45°Rain

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — April 2, 2015 at 2:30 pm 342 0

Rental Report header

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.

The D.C. area is no stranger to residents from all parts of the world. Navigating the rental market can be troublesome for those renters new to the area.

It can be especially daunting as an international applicant because some landlords and property managers may not be experienced in handling a rental transaction with an international tenant. But it is certainly easy to move through the lease process simply and quickly with a little preparation.

Be sure to have all your documentation ready. You need to have, at a minimum, a copy of your work visa, passport, and proof of employment. The potential landlord may not understand that you will likely not have a Social Security number if you are new to the U.S., which also means you do not have any U.S. credit history.

It is important that they do understand you are in the U.S. legally, and that being granted a work visa also provides some assurances you have proved to the State Department your ability to support yourself (and your family) while in the U.S. It may be helpful to enlist the help of a real estate agent to help communicate with private landlords.

Real estate agents in the D.C. area typically get paid by the landlord, so it should not cost you anything to work with an agent. If you are looking at managed properties, ask up front what is required when you do not have a Social Security number or work/rental/credit histories in the U.S.

While citizenship status is not covered as a protected class under Fair Housing, landlords still need to be consistent in their screening processes, and they still must follow the law with respect to security deposits and pre-paid rent. In Virginia, landlords are allowed to request a security deposit of up to two months’ rent. And under Virginia law, the landlord must keep all pre-paid rent in an escrow account until it becomes due.

If you’ve been in the States for at least a year, and you have established a rental history, having your current landlord provide a reference may be helpful to your prospective landlord.

While being an international applicant may throw up a road block or two, good preparation and communication can help get you through the process with ease. It may be helpful to think of it from the landlord’s point of view, as they are trying to minimize their risk and any applicant out of the norm presents an additional level of risk. Being aware of their concerns and providing as much documentation to prove yourself as a good tenant will get you off to a good start in your tenant/landlord relationship.

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

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

by ARLnow.com — April 1, 2015 at 1:00 pm 2,700 0

This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Rufus, “the most adorable dog in the world” with a serious drinking problem.

Here’s what owner Ted had to say about his home’s inebriated inhabitant:

Rufus is the sweetest dog in the world. He loves running around our apartment and fetching tennis balls. Rufus is a quiet dog most of the time; he almost never barks and is perfectly house broken. Whenever one of us is having a terrible day, we cuddle up next to Rufus and take a quick nap on his warm belly. He loves to cuddle and will sleep outside my door if I don’t let him in the bed.

What I love most about Rufus is that he is the perfect dog for Arlington. He is low maintenance — you pretty much don’t even have to feed him — and you can leave him in the apartment for long stretches of time and not really worry too much about it.

Rufus, however, has a more mischievous side as well. He loves to play pranks on us. Some might say that he has a “drinking problem,” but we think it’s more just a phase. He has the cutest nightly ritual where he drinks copious amounts of hard liquor and passes out on the floor. Despite his many flaws and inability to move independently, we still love him like a member of the family. Please make Rufus, the most adorable dog in the world, Arlington’s Pet of the Week.

Want your pet to be considered for the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email office@arlnow.com with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet.

Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks. Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Arlington and Northern Virginia.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 31, 2015 at 11:30 am 1,133 0

Ask Adam Real Living header

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

Q. I was a little confused after reading your last article. I always thought that having a higher tax value indicated that my home is worth more money. Your article made it sound like having a lower value is of greater value.

A. Most professionals in the real estate industry realize that tax assessed value (TAV) is a generalization of what a home is worth.

For example, two Colonials built in 1952 may be located right next door to each other. They have the same square footage, number of bedrooms and number of bathrooms. House “A” has been beautifully updated inside and out. It is the picture perfect home.  House “B” has never been updated and has been poorly maintained for the last 63 years. Their TAV may be identical, but the market value is drastically different.

