Feb. 8, 2018

Dreaming of Spring: Garden Planning 101


Start With Compatible Plants

Many first time gardeners end up disappointed and frustrated because they find some kind of plant at the nursery or outside the market and decide they want to put it in a particular spot in their garden. But no matter what they do, that plant won’t thrive and eventually, it just dies. What went wrong?

The first thing you should do is learn what your USDA Hardiness Zone is by clicking here. Next, you can check the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center’s Climate Maps to learn more about your area’s rainfall patterns to determine if you’re on the dry side, in which case you’ll need to irrigate, or pretty rainy, which will require you figure out how to keep many of your plants from getting too wet.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for beautiful landscaping that you don’t really need to touch again, native plants are seeing a huge resurgence across the country. They’re stubborn, sturdy and need very little upkeep. And because they’re native to your location, they’ve evolved to withstand whatever it is that your climate can throw at them. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center maintains a list of businesses that sell native plants and seeds here.

Just how many of these plants do you need? Well, to answer that, we’ll need to draw a garden plan. Let’s play with it a bit.

Basic Garden Planning

Although there are apps for garden planning, one of the easiest ways to do this efficiently is to go back to the old fashioned paper and pencil method. It’s simple, you don’t need a lot of tools and it’ll give you a very good visual idea of how your plants will fit together when they’re fully mature.

What You’ll Need:

  • – Tape Measure
  • – Grid Paper
  • – Pencil

1. Measure the areas you intend to turn into garden or landscaped spaces. Don’t stress too much if your measurements aren’t perfect, as long as you’re within about six inches, you should be ok.

2. Assign a value to each square on your grid paper. One square foot to one grid square is an easy one to remember and makes it easy for others to interpret your drawing.

3. Draw your garden plot on the grid paper, noting anything that might influence plant growth such as partial shade conditions caused by nearby trees, large rocks that make an area unplantable and so forth. This will be important when it comes to choosing plants later. Don’t forget to note the locations of walls or other major structures.

4. Lightly sketch in the plants you want to include, at their fully grown size. So, for example, if you’re planting Buddleia, otherwise known as butterfly bush, and the one you have in mind right now is about a foot tall and maybe six inches wide, you need to imagine it grown. That bush will grow up to about six feet wide and tall. Even if it looks a little empty now, don’t be tempted to overcrowd your garden, that’ll only invite serious fungal and bacterial disease.

5. Set the drawing aside for a day or two. When you come back to it, make sure you’re really happy with it. Look it over and ensure you didn’t accidentally place a taller plant where it’ll block much-needed sunlight from a smaller plant or even blackout a window in your home.

Caution: Before you run off and buy plants or seeds, make sure that you’ve tested your soil and amended it with organic materials as needed. We’ll cover that in an upcoming blog. A drawing is only a map, it’s the first step to creating a successful garden plot.

My First Garden: Edible or Ornamental?

Home gardening is experiencing a huge comeback, as younger gardeners realize the potential benefits of gardening that extend far beyond being able to grow their own food. It’s a great way to get a little outside exercise, it lowers your stress level, and it can get the whole family involved in an activity that promises big rewards. But often, first time gardeners are overwhelmed by choice. There are so many plants, so many catalogs, so many types of gardens!

It’s ok. Take a breath and get away from Pinterest for a minute.

Both edible and ornamental gardens can be delightful and easy to manage, if you choose compatible plants and focus on their individual needs. Some plants are much more disease and trouble-prone than others, and some are simply nigh-on impossible to grow in some areas. You really don’t have to choose between edibles and ornamentals, though. Plenty of ornamentals and edibles are highly compatible, a classic example is tomatoes and French marigolds.

There aren’t really any rules when it comes to what you put in your garden. Just make sure you space each plant far enough apart that they don’t have to compete for water or nutrients and you can easily work between rows or clumps. A plan is a great place to start, though, so you know just how many plants or seeds to buy.

