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Ask Adam: Should We Fire Our Realtor?

by ARLnow.com | April 1, 2014 at 3:15 pm | 1,744 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. We have been working with a Realtor for almost two years and we have been unable to find a house in North Arlington that is suitable for us. At this point we are wondering if it is time to find a new agent, but at the same time, we wonder if a new agent would do any better for us because there is such low inventory in North Arlington and the market is so competitive.

We are having second thoughts about our agent because he is not proactive. We receive a daily automated email from him with the MRIS listings, however, after reviewing the daily list, we must tell the agent which houses we would like to see. He has never once said to us “this house is coming on the market” or “this house came on the market today, let’s go and see it.” We feel like we are doing all the work and the agent is just “opening doors.” Yes, we know once the time comes to put in a contract the agent will be working hard for us, but at this point it is frustrating.

We have not signed any kind of agreement with our agent, but after almost two years we feel a little guilty about finding someone new, especially since he is expecting to sell our condo. What is the best way to handle a situation like this? Could we have him sell our condo and work with another agent to find our home, or should we just separate ways?

A. There are plenty of people critical of my profession and I totally get it. Many of those critics have had an experience like the one you are describing. You are hoping this agent adds value once you find the right home, but he has not demonstrated the ability to do so thus far. If he is just going through the motions now, I would expect the same when it comes to advising you on the value of the home, negotiating your offer and marketing your condo. You deserve a lot more than this!

There isn’t any excuse for not being able to find a home after two years. I know that housing inventory is lower than buyers would like, but after two years it is not low anymore. It is just normal. In February alone, 183 other people were able to find homes in Arlington.

There needs to be continuous dialogue between you and your agent so that he is advising you on what needs to be done to help you meet your goals. Maybe your expectations are a little unrealistic, but that is not your fault. It’s his job to be a market expert and to help you understand what it will cost to get what you want in today’s market. Rarely should a week go by without at least one proactive suggestion from your agent. If he is unable to do this, then he is either not trying hard enough, too busy for you or not well enough ingrained in the North Arlington market.

The buyer agents on my team and I try to establish realistic expectations at the initial consultation. Sometimes, we even review active listings in this first meeting. It does not make sense for someone to think they are going to find something that doesn’t exist.  Especially in a market where prices are increasing.   (more…)

Ask Your Last-Minute Tax Questions Here

by ARLnow.com | April 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm | 736 views | No Comments

Bobby Grohs CPAIt may be April Fools Day, but taxes are no joke — and the April 15 IRS filing deadline is almost here.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to get down to business and start filling out those forms. Luckily, if you have any last-minute tax questions, local tax guru Bobby Grohs is back today to offer some free advice.

Grohs, a Certified Public Accountant and University of Maryland grad, started Arlington-based Tax Matters LLC in 1998. He specializes in “comprehensive tax and consulting services for clients ranging from individual taxpayers, small businesses and nonprofits located throughout the greater Washington metropolitan area.”

Grohs will be answering you questions in the comment section until 3:00 p.m. If you’d like to reach him after the discussion is over, head to the Tax Matters website, email info@mytaxmatters.com or call 703-593-7391.

Please note that Mr. Grohs may not be able to answer every question asked.

Also, please note that in addition to our normal comment policy, we ask that questions and comments be of a civil tone. We welcome tough questions and critical comments, but anything of a mean-spirited nature will be removed.

The views and opinions expressed in the comments are those of their respective authors and not necessarily those of ARLnow.com.

Rosslyn Startup Seeks to Disrupt How HR is Managed

by Ethan Rothstein | March 31, 2014 at 12:00 pm | 1,127 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Members of the PerformYard teamEvery worker, from entry-level to executive, in a small, medium or large company has had to deal with a performance review. To many, they include an exchange that is far from comfortable or transparent. For others, the reviews simply get lost in the shuffle.

Ben Hastings had worked for years as a management consultant and continued to see a divide between human resource practices, management techniques and supportive technology. At the end of 2012, he launched PerformYard, a technology-driven management company to try to close that divide.

“In every business I’ve worked with, there was this gap between what executives and management understand about who’s doing well and what the employees see,” Hastings told ARLnow.com. “There was this feedback gap. It was all tied to a stodgy annual review process. I really wanted to solve that problem.”

Hastings recruited his co-founder, John Malpass, to join him a month after he struck out on his own. The company was fueled early on by their “joint desire to build a software company that drives year-round engagement.”