The above scenario is an example of why TAV is not used in determining market value, by real estate agents or appraisers. As mentioned in my last article, most homeowners and homebuyers would prefer to have a home with high market value and low TAV, because it lowers the amount of money they need to pay Arlington County in property taxes. That is why I make the argument that there is market value in having a low TAV.

The other clarification I will point out is that TAV is not the same as appraisal value. They sound similar and are therefore often confused with each other. Appraisal value is determined by professional appraiser, not by the county.

An appraiser typically performs an in-depth study of a home’s current market value. They take into consideration the home’s condition, size, lot, location and features compared to similar home sales. They also apply the current market conditions. In a perfect world, their analysis should provide a very close indication of market value.

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

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 30, 2015 at 2:30 pm 555 0

Local Woof logo

Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

More than half of the dogs in the U.S. are overweight. Much like with people, it is a result of too much processed food, large portion sizes, and just plain overeating.

What amazes me the most about this epidemic is the number of dog owners who simply do not know that their dog is overweight.  Check out this awesome chart at projectpetslimdown.com.  Once you know your dogs body condition score (BCS) you can make adjustments to their feeding.

The easiest way to tell if your dog is overweight is to feel for their ribs. I recommend placing your thumbs on your dogs back bone and using your fingers to feel for the ribs. You should be able to feel your dogs ribs through no more than about a 1/4 inch of skin, muscle and fat. If you cannot easily feel your dogs ribs, without having to push down, then your dog is likely overweight.

If you do find that your dog is overweight, simply cut down on the amount of food they get per day and increase their exercise. Sound familiar? A great way to supplement your dog’s meal is with green beans. Frozen or canned green beans help your dog feel full without adding too many calories.

Here are some common reasons our dogs end up overweight:

“But my vet says he’s fine”  If I hear this one more time… Please ask your vet for an honest opinion about your dog’s weight. I do not know why veterinarians are so afraid of talking about a dogs weight. I suspect it’s because it can be a touchy subject and they are afraid of losing your business. But in the interest of the health of our dogs (and cats), I implore vets to be more forthcoming and honest about talking about weight issues.

“The bags says to feed 4 cups a day” – I hate dog food bag instructions. The idea that every dog in a certain weight range should eat the same amount of food per day is ludicrous. A 12-year-old dog that weights 35 pounds should be eating nowhere near the same amount as a 35-pound dog who is 2 years old and hikes three times a week. In addition, keep in the mind that the goal of the company is to sell you more food. The faster you feed, the faster you buy another bag. The only measure of how much a dog should eat a day is their body condition. Just like people.

“She’s still just a puppy” — Where puppyhood ends can be debated, but the truth is that most dogs have reached 75 percent of their growth potential by the time they are 6 months old. The exception, of course, is large breeds (German shepherd size and larger), who may take up to 12 months to reach full size. That means that your dog’s growth will start to slow somewhere about 5 months of age. Most puppies start to pack on the pounds around 7 to 8 months of age because they are still being fed the same amount that they were eating when they were 5 months old.

“He’s not fat, it’s just his hair” – Yes, fluffy dogs can hide behind their fur more easily, but please don’t use it as an excuse. By palpating your dogs ribs you can just as easily asses the condition of a heavy-coated dog.

Bottom line, help your dog feel better and live longer by keeping them in shape. They’ll love you for it!

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

by Ethan Rothstein — March 30, 2015 at 12:00 pm 711 0

Startup Monday header

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.

Outl.it co-founder Lucien ZeiglerAs more and more news websites are embracing paywalls — restricting access to online content to those who pay a subscription fee — one Arlington startup is trying to break them down.

Lucien Zeigler and co-founders William Treadway and Christian Zeigler (Lucien’s brother) founded Outl!t for just that purpose. Zeigler works for the Saudi-U.S. Trade Group and compiled a daily newsletter on U.S.-Saudi business interests. His credit card bill showed he was spending more than $100 a month, simply for access to a variety of newspapers.

