Tracy Morris Talks Interior Design

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Fourteen years ago, Tracy Morris found herself in a surprising position — she had been recently laid off from her job during the dot-com bubble and in an unplanned move, started the company that is now Tracy Morris Design.  The constant request of designing friends and co-workers homes on evenings and weekends, now became a full-time job.

It wasn’t until April of 2003, when she was unexpectedly published in Home and Design magazine that her interior design business really started to take off.  The projects increased in size and in 2007 she moved from Florida to DC to begin growing her team.

Today, Morris has a team of five other designers in her Georgetown office and her firm juggles anywhere from 15-20 projects a year, ranging in size and scale. Morris approaches her business with a laid-back, approachable style that emphasizes transparency with her clients — something that isn’t always the norm in the interior design industry.

“The [interior design] industry was clandestine — it wasn’t at all transparent. My clients see the net prices and know exactly what the final cost will be,” Morris said.

Her friendly demeanor mixed with her “obsessively organized” work-ethic offer her client’s guidance during the major life events involved around designing and filling a home with personality.

“It’s about getting into the client's head. It’s their space and their home and making it as comfortable as possible for their lifestyle and their family,” Morris said. “I always tell them, ‘I’m your design guide. I’m not going to let you make an expensive mistake.’”

While Morris is based out of D.C., she says about 20 percent of her clients are elsewhere — from California, Hamptons and even Puerto Rico. Interior design projects can range in size from redesigning an entire house, to simply helping a client find the right drapes.

“It is an intuitive knowing - as much as design school can teach, you can’t teach everything,” Morris said.

Every Day Design Tips from Tracy Morris

  • “Stay away from accent walls”

    • “It works well for commercial spaces, but not in residential,” Morris said. ”Pick one clean color for your walls, and highlight with artwork and antiques.”

  • Match the interior design of your home with the exterior look and feel

    • “If you have an all glass home, don’t put traditional furniture. Make sure the exterior and interior are complimentary."

  • Use artwork to liven up your space

    • “It doesn't’ matter where you get it from, or how expensive it is, as long as you love the art, it's better to do something texturally unique than painting a bold color on your wall.”

Real Estate Investment Secrets From a Former Hill Staffer

Eric Wohlschlegel was a 29-year-old working on Capitol Hill when he bought his second house in 1999. At the time, the young, salaried Hill staffer was making $55,000 a year and found himself fascinated with real estate — not to mention, he was wanting to escape the constant cycle of renting.

“I simply did not want to rent,” Wohlschlegel says.

Now, almost 17 years later, Wohlschlegel has amassed an impressive five property portfolio of homes throughout the city and in Palm Springs, CA. Wohlschlegel, who works in media relations by day, personally property manages his five rental properties, by night

How did he manage to amass his portfolio into what it is today?

“There really isn’t a secret,” Wohlschlegel said. “It was a matter of stumbling into a good investment.” The first home in Capitol Hill that he purchased doubled in value in the first two years, when Wohlschlegel was just 26.  It was a 5 bedroom 3 story federal style Victorian close to the Supreme Court.  
You can’t buy half a studio apartment for what I paid for it.” Since then, all his properties have significantly gained value over time some doubling in value and some quadrupling.

As soon as he purchased the first house, he rented out the basement. When the adjacent property became available, he was quick to purchase and rented out the three units, there.

“By renting those three units, it paid for both mortgages and utilities. So I was able to live for free,” Wohlschlegel said. “People thought that was kind of a phenomenon.”  He created a blog to feature homes in Washington about 5 years ago.  He has a “passion” for showcasing the beautiful homes in Washington and helping to inspire people to invest.  The blog is called The Cribline.

Is managing five properties hard? Wohlschlegel compares each of his five properties to having children.

“It’s not like one day I woke up and had five houses to manage,” he says. “I learned. I began develop relationships with contractors, and the heating and cooling people, and pest control companies. It became easier after the first one.”

Wohlschlegel says that anyone looking to rent out their property should take the time to properly vet any potential tenants, citing a credit check as one of the most important parts of being a successful landlord. He also encourages landlords to take advantage of the resources available -- , from the National Association of Realtors to a good home inspector when purchasing an investment property.

With the hopes of being able to retire and live off the income from the rental properties, Wohlschlegel has no intentions of selling his properties any time soon.