PerformYard goals screenshot

Hastings said PerformYard, which is headquartered in The Ground Floor in Rosslyn, takes HR and eliminates it as a separate entity from operations. Progress reports on employees are consistently filed and updated automatically. Employees documents, payment info and title updates are all woven into the same system, and it leaves space for direct feedback.

The component of PerformYard that Hastings is most excited about hasn’t even launched yet: a strategy execution platform. Hastings said it launches in two months.

“Every time an executive looks how they’re doing, to evaluate his or her performance, they’re looking at a database,” Hastings said. “We’re going to tie corporate objectives to what people do every day. There’s nothing that really does that in the market now.”

Hastings said a tool like that can — and will — be sold directly to executives, instead of sold to the HR division and approved by a CEO. After the product launches, PerformYard hopes to sign “a couple hundred” clients by the end of the year.

PerformYard's offices in the Ground Floor in RosslynHastings didn’t just choose the convergence of human resources and technology as the industry for his startup because of his experience; in fact, he may have chosen it despite his experience. He said he wanted to choose a market where his company “could massively disrupt huge incumbents.”

In fact, to ensure that the company would be viable long-term, he deliberately avoided using contacts in his network as investors or clients early in the company’s growth.

“We want to scale this business to thousands of customers,” Hastings said. “That needed to be done outside of my network. I wanted to build something I could sell to people I don’t know for 10 years. That was my goal.”

For that same reason, Hastings said he’s avoided a major round of financing. He described the company as “basically bootstrapped,” having self-funded the company for a year after launching and having raised just under $1 million since.

It’s difficult for Hastings to continue thinking small when his ambitions are so large. Despite the fact that one of PerformYard’s linchpin products has not yet launched, he thinks his business has universal appeal because it’s “taking well-known business processes and executing them in a way that’s simple and easy.”

“In five years, I’d love to see our company with eight-figure revenues,” he said. “The goal is to continue growing more than 100 percent a year like we’ve done… I want us to be more than $10 million in annual revenue and still growing. Then we’ll be able to really chart our own growth.”

Your Beermonger: Growing Apart

by Nick Anderson | March 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 613 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

It hasn’t been a slow news week in the beer world. In fact, I’m starting to believe that we’re not going to have slow news weeks in beer anymore. We’re going to get into some stuff outside of the headlines week, but there are some news stories worth reading up on:

-Florida’s HB 1329 bill, which I wrote about in last week’s columnis dead in that state’s House, but a fight remains as the state Senate takes it up in its original form.

-Left Hand Brewing is fully entrenched in trademark litigation madness, simultaneously attempting to trademark “Nitro” (as in “Milk Stout Nitro”, “Sawtooth Nitro”, and Wake Up Dead Nitro”), and facing a challenge from Maryland’s DuClaw over the Sawtooth and Black Jack names in a case that could have maddening consequences for breweries and brand names as craft beer grows.

-The FDA is trying to kill a symbiotic relationship between brewers and farmers that has benefitted both for centuries, because life isn’t hard enough as-is.

-Craft brewers are exporting a lot more beer, according to the Brewer’s Association.

-And in this week’s most talked-about beer story, The New York Times profiled the twin brothers behind Mikkeller and Evil Twin, casting them as sibling rivals who “can’t stand each other.” The article itself is fascinating, thought-provoking, and at times sad. Two quick thoughts from my perch: 1) I’ve never heard much about Mikkel and Jeppe’s relationship at all, let alone anything about them “hating” each other. 2) Considering Jeppe’s reaction, I think the author might have picked up on some tension between the brothers and decided early on to take the piece in this direction. As a writer, it would be hard to resist. In any case, it’s worth a measured, open-minded read.

So what else is going on this week? Well, some reflection and hard truth-facing for me: with craft beer becoming more popular at Arrowine, I find myself constantly trying to find space to carry the beers our customers are asking for. At the same time, I see breweries whose products I’ve supported for a decade grow to the point of being featured in grocery stores and ‘big box’ retailers, with distributors pushing price points higher all the time. Every day now it seems I’m having to decide whether one brewery or another is worth keeping on in my beer department.

I’ve known for years that this day was coming. I’ve talked and written about it often: growth and expansion will lead many of our craft beer “heroes” away from smaller, independent shops — that’s the nature of business. I just thought I’d have more time before facing some of these difficult decisions.