“Paywalls are becoming more and more common, and they’re essentially roadblocks for consumers,” Zeigler told ARLnow.com last week. “I thought, why can’t readers pay very small amounts of money, double or triple what advertising would pay, to get access to paywall content?”

Starting next month, readers can. Outl!t will be available to the public under the idea that readers can pay for what they read and nothing more. A user will launch an account with a set amount of money. Outl!t partners with news organizations to bring them content, and, if the content costs money to read, pennies will be deducted from the user’s account. Most stories will cost 1 to 5 cents, Zeigler said, unless they’re free or exceptionally long.

“We’re anti-subscription,” Zeigler said. “We feel those are really inefficient. You’re essentially paying for a lot of content you’re not really getting to see. You can see more if you don’t have to pay bulk subscription costs, you can just get things à la carte.”

The function of à la carte news reading is just one plank of the Outl!t platform. It will also allow independent writers to publish on their own, and allow readers to see their work for free, or for a fee. Zeigler said eventually he plans on launching original content, produced by Outl!t staffers, to add to the mix of voices users can find.

Zeigler said he’s loath to use the “disrupt” buzzword, but he thinks that’s exactly what Outl!t is capable of doing to the news industry.

An example of Out.lit's platform“We took a look at the media industry in general, used a lot of open data and what we saw was an industry that was spiraling downward pretty quickly,” he said. “We thought we needed not just a Band-Aid, but a totally disruptive type of solution, where we rebuild everything from the ground up.”

There will be no advertisements on the network, and each user can choose which news outlets stories will appear on their home page. After seeing the headline and first line of text or so, readers can decide whether they want to spend the money to read the full article.

Outl!t has received a seed investment for an undisclosed amount from an undisclosed investor, and has already lined up partnerships with 20 or so news organizations. For every purchase of a story, Outl!t and the news organizations divide the revenue.

Customers can join for free on Outl!t’s website now in anticipation of the company’s launch next month. Their initial deposit will be matched to encourage more use and demonstrate the product’s viability.

Although making money is the goal of any new business, Zeigler is a lover of news and passionate about the potential for Outl!t to reverse the downward trend of the industry. The company is based out of Zeigler’s Arlington home, but it will be looking for Arlington office space soon.

“Just like iTunes did with the music business, we aim to provide marketplace efficiency for providers of all sizes, from the largest newspapers to the blogger, writer, or journalist that has something of value to contribute to the world,” Zeigler said. “That’s our goal with Outl!t — to level the playing field in this business.”

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 26, 2015 at 11:30 am 529 0

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a new column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Geriatric is relative to the pet

It’s a common misconception that one “human” year is equivalent to seven “pet” years. In reality, bigger dogs age much faster than cats and smaller dogs, and the ratio is actually higher in the younger years, and decreases as the pet ages (for example: cats “grow up” faster than dogs in the first 1-2 years, but then age more slowly).

Age is not a disease (however, many diseases happen more commonly in older pets)

A thorough history and physical exam every six months is recommended after 6-9 years of age, depending on the species, age, and breed. Preventive care is important for the early detection of problems and often leads to earlier intervention and improved quality and quantity of life. Physical exams and geriatric blood work can aide in the screening of most of the more common age-related diseases such as heart, liver, thyroid and kidney disease. Cancer also develops more commonly in older pets, but not all cancers are created equal. Early detection can sometimes give a better prognosis depending on the type, location and nature of the cancer.

One of the most common age-related diseases, arthritis, can develop secondary to previous disease or from general wear and tear on the joints. The symptoms of arthritis can vary from a bit of slowness/stiffness upon rising, all the way to being unable to walk without assistance. In cats, it can manifest with urinary accidents, decreased grooming and reduced social interaction. Interventions include: physical therapy, acupuncture, glucosamine, fish oils and other supplements, as well as anti-inflammatory and pain modulating medications.

Making some easy environmental modifications can go a long way in easing your pet’s ability to get around comfortably (i.e. adding area rugs on slippery floors, or a ramp to the bed); and maintaining a healthy weight and routine exercise are some of the most important, not to mention cost-effective, options to address your old friend’s quality of life.

