Rental Maintenance Tips for Landlords in Washington DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase

Master Bathroom Remodeling in Washington DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase

Master Bathroom Remodeling in Washington DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase

Just like buying a new car, you are excited at the possibilities and rewards that you will get with ownership.  Unfortunately, just like a new car, someday you’ll have to shell out for maintenance and upkeep – that’s the part that isn’t so much fun. Try these ideas and you’ll find it much easier.

Start your maintenance fund now.  Be sure to aside enough money to cover the replacement of a new roof. It may be a while before that happens, but you’ll certainly need that money for other expenses.  This will prepare you for the financial shock of a major appliance going bad or trees that need to be removed.

Set a time each month for inspection of your rental property. Thoroughly inspect the inside and outside and take notes of damage that the tenant might be responsible for.

Remember that anything you do to improve the property will help the resale value later, so don’t put off repairs.  They’ll get more expensive later on, and you might avert a major catastrophe.

Your repairs are tax deductible, so keep good records. Major expenses can be depreciated over several years. You could use a yellow legal pad, or better yet a spreadsheet, but even more important, get a software program that can log your work orders, expenses, and then export to your accountant at the end of the year.

Your relationship with your tenant is very important in maintaining your property. Many tenants are willing to do work to keep their home looking nice, so work with them on providing materials in exchange for repairs.

Lastly, don’t think you can do it all by yourself. Use an expert to evaluate the property, looking for slab cracks, termites, bad wiring and other potentially disastrous problems. If you are handy with tools, take advantage of free DIY clinics at Home Depot and Lowes so you can learn to replace doorframes, install a new toilet and replace the vinyl in the kitchen.

Here’s to hoping you have a maintenance free investment property, but that is probably a pipe dream. However, if you do your homework and prepare yourself, you’ll save money and have a sense of pride and accomplishment in your rental property.


Paul Toller is a writer, real estate consultant and investor. He has been in the property management software business for over 25 years, and is a partner in the Tenant File (

Residential Electricity Prices Are Lower

May 22, 2012 By 1 Comment

From Pennsylvania and Delaware, to Washington, DC and Maryland, residential electricity account holders are making the switch to lower cost electricity and saving sometimes thousands of dollars over the current supply cost of the local utility. The process is easy with Electric Advisors from start to finish, in most cases all you need in your hand is a copy of your electric bill, unless you are the rare individual who remembers the account number! Click  to see the current residential rates.

From one of our clients in Annapolis, MD “my cost dropped 20%, why didn’t I do this sooner!” to West Chester, PA “Like you said, I grabbed my bill and I was done with the process in less than three minutes” to a beach rental on the Delaware coast “This makes profitability on my rentals a bit easier to obtain”.

So if you live in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Bethany, Friendship Heights, Columbia, Ocean City, Adams Morgan, Bethesda, or anywhere in between, start saving today and tell a friend how easy it was to put money back in your pocket.

DC Business Electricity Costs Drop

DC Business Electricity Costs Drop

May 13, 2012 By Leave a Comment

In my last writings the focus was on residential electricity prices and how low the cost per kwh rates are through Electric Advisers as opposed to Pepco DC’s current supply rates. Now to bring the focus on the cost per kwh that commercial supply rate payers are being charged by Pepco in Washington, DC as opposed to the rates Electric Advisors is getting for their clients in Pepco DC’s service area. In some cases the cost per kwh through EA could be up to 25% percent less than Pepco DC’s mandatory pricing. Yes that’s right, 25% lower…

First to define broadly a commercial account. Simply it is any rate payer whose Pepco DC invoice does not have an “R” or residential designation. From houses of worship, restaurants, multi-family buildings, warehouses, retail stores, office buildings, gas stations, hotels, and  many more categories. It doesn’t matter if the meter is in Anacostia, Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Chevy Chase, or Columbia Heights, if there isn’t the “residential” category, the meter is considered commercial.

As with residential electricity choice in DC, commercial rate payers have contracted “shopped” with alternative electricity suppliers at a significantly lower rate than their Maryland counterparts. The POR (Purchase of Receivables) option that is not available in DC but is available in Maryland plays a part in this lower shopping rate.  Again the DC Public Service Commission has great information available for commercial rate payers to learn about the process of choosing a third party supplier on their website and probably in their office, but getting someone on the phone can be a challenge.