Retail is a good way to rid yourself of sentimentality, but it’s hard to avoid in this case: without naming names I’m talking about some of the breweries who got me into craft beer in the first place; breweries whose work I enjoy immensely even now. But also breweries whose pricing structure has become tilted in favor of those who order in terms of pallets rather than cases. Difficult decisions, but when brewers start flaunting how great the selection of their wares is at your neighborhood mega-mart, that decision’s pretty much been made for you, hasn’t it?

There comes a time where you just have to be honest and go your separate ways, like friends who grow apart. Such is life. On the plus side there are more than enough up-and-coming breweries to get excited about, many of which are located in our region: last week’s Spring Beer Tasting at Arrowine featured Hardywood, Devils Backbone, and Three Brothers breweries — all of whom are in Virginia, along with North Carolina’s Mother Earth Brewing Company. All four have become a regular presence in our shop, and with recent arrivals like Atlanta’s Sweetwater and New York state’s Ithaca (Flower Power IPA in this week!), it makes it a little easier to give up some old favorites for a while.

Until next time!   (more…)

NOVA Legal Beat: Is Being Called ‘Sexy’ Grounds for a Lawsuit?

by ARLnow.com | March 26, 2014 at 3:25 pm | 1,113 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Mathew B. Tully of Tully Rinckey PLLC, an Arlington firm that specializes in federal employment and labor law, security clearance proceedings, and military law.

Q. I work for a real estate company and my boss keeps calling me “cutie” and “sexy,” though he has not made any sexual advances toward me. Is that enough to support a hostile work environment claim?

A. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating “against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Without question, a supervisor’s sexual harassment can negatively impact a subordinate’s conditions of employment. But a few tasteless comments made by a supervisor alone may not create a hostile work environment. It may be a different story if the comments are extremely disturbing, incessant and clearly unwelcome.

“Not all sexual harassment that is directed at an individual because of his or her sex is actionable. Title VII does not attempt to purge the workplace of vulgarity,” the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said in Hopkins v. Baltimore Gas & Electric Company. In this case, a male employee claimed his supervisor of the same gender harassed him and created a hostile work environment by making inappropriate comments such as, “You only do that so you can touch me” after they bumped into each other and “Ah, alone at last” when in the bathroom together. However, the 4th Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of the case. “A handful of comments spread over months is unlikely to have so great an emotional impact as a concentrated or incessant barrage,” the appellate court said.

Hostile work environments involve unwelcome, sex-based conduct that “was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment and create an abusive work environment,” and it can be linked to the employer, the U.S. 4th Circuit noted in Colie et al. v. Carter Bank & Trust, Inc. (2010). Colie, for example, involved a female bank supervisor who repeatedly called female employees “baby” and told them, among other things, they looked “sexy,” had “sexy” legs and looked “sexy” with their hair down. And even though the employees complained to bank executives about this inappropriate, unwelcome conduct, it continued.

While the employer claimed the employees alleged “nothing more than the sporadic use of rude language and occasional teasing,” the court found this characterization to be “in sharp contrast to the factual allegations.” It noted, “When the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment, Title VII is violated.” Consequently, the court refused the employer’s request to dismiss the case.

Employees should not let employers get away with sexual harassment that changes the conditions of their employment. They should not tolerate a hostile work environment and should immediately contact an employment law attorney who can prepare for them a discrimination lawsuit.

Mathew B. Tully is the founding partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC. Located in Arlington, Va. and Washington, D.C., Tully Rinckey PLLC’s attorneys practice federal employment law, military law, and security clearance representation. To speak with an attorney, call 703-525-4700 or to learn more visit 1888law4life.com

Ask Adam: Cost Per Square Foot Near a Metro?

by ARLnow.com | March 25, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 1,779 views | No Comments

Ask Adam header

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. Have you done any analysis on the average sale price per square foot by Metro area in Arlington? I’m looking to buy in the Clarendon/Courthouse area and that along with HOA fees are two of the key components I am examining.

A. I have created a report for you that follows the Metro stations along the Orange Line from East Falls Church to Rosslyn. You mentioned in a subsequent email that you are looking at newer condos, so I am going to limit my analysis to condos built more recently than 1999. I’m using data from the MLS so it will not includes some of the new construction sales at Gaslight Square and the growing number of sales that take place outside of the MLS.

East Falls Church

The only newer condo currently located near East Falls Church metro is Westlee. The average cost per square foot (CPSF) is $454 with a range of $442-$476.