Cognitive problems are also more frequent in aging animals: nighttime waking, restlessness/inability to get settled down, increased vocalization, increased daytime sleeping, and elimination accidents are all frequently seen. These can be quite distressing as they can affect the quality of life of both the pet and owner. It is important to identify and address any underlying disease that may mimic cognitive problems such as liver, kidney or metabolic disease, pain/arthritis, and cancer. If indicated there are several medications and supplements that may be helpful with these behaviors, including: SAMe, casein, and melatonin.

Check out these senior pet checklists to see if your pet may be exhibiting some of the common aging-related ailments. You can then use these as guidelines to discuss any possible concerns with your veterinarian and together work to keep your pet healthy and happy for as long as possible.

Sometimes, we need to let go

Quality of life is of utmost concern in our aging pets and must be considered when making treatment decisions. As much as we would like our pets to live forever… they don’t. Hospice care and humane euthanasia are options owners have in the face of their pet’s declining health. There comes a time in most of our pets lives when pursuing treatment is not the right decision (for your pet, you/your family, or the disease) and difficult end of life decisions must be made.

Be sure to have an open dialogue with your veterinarian about your aging pet’s quality of life and make sure you’re all on the same page with the management, treatment goals and quality of life of your elderly companion.

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

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 26, 2015 at 5:00 am 413 0

Social Sports of Arlington is proud to announce that its leagues are now powered by the folks behind United Social Sports. This partnership  means more sports, more events, and more friends to make for all SSA players!

SSA & USS has a ton of awesome leagues to share with the Arlington community, including two brand new Tuesday and Saturday Kickball leagues!

Players will need to act fast to get in on the action though as some permits were just issued but have games starting soon! Capacity for for select leagues has already been reached… don’t miss your chance to get a little more social this Spring!

Below is a list of Arlington area leagues. For a full listing visit www.UnitedSocialSports.com

Arlington Kickball: Full Lineup

Arlington Flag Football:Full Lineup

  • Sundays @ Kenmore – New League!

Softball:  Full Lineup

Soccer:Full Lineup

Volleyball – Sand: Full Lineup

Volleyball – Indoor: Full Lineup

Arlington Bocce:Full Lineup

Arlington Cornhole:Full Lineup

Arlington Skeeball:  Full Lineup

Dodgeball: Full Lineup

  • Thursdays @ Crystal City Gateway Sport & Health

SSA & USS cater to a growing population in Arlington who love to stay active and have a focus on having fun and being social while staying active.

Registration closes for most Spring Team Sports on Tuesday, March 31st (or when leagues fill out) and for Spring Bar Sports on Tuesday, April 7th.

by ARLnow.com — March 25, 2015 at 12:30 pm 1,001 0

This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Rudy, a labradoodle transplant from Portland who ditched the “hipster lifestyle” to move to, according to one metric, the seventh-most hipster city in America.

Here’s what owner Noah had to say:

This here is Rudy. He’s a labradoodle from outside of Portland who decided that the west-coast “hipster lifestyle” wasn’t exactly for him (although he has been know to curl up in a flannel to read Hemingway every so often).

Named in part for the classic 1993 motivational football movie, Rudy is a natural athlete. He can be found at the Clarendon Dog Park running laps, or swimming in Four Mile Run, or just chasing bunnies in the yard. After a long day, however, Rudy is always down for a cuddle (so long as he gets three-quarters of the bed).

In the case that any eligible bachelorette pups are reading this, Rudy can be easily wooed with empty water bottles and salmon jerky. And while he is a mama’s boy, he definitely knows how to let loose and have fun.

Want your pet to be considered for the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email office@arlnow.com with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet.

Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks. Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Arlington and Northern Virginia.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 24, 2015 at 3:30 pm 1,104 0

Ask Adam Real Living header

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

Q. The tax value that Arlington has for our new house is higher than what we bought it for. We are new to the area and have no idea how to challenge this. Can you please help me get started? 