Just like every the majority of expenses a business incurs, electricity costs can be controlled to some degree. Understanding your options regarding electricity supply rates available through energy brokers like Electric Advisors would allow you to free up cash assets that could be used for energy efficiency improvements, marketing dollars, debt reduction, and the list goes on.

Next posting will talk about renewable energy options available to the DC business community. Most would be surprised to know that buying renewable “green”  in some cases can actually lower your rate as compared to Pepco DC’s supply rate.

Elders and the Strange Gravitational Effect of Final Mystery

Elders and the Strange Gravitational Effect of Final Mystery.

Elders and the Strange Gravitational Effect of Final Mystery

Elders and the Strange Gravitational Effect of Final Mystery

Please follow the link above and read! What a great post! I wish I could express myself so well.

We are Certified Aging in Place Specialist and would love to help you or your parents too.

“Aging in Place” adjustments include both small and large modifications to your home. Small alterations include installing lighting in your closets or a pull-out spray faucet in your kitchen. Larger projects include installing lowered windows or non-slip flooring in various parts of your home.

Preparing For Your Washington DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase Remodeling Project

Preparing for your Washington DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Rockville, Potomac remodeling project

Preparing for your Washington DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Rockville, Potomac remodeling project

Preparing For Your Washington DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase Remodeling Project

Having the right budget for your remodeling project is important. Unfortunately many people rely on the he said she said approach. There is a better source. According to the Remodeling 2011–12 Cost vs. Value Report (, following is the link to the pricing data for Washington, DC Metro area, including Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac and Rockville–dc.aspx

What the numbers mean.

Although the costs used in the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report are based on itemized estimates (see “Methodology”), the projects are imaginary. When comparing the data in this report to actual remodeling costs in a particular geographic area, small differences in the size or scope of a project, or in the quality of finishes and accessories the homeowner chooses, can dramatically affect the price. Although the distinction the Report makes between “midrange” and “upscale” projects provides a range of pricing, it cannot account for extreme variations in pricing that many markets have experienced in recent years. Some of this variation is due to the effects of the deep recession and the continued slow recovery. High unemployment among construction workers has glutted the market and available labor far outstrips demand. Material costs, on the other hand, have not retreated and in some cases have dramatically increased. The result is a volatile business climate exhibiting unpredictable pricing within markets and between one market and another.

Smaller Projects

Another factor to keep in mind when comparing costs in the Cost vs. Value Report to local costs for specific projects is that homeowners continue to scale back their remodeling plans, choosing either to reduce square footage below that specified here, or to perform the work in phases to spread the cost over time. Also, homeowners continue to be conservative when choosing fixtures and finishes. They continue to trade the savings on lower-priced items for the ability to afford higher-priced items they deem more essential or more desirable.

Subjective Value

The “value” of a project at resale is always subject to forces that are difficult to predict. Changing how a space is used may meet the immediate needs of the current homeowner but may be at odds with what prospective buyers are looking for. Converting a small bedroom into a grand master bath, for example, may be perceived as the loss of a bedroom rather than the gain of a bathroom. Similarly, adding square footage may solve immediate space needs, but it also adds to maintenance costs and it increases heating and cooling bills, something that may not be welcomed in this era of heightened energy awareness.

How the value of a remodeling project is perceived also depends on a variety of factors that traditionally affect home values, including the condition of the rest of the house, the value of similar homes nearby, and the rate at which property values in the surrounding area are fluctuating. Comparable values are still difficult to judge due to the persistent presence of foreclosed properties and short sales. Until potential buyers are convinced that housing prices have hit bottom, they will not experience any sense of urgency, further contributing to the downward pressure on house prices.

The Cost vs. Value Report provides an accurate snapshot of the national housing market but it cannot be applied accurately to an individual remodeling project for a particular address. Resale value is one factor among many that a homeowner must take into account when making the decision to remodel. At the local level, the best course of action is to obtain construction cost estimates from reputable local remodelers and to talk with an experienced Realtor about home prices in the neighborhood.

Very High and Very Low Values

A number of cities in this year’s Report show cost recouped averages that are above 100% for some remodeling projects. This indicates that, on average, those projects are worth more in resale value than the owner spent to construct them.

This may seem impossible, particularly to homeowners in areas where property values are stalled or still dropping, and it certainly is the exception to the rule. When it does occur, however, it is usually tied to a particularly hot real estate market or to specific projects that are either in high demand from buyers or make a big difference in how buyers perceive a property. If a remodeling project helps a house to meet buyers’ expectations — adding a deck to the only house in the neighborhood without one, for example, or adding a second bathroom in an area where every other home already has two — the homeowner can expect a good return either in the form of a higher selling price or a quick sale or both (assuming everything else about the house is up to standard).