Condo listings near East Falls Church metro

Ballston

Ballston includes a larger number of condo options, such as Liberty Center, Continental and Berkeley. You will also start to pay a premium for being within the Ballston to Rosslyn corridor. I did not include condo conversions like Eastview & Westview because they were not actually built after 1999 (despite how they are listed in the MLS). The average CPSF is $555 with a range of $450-$624.

Condo listings near Ballston metro

Virginia Square

Virginia Square often gets lumped in with Ballston, but I decided to break them up. I included Hawthorn, Lexington Square, Monroe and Ballston 880. The average CPSF is $544 with a range of $463-$600.

Condo listings near Virginia Square metro

Clarendon

Clarendon is consistently in the most demand when it comes to condo buyers like yourself.  I included Hartford, Lyon Pointe, Clarendon 1021, Phoenix, Station Square and Clarendon 3131. The average CPSF jumped to $589 with a range of $518-$724.

Condo listings near Clarendon metro

Courthouse

Condos in Courthouse include Vista, Odyssey, Park, 1800 Wilson, Dakota, Gaslight Square and Wooster & Mercer Lofts. Courthouse is typically a little less expensive than Clarendon but the average cost per square foot is going to be skewed slightly higher because of the luxury Abdo buildings. The average CPSF is $569 with a range of $443-$744.

Condo listings near Courthouse metro

Rosslyn

The numbers in Rosslyn are off the chart because Rosslyn includes the ultra-luxury condo buildings: Turnberry Towers, Waterview and Memorial Overlook. Even though the average CPSF I’m reporting is higher in Rosslyn, I think it is safe to assume that if you built the exact same condo building in Rosslyn and Clarendon, the one in Clarendon would be able to demand a higher cost per square foot. The average CPSF is $815 with a range of $532-$1102.

Condo listings near Rosslyn metro

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Money Monday: Getting Started With Estate Planning

by ARLnow.com | March 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 588 views | No Comments

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Editor’s note: Money Monday is a weekly column on personal finance, provided by investment advisor Momodou Bojang and sponsored by Arlington Community Federal Credit Union.

As a financial advisor I have the opportunity to help people in many facets of their financial life.

People are eager to have these conversations, yet it’s often more difficult to tackle the hard topics like how to plan for what to leave behind. Whether we like it or not, death is a crucial part of our financial life. Here’s an article that really speaks to this topic and frames this type of financial planning in a more positive light: leaving a legacy.

Leaving a proper legacy has become a science. Here are the basics to help get you started.

A person’s legacy cannot be measured by one solitary event in his or her life. Rather, legacies, like lives themselves, must be measured as a whole. If you’ve ever taken a step back and examined your own life and legacy, what have you found?

Do you feel comfortable with what you’ll leave behind?  How do you want people to remember you when you’re gone? More importantly, how can you make sure people remember you in death, as you were in life? Estate planning has become an important tool in deciding how your life’s work will be viewed. Without it, the courts may decide who gets what. With the proper planning, you decide what individuals or charities receive your assets.

There are a few basic tips to estate planning that will help you formulate a proper legacy. The first, and most basic choice, (but one of the most important), is to choose professionals who can help guide you through the process. Estate planning is tricky and by enlisting the help of a professional you help ensure your planning is done properly and efficiently.

The second is education. By knowing the basics of estate planning, you have a better idea of what you need to do. Here are a few basic tips on what you’ll need to begin estate planning.

Think Ahead: Before preparing the most crucial documents needed for estate planning, it’s important to sit down and decide who you’ll put in charge to make medical and financial decisions for you. You’ll also want to decide who gets what. Picking out beneficiaries and an executor of your estate are two of the most critical decisions you can make. If you have younger children, it’s also important to decide what would happen to them in case of an emergency.

Know which documents you’ll need: In general, it’s recommended that you have a will, a financial power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, and a living will. All of these documents will designate who will make decisions when you’re gone, or if you’re alive but unable to make important choices regarding medical care or finances. Your financial power of attorney will make your financial decisions. Your medical power of attorney will be the person you put in charge of medical decisions, while the living will describes the type of medical decisions you want your proxy to make.

Survey your finances: Make sure you know what you’ll owe when you die, including the costs of probate. Subtract that from your assets and make sure you have a general idea of how much money you’ll have left over. By keeping tabs on your remaining assets, you’ll be more prepared to know what you’ll pay in taxes.