“It’s a lot of work,” he says. “But I’m in it for life.”

If you're interested in learning more about investment properties contact The Marsten Group for additional information.

Get your home ready for spring with these outdoor living tips

With the first week of spring underway, and warmer weather (hopefully!) arriving, outdoor living is at the forefront of many homeowner’s minds.

Whether you’re wanting to start a garden or redo the back patio, Amy Strunk, a career landscape designer and owner of Amy Strunk Designs, offers some starting tips to get your space blooming.

Understand your space and plan for growth.

Trees are a common outdoor addition for many homeowners — they provide foliage all year round and offer elements such as shade and depth to a yard. Strunk warns that people often don’t account for the future growth of trees, and just how large some species can grow. For example, some maple trees can grow to over 70 feet high in just a few decades.

“Rather than having to take out a tree that’s grown too large, plant the right tree upfront and then you’re not having to remove a tree that’s taken over your space,” she said.

Know your climate.

Are you living in an urban jungle of concrete and small, shady balconies? Or a suburban oasis with acres of green grass to fill? Whatever your setting, make sure to understand the climate of your home’s surroundings.

Consider amount of sun, wind and temperature your outdoor space gets. Temperatures can change drastically from the city to just a few miles outside in the suburbs, so take this into account when choosing your plants.

“Putting the wrong plant in the wrong climate isn’t good for anyone,” Strunk says.

Do your research.

While building your own retaining wall and installing a sculptural water fountain may seem like a fun weekend activity, Strunk says think twice before taking on big projects that should be left to the professionals. 

“You should ask yourself if this is something you can actually accomplish yourself or if you should hire a specialist.”

Style your outdoor space with the same thought you put into your indoor space.

Remember that your outdoor space is an extension of your indoor living area! Strunk encourages homeowners to play with textures and colors as they would with their interior design. From fun planters to a new rug or cushions, sprucing up an outdoor space should be fun. Everyone loves a retreat — especially at home! Find an outdoor foliage style that suits your needs and maintenance level.

To learn more about Amy Strunk Designs, visit her website at http://amystrunkdesigns.com

 

 

What do rising interest rates mean for the DC housing market?

While the thought of a looming rate hike by the Fed may scare some buyers and sellers, local lenders are working to settle any nerves by offering perspective on the situation.

The feds are scheduled to meet March 14-15 and will discuss the possibility of raising the historically low interest rates. This news has caused some local buyers and sellers to become nervous, wondering how this rate hike could affect the DC housing market.

Adding to the fear, Business Insider named DC one of the top 13 markets that could potentially be affected by rising interest rates.

But is there reason for buyers or sellers to worry?

“There’s no reason to panic,” Jennifer Grillo, senior loan officer at George Mason Mortgage, says. “It’s just the initial shock of an increase that often freaks people out. Somebody who was able to qualify at a 4 percent rate can generally still buy a house at 4.5 percent rate.”

For example, the average monthly payment on a $500,000 mortgage at a 4 percent interest rate is $2,387. If that number jumps to 4.5%, the monthly payment increases to $2,533, indicating a monthly difference of $146.

The Fed takes into account a variety of factors including economic growth, inflation and the unemployment rate when determining if they should increase rates and by how much. With the current rates historically low at around 4.25 percent, and the economy appearing strong, feds have hinted that a slight rate hike is likely to come following the mid-March meeting.

But Grillo notes that despite what many think, the Fed doesn’t actually control mortgage rates. Mortgage rates are determined by the price of mortgage-backed securities (MBS), a security sold via Wall Street.

“As a rule, when the Fed’s post-meeting press release is generally positive on the U.S. economy, mortgage rates tend to rise,” Grillo said. “Conversely, when the Fed is generally negative with its outlook, mortgage rates tend to fall.”

So how will this affect the DC real estate market?

Grillo suspects that with a rising rate environment, more people will hold off on selling, which could compound the inventory problem that DC is already experiencing. Those with equity in their houses will be better positioned to handle a monthly payment adjustment, adding to a seller’s benefits.

The bottom line: Grillo feels “the worst is over” following the post-election nervousness among markets.

Interested in learning more about the home buying process? Contact Marian M. Rosaaen with The Marsten Group to get a head start on buying or selling a home.