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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 16, 2014 at 8:00 am 1,000 0

Walk to Westover Village from this thoughtfully expanded, renovated center hall Colonial in the popular Tara neighborhood.

The home’s main level offers a living room with fireplace, adjoining den, formal dining room, powder room, large kitchen with cream cabinets, stainless steel appliances, breakfast bar and pantry. Walls of windows brighten the breakfast room which flows into the family room with doors to the deck and level rear yard.

Upstairs there are four bedrooms, two bathrooms, linen closet and pull down stairs to the huge floored attic. A delightful feature is the deck off the master bedroom.

The lower level offers a rec room with fireplace, built-in desk, Murphy bed, third bathroom and a wet bar tucked under the stairs. Additional storage is available in the large utility room.

The garage has been converted to a private space for a home office or a private retreat. It has separate heating and cooling, cork flooring, ceiling fans and media connnections.

Desirable details include wood floors, Kolbe & Kolbe or Andersen double pane windows, two zone heating and cooling, front and rear sprinkler systems and lighting to enhance the professionally landscaped, fenced yard.

Nearby Westover Village offers shops, library, restaurants and post office, while a bike path and two parks are a short distance from the home.

Located at 1700 N. Jefferson Street, the home is within the McKinley elementary, Swanson middle and Yorktown high school districts.

Listed at $1,195,000, this is a home in pristine, move-in condition and in a location you will value every day.

An open house will be held this weekend, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 19. For more information, call Betsy at 703-967-4391, or email btwigg@mcenearney.com.

by ARLnow.com — October 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm 797 0

This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Franklin, a rescue pup from Philadelphia named after one of the city’s most prominent historical figures.

Here’s what Frankln’s owner, Josephine, had to say about him:

My name is Franklin, after Benjamin Franklin. I am a 14-month-old rescue from the greater Philadelphia area. They say I am a Jack Russell/Beagle mix, but when I look in the mirror I see some Shepherd in there too!

I just moved to Arlington from Wilmington, Del. I miss all my friends from my old park, but am making lots of new friends at the Fort Barnard bark park. My favorite activity is getting my friends to chase me around. While I look small, I surprise all the other dogs with my speed and deer-like reflexes! I also love to cuddle, look very innocent and carry my toy lion around my house.

Unlike other pups my age, I have been to some pretty cool places. Last Christmas I took a very long car ride to Golden, Colo. I visited my cousins and the Coors Factory! I get to visit the beach and frequently attend brunch. I am a graduate of kindergarten and basic training! Someday soon I hope to master a handshake and more advanced tricks!

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 — October 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm 1,624 0

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. My condo is considering a limit on the number of rentals in the building. We will basically have to get on a waiting list to rent out our condo if the max number of allowable rentals has been reached. Will this hurt our values?

A. I’ve personally been a victim of what can happen if the ratio of owner-occupied units to renter occupied units is not kept in check.  I bought a condo in 2002 that I lived in for a while and eventually decided to rent out. A few years after moving out, mortgage interest rates dropped considerably and I tried to refinance the home. Even with over 30 percent equity and lender connections all over town, I could not find anyone who would refinance this home for me because the percentage of rented units exceeded 50 percent.

I had no choice but to stick with my original (more expensive) mortgage. Fast forward another few years and I decided to put the condo on the market. The first offer I received was from an investor who was planning to finance his purchase with 25 percent down. We quickly found out that he was not going to be able to buy in my building because the percentage of renters was still above 50 percent. This narrowed my pool of buyers to those who could pay cash or those who planned to occupy the unit as their primary residence and had financing that would look past the percentage of rented units.

To help answer your question, I reached out to mortgage expert Paul Nagel at First Home Mortgage.  He had the following to say:

One little known role of the condominium developer and/or manager is to protect and ensure that as many financing options are available to potential buyers of any homes for sale in that condominium complex. More financing options available translates to more available buyers, which most likely translates to selling one’s condominium with less time on the market, and selling the home at a higher price as there will be more competition/buyers for each unit for sale.

Maintaining a proper budget, master insurance policy coverage, and sufficient emergency funds are examples of some of the criteria that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, the Veterans Administration, and many other loan programs require to be met as a condition for financing a home purchase in that condominium complex. If one of the criteria is not met, for example, a buyer may not be allowed to use an FHA loan to purchase a home in a given condominium complex.