A. As I’m sure you realize, the tax-assessed value is a major factor in the calculation of your county real estate taxes. If you are successful getting them to lower the value then it has the potential to save you money on taxes for years to come. Because of this savings, a home with a lower tax assessed value should be more valuable to future buyers.

The first step is to contact the Department of Real Estate Assessment appraiser that covered your neighborhood: 703-228-3920. He or she will provide an informal description of how they came to your home’s value. After that conversation, you can submit a formal appeal application.

Your appeal needs to include one of the following:

  1. Proof of a discrepancy used in the county’s evaluation of your home’s value (i.e. they think you have four bedrooms, but you only have three).
  2. You can prove that, during the period of their analysis, similar homes sold for less money than the assessed value. Your real estate agent should be able to help you compile this data.
  3. You can prove that the estimated market value of your home is valid but it was not appraised in a manner equitable with similar properties during the analysis period. I would love to hear an example from anyone who has had luck with this one.

For additional information, I recommend visiting the webpage dedicated to real estate assessment appeals for Arlington county.

Please send future Ask Adam questions to adam@rlathome.com.

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

by Ethan Rothstein — March 23, 2015 at 6:00 pm 1,795 0

Startup Monday header

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.

Cowork Cafe, a new coworking concept in Boccato in ClarendonA Monday in Boccato Gelato & Espresso in Clarendon looks vastly different now than it did two months ago, thanks to a new Arlington startup called Cowork Cafe.

Founded by David James and Ramzy Azar, Cowork Cafe is a partnership between the two entrepreneurs and Boccato (2719 Wilson Blvd) owner Christian Velasco in which James and Azar rent out Boccato’s lounge for 9 hours on weekdays, and offer it to members for $200 a month. Those members get souped up WiFi, $50 in food and beverage credits, soundproofed phone booths and, soon, personal lockers for storage.

From 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Velasco puts stanchions through Boccato’s lounge separating a dozen or so tables — including bars that function as standing desks — for Cowork Cafe members, and keeping a small handful for walk-in Boccato customers. During the cafe’s busiest times in the evenings and on weekends, the stanchions are removed and it’s a full-fledged coffee and gelato shop once more.

“I totally understand the challenges of a food establishment; it’s dependent on volume,” Azar told ARLnow.com over coffee at the cafe. His parents own restaurants, he said, which is party of why old friend James asked him to cofound the venture. “As soon as I understood what coworking was about, it seems like a great way to contribute to the establishment.”

James came up with the idea after years of working at home as an independent software developer left him feeling “a little isolated.” He ventured to coffee shops with his laptop, but those started to become too crowded, too noisy and too distracted. Walking by Boccato’s empty lounge space on a weekday spawned the idea.

Cowork Cafe co-founders Ramzy Azar and David JamesNow, Cowork Cafe has 20 paying members, and two other restaurant businesses have reached out to become the home of the next Cowork Cafe.

“It’s something that could be a lot bigger than here,” James said. “We’re excited about the ability to scale quickly. Restaurants already have space, and we can just plug in and go. That means we can try out a place with low risk.”

Of course, some might raise their eyebrows at the idea of charging $200 a month to work in a space that was previously free, but James said the advantages to membership and the price hit a sweet spot for teleworkers and self-employed professionals.

“Most of the people that work here don’t need to go to a place to work,” James said. “But people can see the benefit of being around a community. If you haven’t worked form home a lot, it’s probably hard to understand.”

The 20 members are a hodgepodge of writers, developers, self-employed professionals and teleworkers, James said. Some have routines and come in most of every weekday. Others float in and out and use it more like a regular coffee shop. With the $50 in food credit, any member can go to the counter and get a coffee or empanada without taking out their wallet; Azar called it a country club-like system.

“Self-employed folks come to these spaces anyway,” he said. “It’s not an office. It has a rustic feel and a great sense of community.”

“A place like this encourages abstract thinking,” James added.

