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Montgomery County Maryland Real Estate Blog

Phil Kelley


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 13


by Phil Kelley

~Wish you could enjoy the pleasure and flavors of growing your own herbs, but don’t have the space or the time to dedicate to an outdoor garden plot?  No problem, try growing your herbs indoors!  All you need is a sunny window, and you can do a bit of “gardening” all year round.

Many of your favorite herbs, like chives, mint, parsley and thyme can be grown inside, so read on to find out what you need to grow healthy herbs indoors.

Supplies You’ll Need

Location, location, location.  Herbs need sunny conditions, so for the best results, select a window that received 6 hours of sunlight a day minimum. If possible, choose south-facing windows for your indoor gardening plot.
Containers.  Choose pots at least 6 inches across, and with holes in the bottom for drainage.  If you’re really strapped for time each week, try using larger pots.  The soil in larger pots dries out more slowly and can be watered less often.
Soil.  Use a potting or planting mix available at any garden store.
Herbs. Obviously!  The easiest herbs to grow inside are lemongrass, chives, mint, oregano, parsley and thyme, but basil and rosemary can also be grown inside with a bit of extra care.  Tip: try buying seedlings to plant instead of starting from seed if you’re just starting.

Caring for Your Herbs

Water.  Herbs prefer well-drained soil, so it’s important not to overwater.  Try checking the soil moisture level by inserting your finger 1 inch into the soil before you water.
Fertilizing.  Use a liquid fertilizer at half strength once a month to keep your plants healthy.
Rotate plants weekly to encourage even growth.
Keep your herbs from touching the window to prevent their leaves from freezing or burning.

When it comes time to harvest your herbs, cut off up to a third of the plant, focusing on the oldest stems first.  This will promote growth and increase the flavor of new leaves.  Growing your own herbs can take a bit of work, but is definitely a rewarding process, so get growing!



by Phil Kelley

~With all of the tools and services that have made their way to the online world, you may be wondering if using a real estate agent is needed in this day and age.  Most of us prefer to make our travel arrangements solo these days instead of calling up a travel agent, so has the experience of buying a house shifted as well?  The short answer is no.  Buying or selling a home is a major financial and emotional task, that is much more complicated than booking a cruise to the Caribbean.  Here are 3 of the many benefits of having a real estate agent that you may want to consider:

Better Access
Searching for or selling a home can be a full-time job, one that the average person will have trouble taking on in addition to their own busy lives and schedules.  When you can entrust this huge undertaking to someone who will literally make it their full-time job, you reap the benefits.  Not only will handing off your home search allow you to focus on your many priorities, but it will also mean that the job is done better and more efficiently.  Both buyer’s agents, and seller’s agents work full-time, and can use their real estate connections to ensure that you get the best deal.  Without their expertise and availability, you might find yourself playing phone tag, and missing out on the perfect home or a potential buyer.

Experience with Negotiations
One of the most popular reasons to find a real estate agent is to avoid tricky negotiations!  Emotions often run high during the home selling/buying process, and that can make the buyer-seller relationship tense.  A real estate agent provides a perfect buffer.  For example, working through a real estate agent allows you to express your dislike of an outdated, orange bathroom, and negotiate a discount, without ruffling any feathers.

Contractual Expertise
Contracts in the home selling and buying process are ultimately in place to protect you, but can often be confusing.  Unless you’ve moved every year for the past 20 years, employing an experienced agent means that you now have someone that deals with contracts and conditions regularly.  They are very familiar with how to use them, and how they can protect you best.

Buying and selling a home is a big process, that doesn’t always go to plan.  Having an experienced real estate agent on your side allows you to step into the ring with confidence.


by Phil Kelley

~Heading into a new year tends to inspire us to to take a step back and review the past year to identify the areas of our lives that could use a bit of improvement.  While most of us resolve to start a new exercise regime or diet plan, it’s also a good time to scan through your home and decide what steps you can take to cultivate a happy home this year. 

External Factors
Studies show that factors such as long commutes, mortgage debts, and neighbor relationships can all play a significant role in the happiness of your home.  Changing jobs, or moving house might not be within your reach this year, but improving your relationship with the neighbors is a great place to start making strides in this category.