One such criteria of almost all loan programs is that at least a majority of units must be “owner occupied” or, in other words, not rented to a tenant. Accordingly, a developer or condominium manager often works to limit the number of homes rented to tenants, so that the sales of units in that condominium complex are available to be financed by as many loan options as possible. Conversely, if the number of units rented is not regulated by the condominium manager, sometimes a “downward spiral” occurs, where unit owners cannot sell their units, so they rent the units, making it even harder to get financing for home sales in that unit, resulting in even more units being rented.

Getting back to your question, I think Paul and I agree that proactively limiting the number of rentals in a condominium complex is good for the long-term value of your home. I say this even though it may discourage potential investors from purchasing in your building. You will be protecting mortgage options for those who want to refinance or purchase. You will also be attracting occupants who have a vested interest in maintaining the condominium.

I know there are some people who feel as though their condominium is better off without such limits.  I hope you will share your opinions and reasoning in comments.

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

by Nick Anderson — October 10, 2014 at 2:30 pm 418 0

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

Some odds and ends this week, and then a couple recommendations for Harvest/Wet Hop Ales that I’ve been enjoying so far this season.

The big news of the week is the news that Stone has decided to put its East Coast facility in Richmond. We’ve been following the rumors and speculation for months, and Richmond finally won out over Norfolk and Columbus, Ohio. Stone Richmond is estimated at a $30 million dollar investment that will bring somewhere in the area of 300 jobs to Virginia, not to mention solidifying Richmond’s status nationally as a Beer City.

Also, there are a pair of noteworthy articles I’ve read over the past couple weeks: Craft Brewing Business dives into this year’s poor barley crop, and the potential ramifications for brewers of all sizes (be sure to read the Reuters article CBB links to as well for more info).

Also worth spending a few minutes reading this week is this Esquire piece by Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Greg Engert. Engert takes an interesting angle on the “drink local” movement, looking at possible pitfalls as markets become saturated with breweries. Greg’s gotten where he is in our industry for a reason, and gives a very smart, reasoned take here.

This past week also saw the 2014 edition of the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Breweries from our area once again made a great showing for themselves, and once again Devils Backbone led the way. This year Devils Backbone won four beer medals and for the third year in a row was a Brewery of the Year winner (this time as a Mid-Size Brewery). Richmond’s Hardywood Park Craft Brewery won a Gold for its Raspberry Stout; Charlottesville’s Three Notch’d took a Bronze for its Hydraulion Red; Capitol City Brewing Company’s Shirlington location won an impressive Silver for Amber Waves (Amber was a highly competitive category this year); DC Brau’s Citizen Belgian Pale Ale won a Silver; and Maryland’s DuClaw, Heavy Seas, Union Craft, and two Gordon Biersch locations all medaled. Check out the full list of GABF winners here.

To wrap up this week, I’d like to mention a couple beers from what is increasingly becoming a favorite seasonal style for me — the Wet Hop Ale (sometimes classifies as Harvest Ale). With hops coming off the vine and going into the beer before they have a chance to dry out, Wet Hop Ales showcase a spectacular clarity of aroma and flavor without overbearing the drinker with aggressive bitterness or overly-rich citrus flavors (for more on Wet Hop Ales, read this past column).

This year, I’ve developed a minor obsession with two Wet Hop Ales in particular. Hardywood’s RVA IPA uses fresh hops from two local farms along with folks who have received some of the hop rhizomes given out by the Richmond brewery every year (the RVA IPA label estimates the number at around 1,000). As a “community-sourced” Wet Hop Ale, RVA IPA is as much as statement of how far Virginia’s beer scene has come over the past few years as it is a seasonal effort. Beyond all of that, the beer is simply delicious: focused floral aromatics give way to a palate that is balanced and elegant; hoppy but with a sense of restraint and an easy mouthfeel that belie its 7 percent ABV strength. Supply is surprisingly good, but RVA IPA won’t last long. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm 340 0

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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. What are some sneaky ways employers usually try to retaliate against employees who have filed discrimination complaints?

A. Most employers know state and federal laws prohibit them from retaliating against employees who complain about unlawful discrimination. Most employers also know that they can be hit with stiff penalties for engaging in such prohibited retaliation. Knowing this, and upset with certain employees for asserting their rights, some employers will still try to tip toe the line between legitimate business practices and unlawful retaliation. Sometimes they cross that line.

Employers who want to retaliate against an employee — and who know that they should not do so — will likely try to avoid any actions that would amount to an unequivocal adverse employment action. Anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, prohibit employers from taking an adverse employment action against an employee protected under these laws.

