Suppose you were relocating to northern Virginia, found a house that — with some modifications — would perfectly suit your family’s needs, and within hours knew the exact cost of your desired upgrades?
Or, say you were listing a house for sale, recognized that new owners might want to improve the kitchen or a bathroom, and could easily present sketches for these modifications as part of your sales package?
Where can you find such a happy convergence of cyber space and the real world?
Welcome to @home Real Estate Lounge and Design Center, a residential real estate brokerage and home remodeling showroom that recently opened its South Alfred Street office.
“Our core mission is to help buyers and sellers access the unique advantages that come from timely information,” said principal broker Karen Hall, who has been active in local residential real estate for nearly 10 years
“With very few new homes on the market, we find that a lot of people today want to know as quickly as possible what certain improvements will cost. This is a business model that provides accurate real-time property improvement cost information through the resources of one of the area’s most experienced remodelers.”
The upshot, Hall said, is convenience to both buyers and sellers in every phase of a typical real estate transaction.
Buyers recognize that they have options when they can see beyond the few things about a house that “just aren’t right.” Sellers stimulate a dialogue that gets all parties talking realistically.
The brainchild of Hall, 37, and David Foster, president of Foster Home Remodeling Solutions, the Real Estate Lounge and Design Center is configured so that interested parties can research buying, selling and remodeling considerations in one location by simply walking in off the street.
On the first floor, a Microsoft Surface table complete with laptops and flat screen monitors allows shoppers to look at homes listed “for sale” throughout the metro area; one level above, a visitor can research the costs of a long list of home improvement options simply by accessing Foster’s DIY estimator program.
The 350-sq.-ft. design center also functions as a home improvement showroom.
Designers can be brought into the conversation by telephone. Foster’s headquarters — which includes staff architects, design CAD systems, and a still larger showroom — is about 15 miles away in Lorton.
“It’s a pretty logical alliance for today’s market,” Hall said. “Our clients are pleased at how easily they can answer questions that used to take weeks of research and entail a lot of second guessing. This is a huge asset when you’re trying to find the right cost balance between a home’s location and its physical attributes.”
Moreover, Hall sees the future of her profession in helping clients solve problems that used to be off the table.
“WE ARE FUNDAMENTALLY a service business,” she said. “Today, anyone can get a look at homes for sale without leaving their workstation. What’s valuable is information that can help you assess the feasibility of adapting an existing house to your use requirements and your budget.”
Hall says she plans to have five full time agents on staff before the end of the year. The brokerage is licensed in Virginia, Maryland and the District.
Hall is also a specialist in serving the region’s large military population. One of the firm’s partners, CEO Jack Rives, is a retired three star general and attorney who was attached to the office of the Judge Advocate Generate for more than 25 years.
“Military personnel have pretty specialized needs arising from transience,” Hall said. “When you’ve been transferred into a new assignment from out of town, you’ve got a lot to think about — so it’s important that the home shopping process goes smoothly.”
Hall says her services allow a buyer to specify detailed improvements that can be executed before even moving in to the new house.
“You can select materials, colors, finishes from out of town if you want, and you know what the whole package costs,” she adds. “This is not only efficient — but saves thousands of dollars.”
Hall has also helped clients rent out their homes when they’re sent on an overseas tour, and remodel after they’ve moved back in.
But sellers also benefit from readily available design and estimating services.
Hall recalls that she was having trouble selling a rather plain vacant house last month, so she had the Foster team mock-up a drawing for remodeling the kitchen and posted it online along with the existing home photos.
Within two days, the home’s listing agent began receiving new offers.