Although a clean home isn’t always a happy home, it certainly will be happier than a downright dirty home.  The feeling that comes from having the laundry clean and put away, the dishes done, and the bathroom sparkling is priceless.  Try delegating tasks to family members, not only to enjoy the end results on a more consistent basis, but also to allow everyone else to experience the satisfaction of a job well done!

Design and Organization
Take a look at any magazine stand in the grocery store check-out, and you will find plenty of ideas on how to create the perfect atmosphere for your home this year.  Ideas include ways to cut clutter, paint color palettes to soothe the soul, as well as how to display collections of items that make you happy.  Also, while installing a new home security system may not be as aesthetically pleasing (or as exciting) as a new couch, this step can go a long way in providing you and your family with peace of mind.

~When you are in the market for a new home, one of the first decisions you often make is whether to opt for a single family home, or for a townhome or condo.  All three options offer buyers unique advantages, and each can be the perfect choice depending on your situation.  Factors such as your life stage, location preferences, and overall costs often determine which home style is best for you and your family.

What are your family’s needs?
When it comes to choosing the best home style for you, your life stage will most often be the most important factor in your decision making process.  Are you a single, young professional, or a married, young professional with plans to have a large family as soon as possible?  Large families will often need more square footage than a condo can provide, and desire the outdoor space that a single-family home can offer.

Location, Location, Location
Location weighs as a close second deciding factor in this race, and can even come first in some situations.  If you have decided on a particular neighborhood, or area that would be ideal, you will be limited to the home sizes and styles offered in that area.  For instance, if you want to be within walking distance of work, or choose to opt for public transportation to save on vehicle expenses, condominium complexes or townhomes may be the best choice. 

What can you afford?
Lastly, when deciding between home styles, you need to determine which best fits in with your financial budget, as well as time constraints.  Each option comes with its own pros and cons, and it is important to weigh both in light of your circumstances.  Condos provide homeowners with the peace of mind that comes with knowing maintenance is taken care of, while single-family homes and townhomes ensure that you are in control of your own maintenance.  Busy professionals without need of outdoor space (and the work that comes with it), may find that a low maintenance (and often less costly) condo fits perfectly into their lifestyle, and a young family more interested in proximity to schools rather than the workplace may find that a single-family home is just the ticket.  Townhomes on the other hand, can provide the ownership and outdoor space of a single-family home, while also allowing the homeowner to choose an ideal location.

At the end of the day, each case is unique, and each homebuyer must choose their priorities accordingly.  Luckily the variety that these 3 home styles provide make it possible to find just the right place, regardless of your life stage, or financial position.


by Phil Kelley

~The lead up to Christmas Day is often full of excitement and anticipation for everyone, with events, shopping, and dinners to attend, most of us have little time for boredom.  Christmas Day; however, can often be another story.  Once the gifts are opened and the dinner is done, many Americans will be found lounging in their living rooms, watching an endless loop of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

One surefire way to avoid the after-dinner slump is to roll out a few fun and festive family games this Christmas!

The Decorating Game
The first step to a successful round of this game is to find someone in your family that is a good sport.  Once you’ve determined the best family member for the job, the idea is to decorate that person as a Christmas-sy object or figure.  Some ideas are a Christmas Tree, Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, an Elf, or a reindeer.  Provide decorations like crepe paper, aluminum foil, wrapping paper scraps, bows, and of course, tape, and then watch the hilarity ensue!

Christmas Trivia
Tis the season for a Christmas trivia showdown!  Pull some trivia from online lists like Santa trivia, Christmas tree trivia, or trivia about Christmas traditions from around the world, and have at it.  This is a good activity at the dinner table, or for lounging in your living room (with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation playing in the background).

Present Scramble
This last idea does take a bit of prep work, but it will definitely pay off when the time comes to play.  First, wrap a small gift in a small box, then wrap that box in a larger box, and repeat until you’ve exhausted your box stash.  To play, choose a number, and have everyone take turns rolling the die.  The first person to roll the chosen number can start unwrapping, but there’s a catch.  The unwrapper must wear oven mitts!  As they are unwrapping, the remaining family members continue to roll the die until someone again rolls the chosen number, and they take the mitts to continue the unwrapping.  Continue playing, and the person that unwraps the actual gift can keep it.


by Phil Kelley

~The short answer: Absolutely.