As the U.S. Court for the District of Maryland noted in Wright v. Kent County Dep’t of Soc. Servs. (2014), an adverse employment action “is a discriminatory act that adversely affects the terms, conditions, or benefits of a plaintiff’s employment.” Adverse employment actions, the court added, typically come in the form of “discharge, demotion, decrease in pay or benefits, loss of job title or supervisory responsibility, or reduced opportunities for promotion.”

Employers who want to sneakily punish an employee who has asserted his or her rights under Title VII will probably avoid any of these obvious adverse employment actions, which are black-and-white issues. For example, either an employee was fired or he or she was not. Instead, employers may pursue employment actions in the gray area.

For instance, the employer may try to isolate the employee by moving his or her desk or exclude him or her from certain work-related discussions. It is usually much easier for an employer to provide a legitimate reason for taking these employment actions than more severe employment actions, such as termination.

Unfortunately, as the court noted in Wright, “Title VII does not remedy everything that makes an employee unhappy.” Employees who have been ostracized because of their protected activities must show that the employer’s attempts to isolate them did adversely affect the terms, conditions, or benefits of their employment. Employees in such predicaments should immediately contact an experienced employment law attorney who can prepare for them a retaliation lawsuit.

Mathew B. Tully. Esq. 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 fedattorney.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 — October 8, 2014 at 12:30 pm 890 0

This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Jeff, a snaggletoothed Rhodesian Ridgeback/Boxer mix, whose amusing name “fits his personality to a tee.”

Here’s what Jeff’s owner, Ben, had to say:

Jeff is a rescued, snaggletoothed 9-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback/Boxer mix, or as we call him, “a wonderful brown dog.” Jeff’s very human-sounding name fits his laid-back and personable demeanor to a tee, and he can often be found sprawled lackadaisically by his window-side bed. Don’t be fooled by his age or his chill-vibes, though, because Jeff can still hold his own – chasing squirrels, frisbees, or any myriad of other menacing rolling/jumping/running objects.

Famed among friends and family as “the best behaved dog,” Jeff is often welcomed as part of special events. Jeff was most recently honored by taking part in his parents’ wedding party – donning his finest doggy-bow-tie and finding his way into a few photos in Bon Air Park. Jeff is also always a favorite at nieces and nephews birthday parties.

After living nearly 5 years in Arlington, Jeff has recently relocated just south of the border in Alexandria, but still considers himself an active part of the Arlington-pup scene – making frequent appearances in Shirlington.

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 — October 7, 2014 at 3:05 pm 1,013 0

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. I heard about a new first time homebuyer savings plan being introduced in Virginia. Do you have any information you can share with me about this program?

A. I’m glad you brought this up as it is a brand new program I am excited about. I have to be careful when it comes to anything that may be considered tax advice, so I am simply going to share the general information provided by the Virginia Association of Realtors (VAR). You can download a PDF document from for additional details.

The First-Time Homebuyer Savings Plan (FHSP) allows first time home buyers in Virginia to invest up to $50,000 for the future purchase of a home. Earnings on that money will be exempt from Virginia state taxes. The money can be invested in almost any account you have with a financial institution including savings account, life insurance plan, stocks, bonds, CD, money market or mutual funds. $50,000 is the maximum that can be invested in principle, but the money can grow in value up to $150,000.

From what I understand, these funds can only be used towards the closing costs associated with a home purchase. In most cases, the closing costs range from two-percent to three-percent of the purchase price so the above maximums should be more than enough for most homebuyers.

The money does not have to be for your own purchase. It can gifted to a relative or close friend. This may be especially valuable for a young child that you are putting money away for as your investment will have lots of time to increase in value.

When filing taxes, you’ll just include a 1099 from the financial institution you are investing your money with and a simple one page FHSP document.

I found the following two examples from the VAR website helpful:

Funding for a child

Phillip and Leigh put $10,000 into a mutual fund that they will use to help their son buy his first home. The money grows over the years. When their son is 26, he decides to buy a home. They sell the shares in the fund — now worth $18,500 — and give it to their son to help with his down payment.

Normally they would pay state tax on the $8,500 in earnings, but they file a FHSP form with their Virginia taxes and don’t have to pay a cent in state taxes.

Changing your mind

Emma decides to start putting money away for a first home when she graduates college. She opens a high-yield savings account with a few hundred dollars and adds to it when she can over the next 12 years. The account grows.