Projects that have been losing resale value in recent years are typically victims of the economic slump, as has been the case with many higher-cost, “upscale” projects. A low ranking may also reflect lack of demand, but this can be misleading at the local level. A backup generator, which historically is near the bottom of the rankings in resale value, may have much more appeal — and higher value to a buyer — in areas where damaging storms are common, or where the local power utility is prone to service interruptions. Similarly, a particular type of project, such as a home office remodel, may appeal to buyers who intend to telecommute or run a home-based business but will have little value to other buyers who would prefer to have an extra bedroom or an exercise room.

Preparing For Your Washington DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase Remodeling Project

Here is the link again:–dc.aspx

We are #1 Top Rated General Contractors in Greenbelt

We are #1 Top Rated General Contractors in Greenbelt

Custom Design and Remodeling, Finished basement with Home Theater, Wet Bar, New Master bathroom and Exercise room, Lighting, Pool Table, Foyer, Play room

We are proud to be #1 Top Rated General Contractors in Greenbelt. Check the link below!!

<a href=”“>General Contractors – Greenbelt, MD</a>



Please call or email us, we would love to be of service to you:


2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,900 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Interior Decor in the New Year: How To Start Fresh

Interior Decor in the New Year: How To Start Fresh

Interior Decor in the New Year: How To Start Fresh

Well, 2012 is finally here, and we’re ready to give our home decor a facelift. Here are some easy ways to change the look of your home and start fresh, helping you keep your new year’s resolutions and make 2012 a great year:

1. Integrate Color

The easiest way to drastically change the look of a room? Pick up a paintbrush and get to it. There are plenty of changes expected for the interior design world in 2012, including a shift from a dull color palette to vibrancy and show. If your new year’s resolution is to be more optimistic, it couldn’t hurt to integrate bright colors into your home. Bright colors are especially wonderful in bathrooms or around bathroom vanities. Don’t be scared to experiment with bold yellow, raspberry, and coral tones. Paint isn’t permanent–if you don’t like it, just change it.

2. Out With the Old

If you want to start fresh, some spring-cleaning might be in order. Go through your house plan and get rid of all your old junk, from unused or chipped coffee mugs to paintings and prints you just don’t like anymore. Many homes cram their houses with stuff they don’t need or superfluous furniture. A clean and clear home is much more relaxing and tranquil. If your new year’s resolution is to minimize your stress, this could be the perfect solution.

3. Execute the “Maybe’s”

We all say, “Maybe I’ll clear out that room and make a little gym” or “Maybe I’ll clean the garage.” Stop stalling and take action! If your new year’s resolution is to lose 5 pounds, make the gym you’ve always wanted in the garage, bringing in rowing machines, Pilates machines, free weights, kettle bells, and an old TV to play work out videos.

Who knows? Simply changing your interior decor up may help you keep those New Year’s resolutions.

Lisa is a writer on the subjects of storage, eco-friendly living, and interior design for both Boston and Austin homes for sale.

Washington DC Kitchen Remodeling Giving Some of the Highest Returns

<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>, Custom Kitchen Design and Remodeling, foyer, lighting, granite counter top, gourmet cooking, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Rockville, Potomac, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Washington DC, lighting, interior design, Aging in Place

For those of you that have been considering an update for your home but aren’t sure which areas will give you the best return, here’s an idea: start with the kitchen. Some of the highest recoups are occurring in Washington DC kitchen remodeling.

In a 2009/10 survey conducted by Remodeling magazine, results showed that a major kitchen remodeling project in Washington DC would repay between 64% and 74% of the total investment. That’s higher than a garage or deck addition and even slightly more than a bathroom remodel.

As for the Washington DC area, where returns for kitchen remodeling are higher than the national average, the major differences came down to the complexity and scale of the project.

Typically, homeowners elect for midrange or upscale jobs coordinated through an experienced kitchen remodeling contractor. Here’s how these jobs compare for Washington DC kitchen remodeling:

 Midrange Major Kitchen Remodel [Cost – $53,900; Return – 74.6%]

Includes: updated layout with semi-custom wood cabinets, 3’ x 5’ island, laminate countertops, standard double-tub stainless-steel sink, energy-efficient wall oven, cooktop, ventilation system, built-in microwave, dishwasher, garbage disposal, custom lighting, resilient flooring, painted walls, trim and ceiling.

