My favorite time of year in this area is when the cherry blossoms come out. The “guests of honor” are not always here in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival. The next festival begins March 7th, 2011. Many activities are planned during the two week period of the festival including the SushiMasters competition which debuted in 2010. The area around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park is the most popular place to visit and you can even rent a paddle boat to get out on the water and enjoy them there. But if you don’t want to fight the crowds at the Tidal Basin, try the National Arboretum which offers a self-guided tour or visit the Kenwood neighborhood near River Road and Brookside Drive in Bethesda/Chevy Chase which offers a seasonal walk. Blooms in Kenwood should peak a few days later than the ones in DC because of cooler temperatures.
Archives for March 2009
Tickets go on sale to the public tomorrow for the 2009 season at Wolf Trap’s filene center. Bonnie Raitt returns after several years’ absence and Jackson Browne, Huey Lewis & the News, and Crosby, Stills and Nash are some of my personal favorites who will be there this year. The National Symphony Orchestra will be playing the full score of “The Wizard of Oz” along with the movie shown on a large screen as well as several other performances . Musicals include “The Priates of Penzance”, “42nd Street” and “Disney’s High School Musical.” The full schedule is available on line or in today’s Washington Post weekend section.
Going to Wolf Trap and having a picnic on the lawn while you listen to some great music is one of my favorite things to do in the summer. And in today’s economy, it’s much less expensive than most concert tickets. We have had a membership for many years so we are eligible for advance ticket orders. Some shows do sell out so it’s the best way to insure you can get tickets to the shows you most want to see. To order go to Wolf Trap’s website.
New wheeled carts for recyclable materials will be provided to all residential households in Arlington County starting April 1st. More materials will be accepted, including aerosol cans, plastic bags, aluminum foil & trays, books, rigid plastics and plastics #1-7 (i.e. yogurt cups & margarine tubs). All items can go in the same container and do not need to be sorted. In addition, you can request a pickup of electronics to be recycled curbside by calling 703-228-6570 or going online to www.arlingtonva.us/recycle.
It seems as if housing prices in the 1990’s and this decade have gone up dramatically more than incomes, making homeownership appear to be unaffordable. But I recently attended a Long & Foster Education Day where Lawrence Yun, PhD, Chief Economist of the National Association of Realtors®, gave a presentation that shows that this may not be the case. His statistics compared the monthly mortgage payment for a median income household buying a median priced house in 1998 with 2008. Since interest rates in 1998 were around 7% for a thirty year fixed rate mortgage, the monthly principal and interest payment would run about 19% of household income. Think it would be much higher in 2008? Think again. With interest rates around 6% in 2008, the monthly principal and interest payment is also 19% of household income. And with today’s rates running closer to 5%, the percentage should be even lower, making homeownership more affordable than it has been in decades.
Dr. Yun also showed that if a recession is imminent, this is not necessarily a sign of home sales continuing to decline. While the early 80’s recession did show deep cuts in home sales, the recession in the early 90’s showed only moderate cuts in home sales, the mid-1970’s recession showed little change and the early 2000’s recession was accompanied by a rise in home sales.
New legislation allows first time homebuyers to be eligible for a tax credit up to $8,000 which, unlike last year’s credit, does not need to be repaid. Purchasers must settle on the home between January 1, 2009 and December 1, 2009 and certain income limits apply. “First time homebuyer” is defined as not having owned a home in the last three years. To determine if you are eligible, go to this website for more details. This, combined with historically low interest rates could make this an excellent time to buy your first home.
I recently received an e-mail from a friend of my teenage daughter asking me to join her Facebook group to Save Gulf Branch Nature Center. As a part of its budget cuts, Arlington County has proposed to close the center on July 1st. The internet and social networking have allowed word to spread much more rapidly than it would have in the old days. The Facebook group now has over 2800 members and the community has rallied around and set up a website where residents can sign a petition and make their voice heard in support of keeping this valuable resource. While Arlington is becoming an increasingly urban community, we need to hold on to our parks, nature centers and green space. A public hearing will be held at the courthouse March 24th and 25th.
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Now there is help for American homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments. To find out if you are eligible, go to Making Home Affordable. You might be able to have your loan refinanced to more attractive terms or have the loan modified to make the payments more manageable.
Are you a homeowner in Virginia? Have you joined the Virginia Homeowner’s Alliance yet? Membership is free and their website provides valuable resources for all homeowners. This month’s webcast, for example, offers tips on lawn care. New webcasts are available each month.