Each year, Emma files an FHSP form with the Department of Taxation so she doesn’t have to pay Virginia tax on the interest she’s earned.

Then Emma marries Sam, and Sam already owns a house. She won’t need the money after all. They decide to use it for a vacation instead.

Because Emma used the money for a “non-eligible” purpose — the vacation — Emma must now pay the back taxes on the 12 years of earnings on the account, as well as a five percent penalty on the amount of the earnings over that 12-year period.

Disclaimer: I am not a tax professional and I highly recommend speaking to one before making any decisions that pertain to the FHSP.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 6, 2014 at 1:30 pm 360 0

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

My Cat Has MRSA. That sounds terrifying. How did this happen? Am I going to get sick? What about my children?

First, MRSA stands for Meticillin-resistant (previously methicillin) Staphylococcus aureu. This type of bacteria was first seen in 1951. Methicillin is actually no longer manufactured, but the name remains. The resistance came about because of over-use of antibiotics when they were not needed. Meticillin is in the penicillin family of drugs and they work by destroying the bacterium protective cell wall. Unfortunately, these drugs no longer work on this resistant form of staphbacteria. Other antibiotics do work and the infections can be eradicated though it can take time.

Humans can give MRSA to animals, but thankfully it is rarely the other way around. Staph is commonly found on human skin. About 20% of people carry MRSA in their nasal cavities. Most healthy people do not have any issue with it, and may not even know about it, unless they have a cut or undergo surgery. Things can become challenging if an infection takes hold. Good hygiene habits are the simplest way to avoiding the bacteria. Because this bacteria is resistant to certain types of antibiotics, if it does take hold it can sometimes be difficult to fully eradicate.

Here at NOVA Cat Clinic, we have started seeing more cases of MRSA in our feline patients. We always try to culture wounds or skin infections before using any antibiotics so we can make sure we use the right ones. Since we are doing more cultures, we are finding this organism more frequently and have been able to treat it effectively with the proper antibiotics and supportive therapy like our therapeutic laser.

We currently have a cat that was left here because of this condition. The owner has small children and would not have been able to separate kitty while she were being treated. We have been treating her and we are planning on re-culturing soon to be sure the infection is cleared. Once the infection is gone we plan to find her a new home. She is a sweet and loving cat and she would make someone a wonderful companion.

Please call us at 703-525-1955 or email us at office@novacatclinic.com if you would like to know more.

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

by Nick Anderson — October 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm 317 0

Your Beermonger logo

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

Veering away from existential crises and the wider beer business as a whole this week, I’d like to relate one of the best parts of my job, and of being a beer fan in general: the unexpected, pleasant surprise.

Last week saw the Virginia debut of Nebraska Brewing Company, and I was particularly looking forward to carrying their Melange a Trois, which I got to try at the 2012 edition of SAVOR along with their IPA. But those weren’t the only Nebraska Brewing beers to arrive last week, and I took a flier on a six-pack of Brunette Nut Brown Ale because I’m a fan of the style and liked the idea of having one in cans. Sure enough, Brunette is great: all of the nutty and malty flavor you’d expect from classic examples like those from Sam Smith and other English brewers but lighter, less rich on the palate. This is an easy-going, flavorful, delightful beer that just got me from out of nowhere.

Not all “surprising” beers are everyday drinkers or more modest in style: I knew I’d enjoy Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin, but didn’t expect to become as fixated with it as I have when trying it during my visit to Stone for their anniversary party back in August.

The recently released 2014 bottling of Swiss brewery BFM’s Abbaye de St. Bon-Chien Grand Cru, aged entirely in Champagne barrels (or as they say on the label “Frenchy Sparkling Wine Barrels”) was something no 11 percent Sour Ale has any right to be — refreshing. Something about that version of that beer gives is the trademark Bon-Chien sourness up front, while smoothing out on the back with a finish that draws you right back in for more.

Stone’s Collaboration Series has produced more than its fair share of winners, often showcasing styles they are not necessarily known for. The new Xocoveza Mocha Stout fits right in with the best and most unexpected of them — a Mexican hot chocolate-inspired Stout using coffee, chocolate, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and chili peppers. Usually I’m wary of any chili-infused beer; I’m not a “face-melting — if you’re lucky” hot sauce guy, and too many beers that use hot ingredients can easily go too far. But Xocoveza walks the tightrope perfectly: it’s spicy rather than full-on hot, with roast, sweet, and spicy elements expressing themselves fully but also in harmony. Wouldn’t have expected it, but I’m enjoying it like crazy while it’s here.