Posted in Home Projects
Feb. 8, 2018

Your Need to Know Guide to the Debt to Income Ratio

Debt to Income Ratio

What is My Debt to Income Ratio?

If you’re not familiar with the term, don’t be shy, it’s one of the most common questions that first time homebuyers have when applying for a mortgage. That’s because there aren’t a lot of places where it’s obvious that your debt to income ratio is being used to determine your ability to get credit. It’s sort of figured out behind the scenes and you’re none the wiser.

At a very basic level, your debt to income ratio is simply what it sounds like, all your long term, semi-permanent debt compared to your current income. Usually your mortgage lender will do this as a monthly comparison to make it easy, but the ratio’s the same whether you compare month to month or year to year. If you have $1,200 a month in debt and $5,000 a month in income, that’s the same as if you had $14,400 in yearly debt and $60,000 in yearly income. Both come out to 24 percent, which is a pretty good debt to income ratio.

But, of course, it can’t be that easy, can it.

What’s Included in a Debt to Income Ratio?

Things that are included in your debt to income ratio are secured loans like a car loan or a boat loan, which are sort of guaranteed by the property that you’ve borrowed the money to purchase; unsecured loans like credit cards and lines of credit; student loans and any debt you’ve co-signed.

Let me repeat that last thing. Any debt you’ve cosigned is part of this figure. So, if you agreed to cosign a loan for your sister 20 years ago and she’s still paying on it, that’s still going to count against you, even though you’ve totally forgotten about it. If you’re on a joint account with your ex-husband, you’re still on the hook when it comes to debt to income.

Things that aren’t included, that are almost always assumed to be, are items like your car insurance, your utility bills, your cable bills, subscriptions and so forth. Basically, if you can cancel the payment at will (whether or not there are serious consequences like having no lights or being able to watch Game of Thrones), it’s probably not going to be included on your credit report unless you fail to pay as agreed. While you’re at it, it might be a good idea to go ahead and get yourself a credit report from a reputable site like MyFICO.com, the Fair Isaac website, just so you can see what is actually reporting.

Adding It All Up

Figuring your debt to income ratio is pretty easy, the hardest part is figuring out what counts and what doesn’t. Just add up your monthly expenses and divide by your monthly gross income, before any taxes, insurance, 401k withdrawal and the like come out. There you go. That’s your debt to income ratio. Now we can do some stuff with it!

There are three major programs that most home buyers utilize across most of the United States. These are the FHA, VA and Conventional mortgages. Each has its own requirements and debt to income ratio ceilings. Some are more complicated than others.

FHA and Front End and Back End Ratios

For FHA, there are two kinds of debt to income ratios to keep in mind. One is called the front-end ratio, the other is, unoriginally, named the back-end ratio. The front-end ratio is only your potential future housing debt; the back-end ratio includes all your debts. With that in mind, the chart below shows how you’d look to an FHA lender as of the writing of this blog.

The first number in the column labeled “Maximum Qualifying Ratios (%)” is the front-end ratio, the second is the back-end ratio. Compensating factors can be thought of as other things you bring to the table to make you into a really awesome borrower. Since you have little to no experience at this mortgage thing, your FHA lender is understandably afraid of your eventually missing a payment in the 30 years you’re going to have a relationship, so they want evidence to show that you’re a stand-up kind of person.

FHA loan debt-to-income guidelines. Source: HUD Handbook 4000.1

Fannie Mae and DTI

Conventional loans are a bit easier. Fannie Mae is the principal agency that guarantees what’s known as a “conventional” or “conforming” loan. Fannie has siblings like Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae, but they’re at the movies right now and we’re not going to involve them in the conversation. For our purposes, conventional loans are all about Fannie Mae.

In general, conventional loans tend to be more difficult to land, in part because they have more rigid income to debt requirements. For borrowers with credit scores of 680 or better and less than a 25 percent down payment, Fannie won’t allow more than a 36 percent debt to income ratio (but she only uses the one number, so at least it’s not more complicated than that). If your credit score is above 700 and your down payment is less than 25 of the home’s price, she’ll allow a 45 percent debt to income ratio.