James and Azar didn’t just show up and launch the cafe on Feb. 2 — they put in some key infrastructure, like four soundproofed phone booths for phone calls and video conferencing. James said they installed about 50 plugs and business-class WiFi. They also didn’t quite know what to expect — they put a sign on the retail storefront on Wilson Blvd, held a few open houses and hoped for the best.

The expansion plans are underway sooner than either expected, but James and Azar aren’t saying yet where or when the next Cowork Cafe will be.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 23, 2015 at 12:00 pm 787 0

Berry&Berry2

This is a biweekly sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

The Federal Erroneous Retirement Coverage Corrections Act (FERCCA) was enacted in September 2000 and designed to provide relief to federal civilian employees who were placed in the wrong federal retirement system for at least three years of service after Dec. 31, 1986.

Typically, FERCCA errors arise when a federal employee experiences a break in service, especially during the mid-1980s when the Federal Employees Retirement Systems (FERS) plan was created. In some cases, FERCCA has provided federal employees and annuitants placed in the wrong federal retirement system with the opportunity to choose between FERS and the offset provisions contained within the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).

In order to determine if you are in the correct federal retirement plan, you need to know the type of appointment you have and your work history. Federal retirement rules governing retirement plan placement are complex and contain many exceptions that are hard to follow. If you find that you fit in any of the situations described below, you could be in the wrong federal retirement system. However, keep in mind that there are exceptions to the general rules.

If you currently have CSRS coverage, then you may be in the wrong plan if:

  • You worked for the federal government before 1984, but not on a permanent basis;
  • You left federal employment for more than a year at any time after 1983;
  • You have a temporary appointment limited to a year or less, a term appointment, or an emergency indefinite appointment;
  • You have no federal civilian employment before 1984; or
  • You do not have a career or career conditional appointment and you work on an intermittent basis (see the work schedule block on your SF-50).

If you currently have CSRS Offset coverage, then you may be in the wrong plan if:

  • You have a temporary appointment limited to a year or less, a term appointment, or an emergency indefinite appointment;
  • You have no federal civilian employment before 1984;
  • You do not have a career or career conditional appointment and you work on an intermittent basis (see the work schedule block on your SF-50); or
  • You did not work for the federal government for a total of five years before 1987 (not including your military service). Exception: If you worked under CSRS, left the federal government, and your agency placed you in CSRS Offset upon your return, your CSRS Offset coverage is probably correct if you had five years of federal government service when you left.

If you currently have FERS coverage, then you may be in the wrong plan if:

  • You have a temporary appointment limited to a year or less;
  • You do not have a career or career conditional appointment and you work on an intermittent basis; or
  • You have worked for the federal government for at least five years before 1987 (not including military service) unless you elected to transfer to FERS during a FERS Open Season or after a break in service.

FERCCA can also provide 1) reimbursement for certain out-of-pocket expenses paid as a result of a coverage error (e.g., attorney’s fees, costs, etc.); 2) an ability to benefit from certain changes in the rules about how some federal service is credited toward retirement; and 3) make-up contributions to the federal employee’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and receipt of lost earnings on those contributions, among other provisions. (more…)

WWBG: Beers I’m Loving

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 20, 2015 at 2:30 pm 638 0

Weekend Wine and Beer Guide logo

Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Certified Beer Server in the Cicerone Certification Program.

Every once in a while I just want to share some of the great stuff that I’m drinking these days. There is so much great beer out there — here are just a few.

Dogfish Head AprihopDogfish Head Brewery Aprihop (7 percent ABV)

Aprihop is an IPA brewed with apricot juice, but it sure tastes like a fruity amber. That’s quite a compliment, actually. If Dogfish made this a big piney or even a grapefruit IPA with apricot, the delicate apricot would be lost. Instead, the hop bitterness accentuates the tart apricot flavor and is pleasantly balanced by a slight malty sweetness. In fact, it looks like an amber, too. Whatever you call it, it’s a delicious seasonal beer that won’t be around for long. Also, check out the great Paul Bunyan look alike on the label.