Gone are the days when the first stop on the home search was a drive-by.  In today’s market, the average buyer begins their search on the internet, and contacting an agent or taking the time to view the exterior of a property comes second and third.  As a result, the first impression most buyers have of a home is from the photos that accompany the listing in online real estate searches.  If your listing photos don’t measure up, buyers will simply move on to the next listing.

In order to make your home’s listing photos count, it is important to invest in good quality equipment, and to take the time to think through the highlights of your home.  The only type of pictures you should use for your listing are high resolution, properly lit photos.  Using a smartphone may be tempting, but a good camera can make all the difference.  Many home sellers use experienced photographers when creating their listings, so that is also something to consider.  Looking through nearby home listings will give you a good idea about the caliber of photos required.

While a high quality photograph is an essential step towards creating a lasting impression, not even the best camera equipment can make an unattractive room appealing.  You may have never imagined your home in a lifestyle magazine, but now is the time to awaken your inner stylist.  Both you and your agent should spend as much time and preparation on your home’s photo shoot as on preparing for an open house.  Some quick tips for a successful photo shoot are the following:
Schedule the shoot for when your home has the best natural light.
Clean your spaces before the shoot. 
Try to declutter your home as thoroughly as possible.  Your collection of vintage figurines may be appealing to you and your family, but clearing them out of the shot may make your home more attractive to a broader audience.

Consider your home a product, and your listing photos the catalogue shots.  Try to capture your rooms at their best, your time and effort will make all the difference!


by Phil Kelley
The holiday season is upon us, and many of us are looking forward to sitting down to at least one Thanksgiving dinner.  Hosting this seasonal spread can be intimidating, stressful, and even a bit maddening for some, but it doesn’t have to be!  Here are some basic guidelines to bring some order to the chaos of Thanksgiving dinner prep.
Recruit organized help: Guests traditionally bring a dish or two to Thanksgiving gatherings, and this generosity, pared with some guidance, will help to ease some of the strain of playing host/hostess.  However, if you leave your menu completely to luck, you could end up with six bowls of cranberry sauce and a turkey!  To avoid this possibility, ask your guests to let you know what dish they plan to bring.  This way you can keep a running list of gaps, and tell them what you need.  
Stick with what you know:  There are many classic and exalted Thanksgiving dishes that we’ve come to expect.  Turkey, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, and mashed potatoes are some accepted mainstays, but don’t move heaven and earth to stick to these strict guidelines if you aren’t comfortable with them.  We all have our own traditions, and if frying a turkey makes you envision your kitchen up in flames, just stick with what you know.  Make dishes that you are known for, or that have been passed down in your family.  Not only will it cut down on your stress levels, but you will produce better quality cuisine.
Make a map: Take time to take stock of how much space all your dishes will need, and be sure to make room.  You may need to set up an extra card table, find extra trivets and placemats to protect your existing set up, or determine how many extra serving utensils you will need.  This preparation will prevent any confusion or awkwardness that could arise from being unable to point guests with piping hot dishes to suitable spots.
Food-safety tips: Although food-safety is often overlooked in the happy flurry of activity following a good dinner, this is possibly one of the most important considerations you can make as the host.  Perishable foods and hot dishes should not be left out for more than two hours, so before your dessert course, pack up any leftovers and place them in the fridge.  Encourage guests to bring their own disposable containers, or pick up some heavy duty foil and plastic bags to have on hand.
Remember to delegate as many tasks as possible, and let go of any rigid expectations.  Perfection is overrated, and the cleaning can wait.  Be part of your gathering, and enjoy yourself.  A joyful and gracious host is a good host!