Be ready for anything: When planning your estate, you must be prepared in all areas of your life. From medical to financial decisions and everything in between, it can be an uncomfortable subject, especially when you involve your family in the planning. But by working with a team of professionals, you make sure your estate is covered from all angles.

In the end, you want your legacy to be protected. By carefully planning your estate, you can rest assured that all of the proper measures have been taken to protect your family’s future.

Securities offered through Securities America, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory Services offered through USAdvisors Wealth Management, LLC, SEC Registered Investment Advisor Firm. Momodou Bojang, Representative. Arlington Community Financial Services, USAdvisors Wealth Management, LLC and the Securities America companies are unaffiliated. Securities America and its advisors do not provide tax advice. Please consult with your tax professional regarding your individual tax situation. Written by Securities America for distribution by Momodou Bojang. * Not NCUA Insured * No Credit Union Guarantee * May Lose Value

Brush With Predator Inspires Child Safety Tech Startup

by Ethan Rothstein | March 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm | 1,561 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

uKnow's office at ÜberOffices in RosslynSteven Woda is the founder of buySAFE, a company pioneered online shopping security when it was founded in 2000. He and his brother, co-founder Tim Woda, considered themselves experts in Internet safety. Until 2008.

That year, Tim’s son, a 14-year-old lacrosse player, was pursued through social networks by a child predator who had molested dozens of children before he was eventually arrested.

“We realized the world had changed fast and parents were way behind,” Steven Woda said. “We were Internet security experts, so if it could happen to us, it could happen to anybody.”

That incident was why, after selling buySAFE in 2009, Steven Woda founded uKnow with the stated mission of “powering smart tools to protect and connect digital families.”

uKnow's LaunchpaduKnow provides comprehensive support for parents who are hoping to protect their children — and themselves — against the dangers of the Internet. Its flagship product, uKnowKids, allows parents to monitor their children’s activity on their smartphones and social media to engage with their children at the level parents of previous generations did.

“When I was a kid, kids would have to knock on the door or call the house and ask ‘can Steve come out to play?’” Woda said from his space in ÜberOffices in Rosslyn. “Now, kids get a text, hop down the stairs, say ‘I’m going out,’ and the parents have no idea what is going on.”

Among the ways uKnowKids operates is pulling data from the cloud; even if a child has web aliases, uKnow can “crawl the deep web” and search for similarities to find those profiles. Parents can install the uKnow app on their children’s phones and monitor trends in texting — if their child is texting one person 70 percent of the time one month and stops texting them the next, the parent can know if something is wrong.

Just as important as their technological tools is uKnow’s efforts to educate parents. Woda says uKnow writes articles daily about the technology market, new trends in what kids are doing online and parenting advice.

The uKnow team“Most parents don’t understand what the issues actually are,” Woda said. “Parents really want to know what the difference is between Vine and Snapchat, for example. They want to know how their kids are using it and who they’re talking to. We can tell them who the top 10 people are in their child’s digital world. It’s a way to engage your kids, and what parents want most is to be involved.”

uKnow has a team of 12 working out of two different spaces in ÜberOffices. Whereas buySAFE was founded with lots of venture money — and was sold for $30 million, which is when Woda left — uKnow took a different strategy. The company was close to bootstrapped, raising just enough capital to survive leanly every month.

“We wanted to be disciplined and slim before we had a complete business model,” Woda said. “Now, I know what my model looks like, and that’s something that investors like.” (more…)

Your Beermonger: House of Pints

by Nick Anderson | March 21, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 740 views | No Comments

Your Beermonger logo

Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

For all of the annoyances of Virginia ABC laws — and there are many — there is one way the Commonwealth has managed to not mess with beer lovers. Virginia doesn’t “cap” the amount of alcohol a beer can have either by volume (ABV) or weight (ABW), unlike many other states.

Over the past 20-30 years, most states with caps have raised them to the point where there functionally is no cap; it’s not uncommon to see caps anywhere from 14-17.5 percent ABV. There are still low-cap states, though; among them is Tennessee, where an effort to raise the limits of beer strength gives us one example of how breweries small and large are attempting to shape policy to take advantage of the rapidly growing market.

This week saw the release of the Brewers Association’s (BA) 2013 craft beer growth figures, and what they showed was that craft beer’s momentum is far from slowing. Compare to 2012, 2013 saw an 18 percent increase in sales by volume and a 20 percent increase in retail dollar value. Craft beer accounted for 7.8 percent of the total volume of the U.S. beer market in 2013, up from 6.5 percent in 2012.