Ballast Point Indra KunindraBallast Point Indra Kunindra, Curry Export Stout (7 percent ABV)

Ballast Point is a venerable West Coast brewery that regularly puts out quality hoppy beers that usually range from lagers to bright, fruity IPAs. But once in a while, they dabble in the dark arts of stouts and porters — their Victory at Sea Vanilla Porter is a hard one to beat. This stout is thinner than a dry Irish stout, but no worse for it. The first impression even when pouring it, is that Ballast Point means business with their addition of madras curry and cumin. That vivid array of aroma is all over the flavor, too. Only in the finish is the delicious spice balanced by the bittering of the dark malts. This one is made in limited quantities in collaboration with award-winning home brewer, Alex Tweet — get some while you can!

Ballast Point Tongue BucklerBallast Point Tongue Buckler, Imperial Red Ale (10 percent ABV)

I wish that I’d had this beer a month ago when I wrote about ambers — its description won’t come as a surprise to any of you who read it. What sets it apart, though, is the booziness that comes through. The aroma is an enticing black tea and biscuit — balancing the hops with the malt that should be somewhat forward in a good red or amber. The flavor is quite complex until the alcohol kicks in. It goes from sweet to herbal from the hops to nearly astringent from the high alcohol. This is a strong ale — it borders on spirits — that’s definitely a mouth tingling experience. Like the Indra above, it’s only around for a limited time.

DuClaw and Cigar City Impey Barbicane's Moon Gun Session Amber AleDuClaw Brewing Co. (Baltimore)  and Cigar City Brewing (Tampa)
Impey Barbicane’s Moon Gun Session Amber Ale (5 percent ABV)

OK. This beer wins for my favorite name — to say, to write, to think about — but also for being the one beer that I wish that I had a sixer of. DuClaw is known for their flavorful beers — their Sweet Baby Jesus peanut butter porter is a favorite. Cigar City has its own enormous following — I can easily name their Jai Alai IPA as one of my favorite go-to IPAs. Together they’ve taken the often yawn-inducing session beer category and rocked it! Another amber that I could have happily included a month ago, this beer astonishes with its complexity. The aroma is primarily of floral hops with just a hint of the malt of an amber. The flavor is pretty true to a regular amber, but the hop bomb that this is blasts your palate! My favorite aspect of this beer came as it warmed — the bitter bite becomes more fruity like white grapefruit juice. Enjoy more than one without feeling overwhelmed! (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 19, 2015 at 2:30 pm 476 0

Rental Report header

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.

Sometimes an unavoidable life event happens that damages credit such as divorce, illness, or unemployment. Does it mean you are doomed for the dark basement apartment you found on a bulletin board with a landlord who can only be reached by pager?

Not necessarily. The key is communication. Plan ahead and know your rights before you start your search, and you can still find a great place to live.

Start the dialogue early, so there are no surprises after going through the application process. Since you will not have the good credit on hand to show, other items such as landlord references, employment history, and proof of ability to pay are essential. Sometimes landlords will accept co-signers for challenged credit, and sometimes they will not. Just make sure your co-signer has good credit and enough income where they can cover not only their own expenses but your rent as well. Otherwise, they are not likely to be approved.

You should also understand your rights as a renter under Virginia law. You cannot be required to pay more than two months’ rent for a security deposit. Also, if you do have the ability to pre-pay some of your rent, the landlord is required to keep the pre-paid rent in an escrow account, and only distribute the amounts as it becomes due. People with poor credit are not directly protected under Fair Housing laws, but landlords should be up-front with their screening requirements, so you know ahead of time whether or not to pursue a particular place.

It is also a good idea to think of the situation through the eyes of the landlord. What would make you feel comfortable? Someone with no credit and a lot of cash may make a landlord uneasy, and they have an obligation to make sure their tenant is not involved in anything illegal. More information is always better. You are entering into a financial contract with this person, and all parties need to be happy.