When it comes to Fannie, bringing more money to the table will absolutely catch her eye. She believes firmly that all things that glitter are definitely gold. That magic number is 25 percent of the sales price of your home. So, if you’re floating in cash, but have a higher debt to income ratio or a little bit lower credit score, you could win brownie points this way.

Veterans Get More Leeway

If you’re a military vet and you’ve not used your VA mortgage benefits, you may be wondering about cashing in that particular chip. When it comes to the debt to income question, it’s a harder one to answer. Generally speaking, the VA wants to see a debt to income ratio below 41 percent, but like with other qualifiers under VA, the rules aren’t really all that hard and fast.

VA loans tend to be a lot more flexible in general, and debt to income ratios are no exception. Although all the loans mentioned in this blog can be manually underwritten, the guidelines only allow for so much deviation outside the rules. VAs give a lot more wiggle room, so if you’re at a 45 percent debt to income ratio, for example, it might not be out of the question if everything else is in line.

Time to Go Apply What You’ve Learned

Figuring out your debt to income ratio is just one of the very first steps you should take on your path to getting a mortgage. Once you can see how much each of your debts affects your ability to get a home loan, you can either refinance those debts into loans with better terms or work extra hard to pay them down before approaching a mortgage lender.

When you’re ready, or if you have any questions about your debt to income ratio, it’s easy to get a quick answer with HomeKeepr. Your Realtor has already recommended some trusted mortgage pros in the community, just log in to make a connection that will make your home buying experience an easy one.

Posted in Buyer Blogs
Jan. 5, 2018

Frozen pipes

frozen pipesWhen it comes to frozen pipes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

When temperatures plummet, the risk of your pipes freezing and bursting skyrockets. In fact, burst pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage during frigid weather and can cause thousands in water damage.


The pipes most at risk are those in unheated interior spaces such as basements, attics, and garages. But even pipes running through cabinets or exterior walls can freeze. The good news is there are some simple things you can do to keep your water running and your house dry.


“Pipe insulation can cost as little as 50 cents per linear foot. Use the pipe insulation liberally to protect any vulnerable pipes.

Here is some useful advice on how to prevent your pipes from freezing, as well as how to thaw them if they do.

How to Beat the Freeze

Once the temperature starts dropping outside, you should take measures inside to keep your pipes warm and water running. Research conducted by the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois shows that the “temperature alert threshold” is 20° F, especially if you have uninsulated pipes running through an uninsulated space.  

Some of the steps experts recommend may go against your better instincts of conserving water and heat, but the extra expense is nothing compared with a hefty repair bill. Here’s what to do:

Keep garage doors closed, especially if there are water supply lines in the garage.

Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. (If you have small children, be sure to remove any harmful cleaners and household chemicals.)

Let the cold water drip from a faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe—even at a trickle—helps prevent pipes from freezing.

Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature during day and night. Again, during a cold snap is not the time to set back the thermostat at night to save a few bucks on your heating bill.

If you plan to be away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

For the long term, add insulation to attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in those areas. And to prevent drafts, seal cracks and openings around windows, doors, and at sill plates, where the house rests on its foundation.

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, you may well have a frozen pipe. “If you suspect the pipes are frozen, be careful when thawing them out because if the pipe has already burst, the water will come flowing out and flood your home,” says John Galeotafiore, who oversees Consumer Reports’ testing of home products and power gear.

If a pipe has broken, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve, which is usually at the water meter or where the main line enters the house. If the water is still running and no pipes have burst, you can take the following steps. (Of course, if you suspect a more serious problem, call a plumber.)

Turn on the faucet. As you heat the frozen pipe and the ice plug begins to melt, you want the water to be able to flow through. Running water through the pipe, as cold as it is, will help melt ice in the pipe.

Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, or a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. As tempting as it may be, do not use a blowtorch, a kerosene or propane heater, a charcoal stove, or any device with an open flame; the high heat can damage the pipes or even start a fire.

Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. Check all other faucets in your home to see whether you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Call a licensed plumber if you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe.

A space heater can offer a temporary solution to a vulnerable area in your home where pipes may be at risk until the temperatures warm up outside. 

I hope you never find yourself in this situation but knowing what to do beforehand can save you a lot of money and aggravation.

Stay warm

Posted in Home Projects
Oct. 23, 2017

Loudoun County Real Estate Market Update October 2017

Loudoun County Real Estate Market Update October 2017

Sept. 20, 2017

109.5 Wilson Ave NW Leesburg VA 20176

For Sale By Owner/Agent  
109.5 Wilson Ave Leesburg VA
Check out this new construction downtown Leesburg walking distance to historic district.


3Br/2.5Ba over 1800 ft.² in this oh so cool "shotgun style" home with artisan finishes.


Features include granite in kitchen and baths, craftsman style trim, high ceilings, solid wood pocket doors, stainless steel appliances and recessed lighting throughout.




Maple Hardwood floors, high ceilings, and recessed lighting continue to the 2nd level.


Spacious Master suite includes a large walk-in closet, double sinks, granite counters, ceramic flooring, and large oversized shower with ceramic surround enclosure.


All bedrooms feature large closets, ceiling fans, and neutral carpet and paint.





Full basement with egress window and rough in for a bath offers endless possibilities. One car garage, and a deck for outdoor entertaining complete this picture perfect home.




Perfect for first time home buyers, down-sizers, and everyone in between. Why live in a crowed townhouse community when you can afford a new construction single family home and enjoy all the amenities downtown Leesburg lifestyle has to offer.


Call Lisa for details 703-431-6974.
Seller financing available to qualified buyers.


Video Link #1

Video Link #2



Posted in Buyer Blogs
April 24, 2017

Leesburg Community Shred Event

Leesburg Community Shred Event

We held our first annual shred event Saturday Earth Day April 22nd and despite the continuous rainfall it did not stop the residence of Leesburg from safely shredding their paper documents. The numbers are in and it was a huge success: 60 residence shred over 4000 lbs of paper!

Leesburg Community Shred EventLeesburg Communtiy Shred Event

This translates into:

34 saved trees

760 gallons of oil

6 cubic yards of landfill space 

8000 kilowatts of energy

14,000 gallons of water

120 pounds less of air pollution

The 34 trees saved can absorb a total of 500 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year. Burning that same ton of paper would create 3000 pounds of carbon dioxide.

On behalf of your local sponsors:

Denise Lankes All State Insurance

Mea Danigelis Mclean Mortgage

Celeste Weinstein Key Title

Lisa Cameron Keller Williams Front Door Team

...we would like to thank you Leesburg for participating in our community shred event and doing your part to make Leesburg a little bit greener!


 Leesburg Community Shred Event

April 17, 2017

New Construction Downtown Leesburg VA

New Construction Downtown Leesburg VA

One sunny day in 2015 I was driving around downtown Leesburg looking for my next real estate investment. Since becoming a Realtor in Northern VA 12 years ago, I became involved in real estate investing endeavours such as rental properties and seller financing. This time I wanted to do a flip. While browsing the northwest of town I turned the corner of Dodd onto Wilson Ave and there stood in front of me the 2 most neglected properties with a handmade 'For Sale By Owner' sign....Bingo! I found my next real estate project.

After doing my due diligence gathering information from the town and getting estimates for renovations it became apparent one was in worse condition and would cost more to renovate than tare down and start new. We also discovered that same house was sitting on two buildable lots. It was then we decided one would stay and be renovated

Renovated House

...and one would go...


Stay tuned for our new construction build available May/June downtown Leesburg.