by Phil Kelley

Often, one of the first major life steps that newlyweds must make as a couple is buying a first home together.  An incredibly important step for anyone, this decision is often a first-time experience as well as choice with very expensive price tag!  A newly married couple would be well served to embrace caution before starting their climb on the property ladder, and to follow these 4 home-buying tips:
1. List Out Your Priorities
The consequences of buying the wrong home in the wrong location are much more far-reaching than almost any family purchase, so the first step towards buying a home as a new couple is to determine the “must have” features.  The most common and important priorities to consider are home size, design, and location. This is the time when couples can choose whether they want a house with room to grow, or a neighborhood with lovely parks or convenient shopping areas, so it’s very important to decide on top priorities, and hold fast when it’s buying time.
2. Research
Once a couple has hammered out their top non-negotiable priorities, a good next step is to research the possible neighborhoods and areas that best fit their values.  The Internet is a homebuyer’s best friend, and there is an endless supply of real estate sites available.  Couples can have a much better grasp on the local real estate market than was possible just decades ago.  This tool is best used to whittle down the overwhelming choices down to a manageable number, but does have its limits as well.  Always visit the area of a prospective home and take stock of the surrounding community.  Chatting with area residents is the best way to find out “off the record” information about the neighborhood, and the prospective home.
3. Find A Trusted Real Estate Agent
It’s often possible to assume that the a combination of Internet and on-the-ground research are enough when it comes to deciding on a home, but hiring a quality real estate agent can be a game changer when it comes to buying a home.  A good real estate agent will have access to in-depth information, experience to help guide a couple towards the right home, as well as price-negotiating savvy.  These agents can often make tens of thousands of dollars difference in the price of a home!  They also serve as a buffer between buyer and seller, and handle the mass of paperwork to make the transition as stress-free and seamless as possible.  ­
4. Financial Preparation
There are two main avenues of purchasing a home, purchasing the home outright with money already in the bank, or obtaining a loan and providing a down payment.  It is crucial for a couple sit down and to determine their optimal budget, as well as exactly where this money will come from before shopping for a home or signing a home contract.  Most lenders require a down payment of twenty percent of the cost of the home, so keep this in mind.  Also, remember to factor in insurance, and closing costs to the home budget.
A couple’s first home is a giant step for a new family, and can be the most memorable move of their lives.  Following these tips will aid in making the memories good ones!



by Phil Kelley

~Halloween used to be about pumpkins and jack-o’-lanterns. Now it’s on the level of Christmas trimmings – extravagant and sometimes over the top. Not everyone has the inclination or budget to go all out for what used to be just a kid’s holiday, but below are a few basic, inexpensive, family-friendly yet frightening ideas to give your home a haunted look.

It’s all about black – This works best indoors. Black candles, black vases, black flowers.

Bump up the candle display – Votives are fine, but candelabras are better.

Bones – Dollar stores offer a plethora of inexpensive décor and bones are among the many that drive the spook factor home. Prop them on steps, porch swings and throughout the yard.

Dead Flowers – Long-stem varietals or thin branches create more drama. Pull a few stems and paint them black for extra eeriness.

Tombstones – These can be found for cheap or made from cardboard at home.

Spider Webs – You’ll probably need several bags to create the desired effect, but these are a dollar store staple.

Ghosts – These undoubtedly do the trick. Drape and rubber band a white curtain or sheet around a small ball then hang from porches, trees, or in front of windows.


by Phil Kelley

~Fall is upon us – a season ushered in with brisk mornings, early evenings, and so many things to celebrate. As we prepare to revel in apple picking, pumpkin patches, scarves, sweaters, scents of cinnamon, football, and falling leaves in refulgent hues, let’s take a moment to adorn our houses accordingly.

While holiday décor has increasingly inched its way over the top in recent years, homeowners can still add a bit of seasonal festiveness sans all the Halloween hubbub.

Year-round wreaths can be a bit of overkill, but there’s no reason not to warm up the winter holidays with a tasteful wreath of leaves, sunflowers or other deep orange, yellow and red flowers. An assortment of pumpkins is also an easy way to celebrate the season. Display a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, along with a few accent squashes. Step it up by assembling them in a red wagon or overflowing from a cornucopia basket.

For the indoors, swap out bright colored pillows with those of warmer shades and earth tones. Drape a cozy throw over the back of a chair to add uncluttered layering to your living room.

Create centerpieces and interesting elements throughout the house with an arrangement of (mixed color) apples and pears or mini pumpkins. Pile them abundantly in a wooden bowl or stock a hurricane candleholder or vase.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 13




Contact Information

Photo of Phil Kelley Real Estate
Phil Kelley
RE/MAX Realty Group
Six Montgomery Village Ave., Suite 200
Gaithersburg MD 20879
Phone: 301-983-2428
Cell: 301-873-7635
Fax: 301-417-9736

 Each Office Independently Owned and Operated