Even taking into account BA’s definition of what makes a “craft” brewery and the associated controversy and consternation that goes along with it, the 2013 figures are impressive. By the BA’s count, some 98 percent of the United States’ 2,822 operating breweries are craft breweries, and even with the rate of new breweries opening increasing almost exponentially there are still far more openings than closings — with 413 openings to 44 closings occurring in 2013.

With over $14 billion in retail value and over 110,000 jobs coming from craft beer, states with lower ABV/ABW caps are being lobbied to raise those caps in order to generate more tax revenue and encourage new start-ups. Tennessee in particular has stifling regulations for small brewers in-state: they can make and sell beers over the current limit of 5 percent ABW (~6.2 percent ABV), but to do so they must acquire a “high alcohol content” beer license for $1,000 and then pay an additional $4,000 for a “liquor-by-the-drink” (LBD) license to sell said beers in their taprooms.

Not only do those licenses and their fees need to be re-upped every year, but the brewery must have at least 15 percent of its gross sales come from food to keep its LBD license. The proposed changes to Tennessee law would raise the limit to 12 percent, eliminating the license burden for in-state brewers and opening the state to the sales of more popular, stronger beers.

It’s not only small brewers who are trying to change regulations to their benefit. A recent article on The Motley Fool took a peek into the money “big beer” is spending in its lobbying efforts and the numbers were eye-opening even for me: Anheuser Busch-InBev (ABI) spent $4.3 million in 2013 and MillerCoors doled out over $2 million (by contrast, the only “craft” brewer mentioned was Boston Beer Company — $130,000). (more…)

Rental Report: Rent, Buy or Rent to Own?

by ARLnow.com | March 20, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 1,180 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Unlike many other markets in the country, the D.C. Metro real estate market is robust for both rentals and sales. If D.C. isn’t just a quick stop on your life path, you might be thinking about buying a home. But is buying the best option for you?

The answer is that it depends on your needs and lifestyle.

Benefits of Renting

  1. Minimal down payment – when renting in the DC area, you generally will have to part with your first month’s rent and a security deposit prior to move in, as well as an application fee. Depending on the type and location of the rental, a security deposit can range from a few hundred dollars up to two month’s rent (in Marlyand and Virginia — D.C. only allows for one month). According to Trulia, the average home price in Arlington is just over $755,000. At 20 percent down, buyers need $151,000 for a home purchase. That is out of reach for a lot of people. Not to mention, it isn’t easy to qualify for a mortgage that high.
  2. Repair work is a phone call away – well technically that’s the case for either, but with a rental the landlord is likely to pay the bill.
  3. Less extra costs – Renters don’t have to pay property taxes on their home. Generally, renters will not pay any HOA or condo fees, as the landlord will cover those.
  4. Flexibility – If by chance your life path changes quickly, you aren’t tied down for long. You don’t have to worry about selling your home (or worse, not selling your home.) If you have to move during your lease, the maximum amount you stand to lose is the balance owed on your lease.

Benefits of Buying

  1. Ownership – Once you sign on the dotted line, the home is yours to change however you please.
  2. Buying is cheaper – Sure, we said it costs a lot to buy a house, and that is true. According to Trulia and Urban Turf, it is 34 percent cheaper to buy in the D.C. area. But be careful, it isn’t cheaper for everyone. There is a great calculator to help you figure out if it is true for your situation.
  3. Investment – As long as you chose wisely, pay the right price, and inspect the property carefully, you are adding an asset to your portfolio.

What about rent to own?

While rent to own is not common, it is making a comeback due to the increasing number of people who can’t qualify for a mortgage. And a rent-to-own option isn’t just attractive to renter/buyer but to the landlord/owner as well.

Renters get to put part of their rent towards the purchase price. Landlords get tenants who are invested in maintaining the home, since the idea is they will buy it in a few years. Renters can lock in on a price of the home, if they chose that option. Landlords get a guarantee of sale (at least in theory). Of course, there are a few downfalls too — rent is usually higher because you are paying additional toward the down payment and the renters could choose not to buy at the end of the contract.