For further information call/text Lisa Cameron Keller Williams Front Door Team @ 703-431-6974 or email me at frontdoorteam@gmail.com


March 15, 2017

Loudoun County Real Estate Market Update March 2017

If we agree with Hazlitt, the housing market should be headed for a pretty amazing year. Fannie Mae's February Home Purchase Sentiment Index reports consumer confidence in housing at an all-time high. This follows January's report in which consumer confidence improved for the first time in five months. Americans who feel now is a good time to buy rose 11 percentage points, while those believing it's a good time to sell rose by seven. Fannie Mae's chief economist added, "Millennials showed especially strong increases in job confidence and income gains, a necessary precursor for increased housing demand from first-time homebuyers."

As the stats below show homes are selling quicker and for more money than the same time last year and inventory is at an all time low (below 2 months supply of inventory) reflecting a sellers market. Reach out to us for further information on buying, selling, or investing in today's market!

Loudoun County Market Update March 2017
March 15, 2017

Vendor of the Month

Vendor of the Month : Moving Company

My Guys Moving

My Guys Moving


The Front Door Team strives to give their client's a 10+ experience. That 10+ experience extends to the vendors and business associates I align my business with. One of the most important vendors we refer is the moving company as they will leave a lasting impression on our clients as to whether or not they had a good experience with us. That is why we are very careful who we refer to our clients.

Austin Jacobs at My Guys Moving adheres to the same high standards we at The Keller Williams Front Door Team adhere to and that is putting our client's first. Their goal is to provide the best moving experience whether you are moving across town or across the country. You can learn more about their company on their website at www.MyGuysMoving.com

Give Austin Jacobs with My Guys Moving a call at 800-783-4897 and be sure to mention the Keller Williams Front Door Team to receive their Special Offers including (discount rates, free used boxes, free wall protection, and free pick up of material)

Voted Best of Loudoun 2017



At Your Service,


Lisa Cameron

Keller Williams

Front Door Team



Selling Loudoun County One Front Door At A Time


March 12, 2017

Price Your Home To Sell

Overpriced HomePrice Your Home to Sell

As an experienced Listing Agent my job is to educate sellers on current market conditions and pricing strategies to get their home sold. Pricing plays a huge part of a successful marketing strategy. A professional Realtor knows 80% of marking is getting the property priced right, and that no amount of marketing is going to sell an overpriced house. 

Some things to consider when pricing your house to sell:

1. Don't Over Improve

Sellers typically overvalue their home compared to other homes on the market hoping to recoup 100% of the home improvements they have made. Rarely do you get dollar for dollar back on home improvements. Yes I advise my sellers to make basic home improvements like paint, carpet, update appliances because it is necessary to compete in today's market place, but sellers are best advised not to over price their homes based on home improvements they made themselves over the years as they can price themselves out of their neighborhood and in doing so will help sell other homes on the market that are similar in size and features but priced below their house.

2. Don't Calculate Your List Price with Active Listings

Sellers typically look at whats on the market and want to list accordingly. Active homes on the market rarely sell for their asking price. In Loudoun County homes sell on average at 97% of their asking price. Knowing this you can price according to the sold comps and position yourself amongst the active listings to be the next house to attract an offer from a buyer.

3. Overpricing Because You Have Time

The first 10 days your house goes on the market is when it will attract the most attention from serious buyers. If you are overpriced thinking you have time to test the market, these serious buyers won't even look at your property and will probably be in contract on another house by the time you decide to drop your price.Overpriced homes tend to linger on the market and start to go 'stale' in the eyes of the buyers and their agents who will start to think something is wrong with the house.

Price your home right from the beginning to attract the most qualified and serious buyers and sell faster. Keep your eye on the market trends, reevaluate the market activity in 2 weeks if your home has not attracted showings. National Real Estate statistics says 2 weeks on the market with no showings, or 10 showings without any offers you need to adjust your price.

I sell homes for more money in less time because I know my inventory and real estate market trends in Loudoun County. If you are thinking about selling I would be happy to do a market analysis of your home and consult on improvements that will bring a return on your investment.

I look forward to making you my next satisfied client.

At Your Service


Posted in Seller Blogs