Newsletters

Get Open House delivered to your inbox every Tuesday Morning.

There’s virtually no risk of tumors, a vet says.
Image via Shutterstock.

Have a question you'd like to ask a vet? Send your query to pets@washingtonian.com with the subject line "Vet Q."

Q: We're debating having our new dog microchipped, but we've read some stuff online about negative side effects of microchipping. What do you tell your patients?

Dr. Chris Miller, AtlasVet DC: Oh, the internet. It’s such a wonderful source of information. Most veterinarians and doctors will tell you that they can’t stand it when their clients begin doing research on their own, and I used to be one of them. The trick is knowing where to look and how to differentiate legitimate sources from unreliable ones. When it comes to medicine, there is a website for everything covering every topic imaginable. This is certainly the case with microchips.

I tell clients the truth is that microchips are incredibly helpful and have revolutionized pet safety. They are small, inexpensive, and simple to administer, and more than double the chance of you getting your pet back if it gets lost. When an unknown pet arrives at a hospital or shelter, scanning for a microchip is one of the first things done to help identify the animal and locate its owners.

But what about all those negative side effects listed on the internet? Maybe you’ve heard the biggest rumor, which is that microchips cause tumors. It is probably best to stick with the American Veterinarian Medical Association’s website on this one. While it is actually true that there have been cases of tumors affiliated with microchip implantation, the numbers should clear things up. Of the 3.7 million pets that were microchipped in a British study, two tumors were reported. Two! I don’t have enough room for the zeroes required to show you how tiny of a percentage that is. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of microchips I’ve placed, I’ve never seen a tumor form at the site. Neither has any doctor I’ve ever spoken to about the topic.

Other things you might have read on the internet about microchips include that they migrate from the area at the shoulder blades where they are implanted to other parts of the body, or that they don’t work. While migration can happen, it is extremely infrequent, and the newer microchips are less likely to move. Microchips are manmade objects and occasionally can fail to read, but this, too, is extremely rare. This is why it is a good idea to get your vet to check the microchip at the annual visit. The most common cause of a microchip failing to reunite pets with their loved ones is that it wasn’t registered or the owner’s information is inaccurate. There are several types and brands of microchips, and each one has a database that syncs the microchip number with the owner’s information.

If you are still skeptical of the safety of microchips, ask your veterinarian if he or she has ever seen a significant complication with them. I’m confident they most likely will not have anything negative to say. The biggest issues with microchips are usually due to human error, such as improper implantation, inaccurate reading techniques, and inaccurate or absent registration information. The good news: As microchips become more and more commonplace, these issues are becoming less and less frequent. The benefit-to-risk ratio of microchipping your pet is a no-brainer—get it done.

Find Dr. Chris Miller on Twitter at @DCVet.

Posted at 10:30 AM/ET, 01/14/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Marble countertops, an in-law suite, and a garage for $899,900. By Caroline Cunningham

The home is a century old, but fresh paint, tidy landscaping, and new slate on the front walkway do a good job of disguising its age. The Columbia Heights house has an equally updated interior, complete with slick hardwood floors, modern light fixtures, waterfall-style marble countertops in the kitchen, and more marble in the bathrooms. In addition to four bedrooms and three and a half baths, there's also an in-law suite on the bottom floor. A new deck out back looks like an ideal hangout spot for spring. And until then, you can park your car in the garage to keep it safe from winter weather.

1346 Otis Pl., NW is listed at $899,900. Take a peek inside below, then go to Exit Bennett Realty for more details.

Read More

Posted at 04:40 PM/ET, 01/12/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The pro renovator answers our design questions. By Michelle Thomas
A kitchen design by Lisa Magee.

Case Design’s Lisa Magee has been a mainstay of the remodeling biz for 12 years, and in 2013 she was honored as one of the professional remodeling industry’s “40 Under 40.” Here, she tells us her opinion on form versus function—and her favorite place to splurge.

What's one small trick that makes a big impact?

Knobs and pulls! Want your personality to show in your home? Replace those old drab pulls with something you love.

Best source for a high-design bargain?

Room & Board. If you’re looking for home furnishings but don’t want to take out a loan, you’ll be sure to find what you need here.

When it comes to kitchens and bathrooms, which matters more: form or function?

This depends on what type of use it gets. If your parties are catered and you prefer dining out over cooking, your options for high design in your kitchen will be far greater. A handcrafted vessel sink that would never work in your kid’s bath might work wonders in the powder room.

What's the one design element you always like to splurge on?

The kitchen sink. This is something you use several times a day and will appreciate spending more on.

Name your favorite:

Lamp: Hubbardton Forge.

Countertop material: Cambria Quartz.

Appliance: Thermador Pro Series Range.

Paint color: Benjamin Moore Pearl Gray. Pairs well with every accent color.

Posted at 10:24 AM/ET, 01/12/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
They were once destined for dinner plates—now they're looking for homes. By Marisa M. Kashino
Photos courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League.