  • Upscale Major Kitchen Remodel [Cost – $107,430; Return – 64.9%]

Includes: custom cherry cabinets with built-in sliding shelves and interior accessories, stone countertops with imported ceramic or glass tile backsplash, built-in refrigerator, cooktop, commercial grade range and vent hood, built-in warming drawer, trash compactor, built-in combination microwave and convection oven, high-end undermount sink with designer faucets and built-in water filtration system, general and task lighting including low-voltage under-cabinet lighting, cork flooring, and cherry trim.

As you can see, the cost for upscale Washington DC kitchen remodeling is nearly twice as much as that of a midrange project, when comparing major kitchen remodeling. Of course, the number of features and quality of materials vary greatly.

If you’re not in the market for either of these categories, you might fare better with a project that covers just the basics. A midrange, minor kitchen remodeling job in Washington DC can save you nearly $90K compared to an upscale remodel and offers the highest return of all three.

The cost for midrange minor kitchen remodeling in Washington DC is a more affordable $20,504 with a 77.7% return. Here’s what you can expect to get for your money:

  • New cabinetry – Leave cabinet boxes in place but replace fronts with new raised-panel wood doors and drawers
  • Energy-efficient wall oven and cooktop
  • New laminate countertops – Replace old laminate surfaces
  • Mid-priced sink and faucet
  • New paint for trim
  • New wall covering
  • Removal and replacement of resilient flooring

Need help determining which type of project will accommodate your personal taste and budget? Contact a Washington DC kitchen remodeling expert that can assist you with planning and executing a financially savvy renovation program.


Remodeling Myth: The Three-Bid Rule

Remodeling Myth: The Three-Bid RuleHome remodeling is a maturing industry. That means that truly professional firms that specialize in remodeling are becoming the norm. Now homeowners can draw from a greater pool of reliable remodeling contractors in whom they can have confidence.

The shift to more professional remodeling firms, however, necessitates a change in how homeowners should best select a contractor. Specifically, the old practice of collecting three bids for the work and using the low bid to select a contractor no longer makes much sense.

The three-bid rule appears to work because it assumes everything to be equal except the cost estimates (or bids) from the three competing contractors. In other words, the underlying premise is that the three bidders have assessed and calculated the scope of work, blueprints, and specifications in exactly the same way so that the owner can compare ‘apples-to-apples.’

In reality, however, such assumptions are dangerous and rarely accurate. Every contractor, professional or not, analyzes a project and estimates costs differently. As a result, the three bids are not apples-to-apples comparisons. Some differences are subtle, but their existence means that bid comparison is deceptive regarding costs.

Even if all three contractors based their bids on precisely the same interpretation of the project, the three-bid rule still reduces each remodeler to a number, when the most relevant factors for the owner’s satisfaction are the builder’s skill, experience, personality, record of success, and ability to do the work.

For this reason, an increasing number of the best remodeling companies simply refuse to bid competitively, opting out of such opportunities because they know they will be evaluated only in terms of cost, rather than whether they are the best firm for the job.

Such remodeling contractors prefer a different approach: the negotiated contract. In that scenario, a remodeling firm is selected based on its abilities and its personality fit with the homeowner. Considering how closely contractors interact with homeowners during a typical remodeling project, these criteria are the best predictors of client satisfaction. The negotiated contract also takes the guesswork out of the project’s cost.

In this process, each of two or three contractors receives a budget from the homeowner based on what the homeowner wants to spend, not on what the remodeler thinks the project will cost. Sharing the homeowner’s budget not only removes assumptions and misleading comparisons of cost, but also builds trust and facilitates honest communication about actual costs. If necessary, the builder and homeowner can then negotiate choices and prices in order to match the project’s scope with the client’s budget.

Not only does the negotiated contract process result in a more accurate estimate of cost, it is also far superior to the three-bid rule in matching the personalities of the client and the remodeler during the negotiation process. The process also reveals the best match between a particular project and a contractor’s skills and experience. By first narrowing the field, and then by selecting one remodeling firm based on everything except the cost of the project, a homeowner can better ensure that the project will remain on budget and schedule. Both homeowner and contractor are on track for a finished project that meets or exceeds expectations.

As the remodeling industry continues to evolve into a recognized profession, it is adopting new and more effective methods of conducting that business. The negotiated contract reflects the new age of home remodeling to the benefit of every homeowner.