What beers unexpectedly became favorites of yours? Which did you think you wouldn’t like but ended up loving? Let’s hear about them below in the comments. Until next time.

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money-saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm 465 0

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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.

You’ve navigated the Arlington rental market to find the perfect place. We have some great apps to make the move and the transition a little easier.

Moving – Looking for something to help you stay organized during your move? Apps like In That Box (for iPhone) and BoxMeUp (for Android) will help you organize all of your stuff. Using QR codes, photos, lists and search, these apps help you find your stuff once you get to your new place. Need a storage unit too? Use these apps to keep your stored items organized as well. No digging through all the boxes to find your holiday party plates.

Neighborhood – Now that you are settled in, it is time to meet the neighbors. Check out Nextdoor, (Android and iPhone), a social network for specific neighborhoods. Nextdoor is still growing in this area, so you could be a trailblazer and start a network in your area. Use Nextdoor for organizing social events, meeting like-minded people, and even to sell your stuff.

Groceries – Obviously one of the more important things to figure out in a new area is where to shop and where to eat. For groceries, check out apps like PeaPod (Android and iPhone) and Instacart (Android and iPhone.) Peapod is a grocery delivery option from Giant. Instacart is a personal shopper service where you can get your items delivered in as little as an hour. The service is available for stores such as Whole Foods, Costco and Harris Teeter in the Arlington area.

Laundry – For many, laundry and dry cleaning is a hassle. Worry no more. Check out Washio (Android and iPhone) for all of your laundry needs. Washio is a door-to-door laundry and dry cleaning service. You schedule your service, someone comes and picks it up and they deliver your items back to you the next day. Prices start at $1.60/lb for laundry and $6.00 for dry cleaning dress shirts. Hate ironing? Laundered and pressed shirts are $2.75.

Transportation – With all these great things delivered to your door, it seems like you might never need to leave the apartment. Maybe now you’ll have some free time you need to head out and enjoy all the city has to offer. Below is a list of apps and sites to help you hit the town.

  • Car Free Near Me – This app/site helps you find just about any of the transportation options in your area. Enter your location and Car Free Near Me tells you the nearest Metro or Metro and ART Bus Stop along with upcoming schedules. It will also tell you where to find the nearest ZipCar or Capital Bike Share.
  • ZipCar and Car2Go – Need a car for a few hours for a quick trip out of the area, or to stock up on essentials at Target and Costco? These car share options are a great way to go.

Lastly, do you need an easy way to pay rent? Cozy is a great option, especially when you have roommates. Use Cozy to collect payments and send one payment from all to the landlord. Best part about Cozy, it’s free!

One of the greatest things about living in the Arlington area is having so much to do right outside your door. Technology helps create more free time to enjoy. So head out and enjoy!

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

by Ethan Rothstein — October 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm 550 0

This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Luna, a cat with so much fur, her owners “could comb enough off her to make felted finger puppets.”

Here’s what her owner, Talia had to say about her furry feline:

This is Luna. She is a 5-year-old cat with the playfulness of a kitten. We got Luna when she was 2 years old. She is completely white and long-haired and has green eyes. We believe she is a Turkish Van. We adopted Luna from a woman who already had other cats and dogs which made Luna very unhappy.

She loves chasing hair ties and pom-poms, licking our toes and bird watching. She also loves just being around people and listening to the family playing the piano. Luna also loves to clean herself. She may be an indoor cat but she is obsessed with grooming and is always happy to be brushed and petted. Luna has so much fur, we could comb enough off her to make felted finger puppets.

Luna loves her new home and is truly a wonderfully happy cat.

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 — September 30, 2014 at 2:30 pm 696 0

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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 are going to be selling soon and have been following the sales in our neighborhood. The homes currently on the market don’t seem to be priced as high as the homes that sold earlier in the summer. Which listings should we be looking at to determine the current value of our home?

A. This is an interesting real estate market we find ourselves in right now. Typically you can generalize the conditions of a market based on a steady plateau, incline or decline. This year has seen a lot more ups and downs when it comes to home sales. Some months have been much better than others as well as certain neighborhoods and price categories. My point is that you need to be looking at both the most recent sales and current listings to determine your home’s value in this market.