So what’s the best choice? Think about your situation. Are you staying in the area for a while, and you can afford to put the cash down? Buying a home is probably the smarter investment. Not sure how long you are going to be in the area? Not sure how much space you really want in a home? Rent for some time until you know what your needs are. What about if you know you want a home, but don’t have the cash or credit to buy right away? Maybe check out some rent-to-own options. You may be able to find that dream home in a desirable neighborhood.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

Wright Way: Find a Health Mentor

by ARLnow.com | March 19, 2014 at 3:30 pm | 444 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored health and fitness column is written by Ginny Wright, founder of BbG Fitness, which offers group fitness classes around Arlington. Sign up for a free class today.

Like it or not, this body is the only one you get!

How’s that going for you? Are you feeling good? Lots of energy most days, clear and focused, no aches and pains, pretty happy?

No? Feeling fatigued most of the time, experiencing brain fog more often than not, overweight with sore joints, generally unhappy with the way you feel and look?

Without oversimplifying or sounding too annoying, the message I want to share is this: you can change… you have a choice and I have a solution for you!

None of us have 100 percent control over our health of course, but we make hundreds of daily decisions that hugely impact how we feel.

OK (you might be saying)… I’d love to feel and look better, but I just don’t know where to start. I don’t like being overweight and I’m tired of feeling tired, but I love to eat and I hate to exercise. I’ll never be able to change.

YES YOU CAN!

I’ve seen (and helped) lots of people do it. I’ve watched people go from barely able to run to the end of the street to running laps around everyone else in the group. I’ve witnessed people go from 230 pounds to 190 pounds in a matter of months. And I’ve heard so many people tell me how great they feel — mentally and physically — since they started exercising and eating better.

You don’t have to go it alone. Get some help!

Think about the last time you started a new job. You didn’t just begin knowing exactly what to do, right? You probably had a mentor who showed you the ropes and checked in with you on a regular basis.

Your mentor helped you figure it all out and once you did, you went forward with confidence.

Think of your health transformation as a new job. Since you don’t know exactly how to proceed at the beginning, find someone who’s already an expert at the job of health transformations and let them help you learn the ropes.

There are lots of health coaches and mentors out there who specialize in helping people achieve wellness. They can help you eat for optimal energy — so you won’t be tired all the time — and weight loss. They’ll show you how to plan fitness into your daily schedule and can explain in simple terms what foods to eat and how to prepare them yourself.

Do yourself a favor and stop putting your health on the back burner. You can do it! You deserve to feel better. Your one and only body deserves to be healthy!

Do a web search for “Health Coaches, Arlington, VA“ and a long list of names will pop up. Or contact me and I can refer you to some great health and wellness mentors I’ve worked with personally.

Resolve today to take care of your body — it has to last a lifetime!

Ginny Wright has been a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor for more than 10 years. She received her Health Coaching certification through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York in 2007. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ask Adam: What’s the Value of a Garage?

by ARLnow.com | March 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 1,574 views | No Comments

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.

Q. We’re considering building a new house on our existing lot in Arlington. We are trying to decide whether or not to include a garage in our plans. We live about half a mile from a Metro stop, and our current home lacks a garage (though we do have off-street parking). We have never really worried about the lack of a garage for ourselves, but we don’t want to hurt the resale value of the home. Because our lot is small, building a garage will come at the cost of some of the interior space of the home. We are trying to determine whether or not the garage is worth sacrificing living space, or whether a larger living area without a garage will have better resale value.

A. When it comes to buying newer homes, a garage is often on the “must-have” list for Arlington home buyers. There are people like yourselves who could live without one, but the pool of potential buyers is going to be much smaller if you forgo a garage with your home.

I don’t think it matters terribly if the garage is attached or detached. Some people prefer one or the other, but most don’t care. You’ll find that homes with a detached garage gain an incentive “bonus” when calculating maximum lot coverage in Arlington County.

If you do go with a detached garage, I recommend looking into creating usable space above the garage. I’ve seen people use this space as a home office, workshop, clubhouse, hobby room or even just for storage. It creates a lot of possibilities that are certain to add value to your home.

I looked at the statistics for Arlington fee simple homes that were built in 2013:

  • 7 homes did not have a garage
  • 13 homes had a 1-car garage
  • 62 homes had a 2-car garage

This means that 91 percent of homes built in Arlington last year had a garage.

You may also want to assess what segment of the market you want to attract with your home when it is time to sell. It’s my casual observation that homebuyers looking to spend around $1.3 million and up, tend to expect a 2-car garage.

Your home is located near the Metro and includes off-street parking so you may benefit from some market leniency, but I think the safe bet is to include a garage in your plans.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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