Lastly, know where to look. Private landlords are often more likely to work with renters with challenged credit. Managed apartment buildings may not have as much flexibility with screening requirements. Enlisting an agent is also beneficial as they may know who is willing to work with you.

If you have challenged credit, you should go into the search with the understanding not everyone will be able to work with you. Be prepared up front, communicate, and make your case, and you can still come away with a great new home.

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

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

by ARLnow.com — March 18, 2015 at 12:15 pm 1,513 0

This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Mr. Waffles, who his owners say would sound and look “just like Matthew McConaughey” if he were human.

Here’s what owner Grace wrote on behalf of her deliciously named pup:

Howdy! My name is Waffles, and I’m a Southern gentleman from rural South Carolina. After being rescued by Homeward Trails, I was immediately adopted by two lovely ladies (what can I say — with these doe eyes and sparkling smile, I can easily melt even the coldest of hearts). I’m a 4-year-old miniature lab mix, and I enjoy the simple things in life — good company and good eats! I also am just a tad fancy — I have a penchant for wearing bow ties, and I’m usually sporting some trendy ensemble from Barks Brothers.

When I’m extremely happy or content, I like to snort like a pig! My joyful attitude always brightens others’ days. I am a favorite in my apartment building, and I can usually be found carrying one of my many felt squeaky toys in the building’s dog park. My hobbies are: sleeping on the couch, ignoring my cat brother Pancake, dancing to Nat King Cole (a fellow soulful crooner), and receiving Wylie Wagg treats! My owners always say that if I was human, I would probably sound/look just like Matthew McConaughey.

Want your pet to be considered for the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email office@arlnow.com with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet.

Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks. Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Arlington and Northern Virginia.

Ask Adam: Buy or Rent?

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 17, 2015 at 12:00 pm 1,539 0

Ask Adam Real Living header

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

Q. My wife and I dream about purchasing a home in Arlington. Unfortunately, the prices are above our reach. So we put a plan in place to save for a hefty down payment after five years of savings. We pay about $1500 in rent for an apartment. I noticed condos in South Arlington going around $200,000-215,000, which would equal about $1,700 mortgage including a $400 condo fee.

Is it wiser to buy or continue renting? What should I consider beside the mortgage? My thinking strays me to think a condo would be a wise investment given that rent and mortgage payments are about the same and we could build equity with maybe 2-3 percent growth over five years. Also we live in highly populated area/city and five minutes from Washington, D.C. So I’m also thinking about renting instead of selling the condo.

A. I think that 2-3 percent growth over 5 years is very conservative, but that could be a whole other article in itself. I will go ahead and use your projection for our analysis.

I’m assuming that your down payment is 3.5 percent and let’s use a purchase price of $200,000.

  • Estimated principal and interest payment based on a 3.5% interest rate = $867
  • Estimated annual property taxes = $2432 ($202/monthly) *
  • Estimated monthly condo fee = $354*
  • Estimated PMI = $136
  • Total monthly = $1,559

* Based on sample property currently for sale, for $199,000

This is $59 per month higher than the current rent you are paying of $1500.

If the home appreciates by 3 percent over the next five years to $206,000, that is an increase of $6,000. You’ll also pay down about $20,247 towards your loan balance. Deduct the $60 premium you are paying each month above your current rent, which will cost you $3600 during those five years. The net gain over renting is $22,647.

You’ll want to compare that gain to a scenario where you invest your $7,000 down-payment elsewhere. If your $7,000 can make more being invested elsewhere then you may want to consider a different direction if this is purely a financial decision.

Please note that this is a very simple analysis. There are much more intricate applications you can use online that will take into account maintenance costs, inflations, tax savings, etc.

I like your idea of holding on to the condo as a rental once you are ready to move out. If you can afford to do that, I think it will make a nice addition to your investment portfolio. The longer you have the mortgage, the more rapid your payoff of the loan balance will become.

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

×

Subscribe to our mailing list