Nearly two dozen dogs once destined for dinner plates in South Korea are now in Washington, and will soon be ready to find their forever homes.

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International rescued the 23 dogs from a meat farm in Seoul that was shut down. According to a press release from Humane Society International, the organization "secured an agreement with [the farmer] to stop raising dogs for food and move permanently to growing crops as a more humane way to make a living."

The dogs arrived in the Washington area this week and have been staying at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria. Some remain at that shelter, while the rest were transferred Friday to five other local rescue groups. Five went to the Washington Animal Rescue League, including the dogs pictured here. Others went to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, Loudoun County Animal Services, City of Manassas Animal Control and Adoption Shelter, and the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

Though the animals will need time to adjust and recuperate, all six shelters will work to find them loving families. Hopefully that won't be too hard, because come on, just look at these faces!

Posted at 03:05 PM/ET, 01/09/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Looking for a fury friend? One of these cuties—all available at Washington-area rescues—might be your match.

Sebastian (above) is a six-year-old cat who was surrendered because his owners' work schedules prevented them from properly caring for him. He is friendly, playful, and affectionate, and has a personality that's more like a dog's. You can meet him at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

Gigi is a two-year-old rabbit who likes to run and play, but will also cuddle up and give you lots of affection. She lived briefly in a home with other rabbits, and their presence seemed to upset her, so she might do best as the only bunny resident in her new home. You can meet her at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

Falcor is a four-year-old cat who was surrendered because his owner got new dogs. He loves belly rubs, chin scratches, and napping in the sun. He is great with kids and loves to be the center of attention. You can meet him at the Washington Humane Society's New York Avenue shelter.

Mimi is a three-year-old mutt who looks like she might be a chow or shepherd mixed with a Dachshund. She weighs 39 pounds, loves attention, and is very sweet and eager to please. She is available for adoption through K-9 Lifesavers.

Hopper is a shepherd/Carolina dog mix who is approximately two years old. He weighs 51 pounds and is great with everyone. He is very smart, curious, and eager to play. He is extremely friendly and would likely do well with kids. He gets along great with other dogs. He is available for adoption through K-9 Lifesavers.

Brad is an American Staffordshire-terrier mix who arrived at the Washington Animal Rescue League with his littermates in early December. Now three months old, all with a clean bill of health, Brad and his siblings are are looking to for loving homes. Like most puppies, Brad has lots of energy and will do best with a family willing and able to give him plenty of exercise, guidance, and training (WARL offers a six-week puppy class for $75).

Betty Boop is a three-year-old female calico. She arrived at the Washington Animal Rescue League in late November, rescued from the streets by a good samaritan. When no one came to claim her, she was made available for adoption. Betty is a bit bashful, but once she gets to know you, she’s very affectionate and adores having her head and ears scratched. Stop by the Washington Animal Rescue League to meet Betty Boop.

Connor is a Lab/husky mix who is between one and two years old. He's a sweet boy who gets along well with other dogs. He has gorgeous blue eyes and, like any husky mix, loved playing in this week's snow. He is high energy and would do best with an active family who has a fenced in yard where he can run and play. To find out more about Connor, please visit the Rural Dog Rescue website.

Opie is a hound mix, likely between six and seven years old. He seems to have had a pretty tough life before coming to Rural Dog Rescue. He was very thin and had a sore leg, but now he's happy and healthy. He loves dogs, cats, and people, and just wants to lounge around the house all day. He's house and crate trained and would make a wonderful, easy going, family dog. For more information on Opie and other adoptable dogs, please visit the Rural Dog Rescue website.

Posted at 12:03 PM/ET, 01/09/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
You sell your house to the offer you get, not the offer you wish you got. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph via Redfin.

In the latest in a string of plans that did not pan out the way he envisioned, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has sold his house in Kalorama for nearly $600,000 less than what he originally listed it for. The seven-bedroom brick federal sold this week for $3.9 million; Rumsfeld put it on the market last June at $4.5 million.

Rumsfeld and his wife, Joyce, purchased the 5,115-square-foot home in February 2001, at the beginning of his six-year run as the nation's top military official. The house, which includes a well-manicured backyard patio and in-ground pool, sits across the street from the French ambassador's residence, which probably made for some awkward neighborhood gatherings while Rumsfeld was in office. It also features "embassy-sized" reception rooms, a master suite with sky-lit sitting areas and marble bath, and a sculpture of a Dachshund on one of the outer gates.

While secluded on posh Kalorama Road, Northwest, the house is not far from Adams Morgan and its nightlife full of known unknowns.

The Rumsfelds, who now live primarily at their home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, paid $3.35 million for the place, according to DC property records. But even with that modest gain, Rummy will have one thing to dangle in front of anyone who dares to criticize his sale.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 10:32 AM/ET, 01/09/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
In colder months, buyers can get an edge in Washington’s seller’s market. By Marisa M. Kashino
Photograph by Jo Ann Snover/Alamy.