Most homeowners and agents look at the last six or 12 months of home sales to determine a home’s value. In this market, I have tightened my threshold to home sales within the past three months because of all the market fluctuations. I am also paying very close attention to any homes currently on the market and under contract.

The benefit of data from sold homes is that you are seeing what the market was willing to bear for comparable properties. You know exactly how many days it took to go under contract and if they had to adjust their price at any time. The photos and description will also provide clues as to how the home compares to yours and what adjustments you need to make in your comparison.

By factoring in active home listings, you can gain insight into the most current market activity. You can also visit the homes to see exactly how they compare to yours. You just have to be careful about how you evaluate the price. Just because someone is listing for more than the last house that sold, does not mean they will get it. As you can imagine, some sellers can be overly optimistic about their list prices.

The process I follow to determine a home’s value, starts by evaluating recently sold homes. I use this data to establish an initial baseline price that I think the home is worth. I then take that number and fine tune it with the current and under contract listings.

I evaluate my baseline number against the other homes currently for sale in the area. I usually look at active listings $50,000 above my number and $50,000 below my number. If it looks like there are some homes currently priced for less than my number that compare favorably, then I may need to adjust down. If it seems like we compare favorably to homes priced higher, then I may want to adjust up.

Then, I’ll look at the most similar homes to my subject property. If they are having a hard time selling for the number I was hoping to shoot for, then this information is insightful about the experience we may have on the market at that price. Conversely, if there are similar homes that went under contract quickly at my number, then maybe we should push for a higher price than they were asking for.

Lastly, it is important to take into consideration what I am experiencing with nearby listings I have active in the market. This is where it becomes important to work with a local area expert. I’ll also consider any upcoming criteria that may affect our listing (i.e. seasonality, interest rate hikes, buyer trends).

Pricing homes is much more of an art than a science. Take a look at all the information you can get your hands on. I know it is tempting to take the easy route and base your price off of Zillow or, even worse, your tax assessed value. Please don’t do that. You run a huge risk of pricing too low and leaving money on the table or pricing too high and having to chase after the market. Either situation will cost you thousands of dollars.

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 — September 29, 2014 at 3:30 pm 545 0

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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.

The dog food market has exploded. There is almost an endless variety of dry dog food options, making it more difficult to determine what the best option is for your dog. Here are some tips to help you make an educated decision.

Bottom line, do what works – If your dog is healthy and fit on whatever food you are feeding him or her, there is probably no need to make a change. A couple of ways to determine if things are going well is to evaluate the results: you need to check the poop. If you dog is pooping more than twice a day, or if your dog is not producing solid formed stool, you may need to reevaluate what you are feeding.

Read the Label – Make sure you recognize the ingredients in the food. The first ingredient should be a whole meat product such as “chicken” or “beef.” Not chicken by-products or chicken meals. If you aren’t sure what a by-product or a meal is, don’t feed it. Look for other whole products like “rice” or “carrots” as well. You want as many whole ingredients as possible.

Choose higher quality, ignore the packaging – Do not be fooled by the packaging. Just because there are fruits and vegetables on the bag, doesn’t mean they’re in the food. Those fancy multicolored kibbles are colored with food dye, not natural ingredients. Pay attention to what is in the food, not what food is on the bag.

Don‘t always follow directions – When determining how much to feed your dog, simply look at your dog. It makes no sense to feed a dog by volume. For example, feeding it two cups, two times per day. Not all 50-pound dogs should be eating the same amount of food each day. Age, energy level, fitness level and body type are all much more important than weight.

Also, keep in mind that the faster you finish a bag of dog food, the faster you go out and buy a new bag. The dog food company has an incentive to encourage you to overfeed. If your dog is fat, feed less. If your dog is skinny, feed more. Adjust as necessary.

There is no doubt that good nutrition leads to healthier lives, so try and choose the best possible option for your pup.

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 — September 29, 2014 at 1:30 pm 379 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, founders and funders. The Ground Floor is Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn. 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.

Data Illustrate founder Matthew FischerInspiration for the next startup can come from an unlikely source, as many founders know. For Data Illustrate founder Matthew Fischer, it came from a grad school project mapping out how the characters from the Harry Potter books would live on.

Fischer and his classmates were trying to use data to map out the future. They soon scrapped the project, but the data tools they were using, it turned out, gave him the idea for his next company, one that specializes in making real-time data easy to analyze and retain.

