 2020 Home Sales Report released by Virginia REALTORS®, Virginia’s housing market surged in the second half of 2020. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, there were 13,603 more home sales in 2020 than there were in 2019. This is an increase of 10.8%—the Commonwealth’s fastest growth in annual sales transactions in more than five years.

Sales activity in the final quarter of 2020 was significant compared to recent years. Home sales activity gained steam throughout the fall and into the winter months when transactions typically tend to slow. In December, there was a total of 12,525 home sales in Virginia, which is 32.4% higher than a year ago.

Demand for homeownership has been strong throughout the pandemic, fueled by historically low mortgage rates. Virginia REALTORS® Chief Economist Lisa Sturtevant, PhD, says, “The foremost challenge for Virginia’s housing market has been a lack of supply. Declining inventory has limited options for would-be homebuyers and has driven up home prices across the Commonwealth.”

In Virginia, the median sales price in 2020 was $319,902, which was up from $295,000 last year, an 8.4% increase. For the past few years, home prices have risen by between 2 and 4 percent, so the gain in 2020 is notable. The biggest price gains were in the last few months of the year. In December, the median sales price statewide was $325,000, up 10.2%.

Demand for homeownership will continue to be strong in Virginia in 2021, while a lack of inventory will constrain market activity. Virginia REALTORS® forecasts that home sales will increase in 2021, though the pace of home sales transactions will slow due to insufficient supply.

The Virginia Home Sales Report is published by Virginia REALTORS®. Click here to view the full December 2020 Home Sales Report. Current and past reports are available to members, media, and real estate-related industries through the organization’s website.

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Front Royal
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Upcoming Events

Jan
29
Fri
12:30 pm Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Edu... @ Online Event
Jan 29 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education @ Online Event
Save a Life: Free REVIVE! Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Education January 29th The Northwestern Prevention Collaborative and Northwestern Community Services Board will offer a free virtual REVIVE! Training on January 29th from 12:30 pm to[...]
Jan
30
Sat
2:00 pm Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Jan 30 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Paint Camellias with The Studio @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
We will paint these beautiful camellias on Saturday, January 30th at 2 pm at The Studio. This will be the first in a series of floral paintings we will do over the course of 2021.[...]
6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Jan 30 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Parent's Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
6:00 pm Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Jan 30 @ 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Robert Burns Night 2021 @ Virginia Beer Museum
Known in medieval Celtic culture as a storyteller, verse maker, and composer, the word ‘Bard’ has become synonymous with the world’s greatest poets. However, few are as celebrated as Scotland’s own ‘National Bard’, Robert Burns,[...]
Feb
9
Tue
10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 9 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
11
Thu
6:30 pm Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 11 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
13
Sat
6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Feb 13 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Parent's Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
Feb
15
Mon
9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Feb 15 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]
Feb
16
Tue
10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
Feb 16 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
Feb
17
Wed
9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Feb 17 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]