“After doing the grad school project, I continued doing research, talking to industry leaders and figuring out where the market was going,” Fischer, also the founder of Control A+ told ARLnow.com. “The market of data visualization is still growing.”

The company was started in the summer of 2013, and since then Fischer and two colleagues — one in Utah and another San Diego, Calif. — have built the company’s infrastructure. Data Illustrate is just starting to take on clients, for whom it takes complex data sets and simplifies them into infographics, motion graphics, mini-documentaries and data visualizations.

Data Illustrate infographicInfographics are static illustrations of statistics, like the pictured student census, left, taken from Data Illustrate’s website. Motion graphics are infographics but the pictures move to create more audience engagement. Mini-documentaries have become increasingly popular with the rise of Kickstarter, which encourages all companies to include a video explaining the premise of the fundraiser.

Data visualization allows clients to “see your data tell its story in real time,” which Fischer describes as a kind of “Doppler radar for any kind of data.” That means a trucking company that tracks where its trucks are can have an easily consumable visual instead of data points on a computer screen.

“Infographics tell an author’s story,” Fischer said. “Motion graphics tell a story and add motion. Mini-documentaries bring a human factor to the story and data visualization gives the reader information to make their own story.”

Fischer says he see the biggest opportunity to grow his company in the nonprofit sector, with organizations trying to break through the masses and make an imprint on donors, members and any other interested party.

“We can create art to share their story with more people and garner a higher retention rate,” Fischer said. “Nonprofits work with a lot of statistics, and we can share those statistics in a way that more people will retain.”

In fact, that’s the company’s tagline: “Retention is our game, art is our median, data is our speciality.” Unlike some big data and analytics companies, Data Illustrate doesn’t have a simple algorithm they simply plug each client into; they create tools and back-end construction for each individual project.

Screenshot of a Data Illustrate visualization“We don’t believe in ‘one size fits all,’” Fischer said. “A lot of these questions demand a custom answer.”

The visualizations, custom packages and work-intensive processes to get to this point mean that Data Illustrate isn’t quite ready for primetime. Fischer and his team are accepting clients, but starting in January, he expects to make a big marketing push to grow the portfolio.

By this time next year, Data Illustrate could find itself with a new specialty, new offering or new angle; such is the life of a big data startup.

“We’ve only tested about 10 percent of the limits we can reach,” Fischer said. “We’re beyond early adopters with Big Data and the future is going to take a multidisciplinary approach to look at insights data visualization could bring to companies and individuals.”

by Nick Anderson — September 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm 416 0

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

Early this week, I tried something new — I made beer.

I’ve been curious about homebrewing for years, but hadn’t bothered to take the plunge into trying it. Where I once stood with no knowledge of the subject, I now stand with next to no knowledge of the subject, but indulge me a moment to relate some thoughts about it, because I’m really excited about it.

To start, a confession: it wasn’t so much that I hadn’t gotten around to making beer so much as I’d been avoiding it. I don’t have enough time for the hobbies I’ve tried to keep over the years, and I didn’t want to get wrapped up in another one, spending my days even more frustrated over yet another thing I enjoy that I don’t have time in my life for.

I’ve been fearful, the way we all are when we’re attempting to learn something new, of exposing our ignorance of it. I was also afraid I’d be no good at it — hell, I still am, but I forget that none of us is very good at anything at first; otherwise there’d be no need to learn. Part of me has been afraid I’d get into it; I can get somewhat obsessive about hobbies, and I know there’s a good chance I’m going to fall down the rabbit hole.

So, being a first-timer I decided not to go crazy and try something small and relatively easy: I got an Everyday IPA kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop, which is well-worth checking out. It’s pretty easy, so the joy is in the sensations; the sweet smell of malt lingering in the house was a particularly nice one.

Adding hops to the beer — just handling hops, was awesome. I’ve been walking around all week with the packets my Columbus and Cascade hop pellets came in. I keep going back and smelling them — I think I’m addicted.

The real point is this: I’ve heard the “why you should homebrew” thing for years, and I’m here to say they were right, OK? I’ve got about a month before I get to see how bad the beer I made is, and I have to say I haven’t been this excited about beer in years. I’m already getting requests from family and friends for future batches, and I have the thrill of discovering and learning about something I had no clue about before.

So if you like beer, try making some. If you don’t like beer, find some new skill to learn or hobby to take up: our lives are fuller and more meaningful when we do. Until next time.

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money-saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com. (more…)

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