Walter Stillwell, an attorney at Discovery Communications, and his wife, Lisa Sanchez, had been house-hunting in Silver Spring, Chevy Chase, Bethesda, and Kensington for nearly eight months without success. “Anytime we found a place we were remotely interested in, of course there were five offers the next day,” says Stillwell. “We were frankly just jaded.”

Then on a Thursday in December, he went for a run near Discovery’s Silver Spring headquarters and noticed a house with a for-sale sign out front. “It was everything we were looking for,” he says. Though the holidays were approaching, the sellers had to list because of an impending move out of town.

Stillwell and Sanchez toured the home the following Saturday with their agents, Heather Davenport and Matt McHugh of Lindsay Reishman Real Estate. The sellers had an open house planned for Sunday—when an ice storm happened to hit. On Monday, Stillwell and Sanchez submitted one of only two bids and finally bought a house.

They credit a couple of factors that can make Washington’s winter market easier to manage: bad weather that keeps some of the competition away and motivated sellers who, for one reason or another, don’t have the luxury of waiting for the busier spring season. Here are four other advantages buyers have during the colder months.

Houses sit longer.

During winter, there’s a better chance Washington buyers will get a night to sleep on one of the biggest investments of their lives—something not always possible in our high-pressure market. On average, properties here spend a median of 35 days on the market, according to a ten-year analysis by RealEstate Business Intelligence. But in January and February, that creeps up to 48 and 47 days. Come May, it plummets to 23.

Contingencies aren’t a deal-breaker.

Because listings tend to last longer, buyers also aren’t as likely to feel pressured into waiving safety nets such as a home inspection. “That’s significant—the fact that you can have a little bit more of a traditional buying experience,” says Robert Jenets, president of Stuart & Maury Realtors.

It’s not just about the bottom line.

Given that many wintertime sellers list in the off-season out of necessity (as in Stillwell and Sanchez’s case), agents say including terms that will accommodate them carries more weight. For instance, a buyer who agrees to a quick close that allows the seller to start an out-of-state job on time might be just as attractive—or more so—as a buyer offering a few thousand extra dollars.

Homes are cheaper.

All of these factors add up to better deals. Though inventory tends to shrink as temperatures drop (the biggest disadvantage to winter house-hunting), shoppers who can find what they’re looking for pay less. The median prices for sales that closed in Washington last January and February were $370,000 and $375,000, compared with $430,000 and $433,000 in May and June.


This article appears in the January 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:09 AM/ET, 01/09/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Two acres, ten bathrooms, and your own movie theater. By Kay Wicker

It’s 15 miles from the White House, but you can play POTUS at home in the wood-paneled library/office of this decked out McLean mansion. Whether the flags flanking the desk convey is unclear, but they’re probably worth negotiating for since they add to the room's House of Cards vibe.

What else can you find tucked away among the home’s cozy 14,200 square feet? Lots of chandeliers—they seem to be everywhere, including in the six bedrooms. There are also ten bathrooms with some of the most ornate vanities you’ve ever seen. It would be a crime not to wipe up the drips after washing your hands in those things, and given that there are nine security cameras on the property, it wouldn’t hurt to be on your best behavior.

The French Provincial style spread comes with a wine room, a gym, a movie theater, a sauna, a five-car garage, and plenty of privacy since it’s surrounded by forest and secured behind an iron gate.

This home is on the market for $4.9 million. Take a peek at the pictures below, then head to Washington Fine Properties for complete details.

For more real-estate picks, follow Open House on Twitter at @openhouse.

Read More

Posted at 02:05 PM/ET, 01/08/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Yep, dogs are allowed there. Here are a few dos and don'ts to keep in mind. By Gwyn Donohue
Photograph by Gwyn Donohue.

Believe it or not, 624-acre Arlington National Cemetery is dog-friendly. The cemetery’s paved roads and gentle hills are ideal if the winter weather isn't exactly motivating you to tackle the uneven terrain and mud of a traditional park hike.

Dogs can go anywhere on the outdoor grounds that people are allowed. Keep them on the sidewalk in places where there are fences or chains to protect the grass, such as around the Kennedy family gravesites. You can also visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Memorial Amphitheater, and more than 30 other monuments and memorials. Dogs must be leashed at all times, and they aren’t allowed in the visitors’ center or other buildings.

Of course, remember to be respectful, and mindful of other visitors, particularly if you’re hiking with a human pal. Recently bereaved families may not appreciate a dog’s greeting or a loud debate over the latest nail-biter on Scandal. This is especially true if you go near Section 60 in the southeast part of the cemetery, where the casualties of the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan are buried.

You can download the ANC Explorer app on Apple or Google beforehand if you’d like to locate specific gravesites or other points of interest throughout the cemetery. Arlington Cemetery opens at 8 AM year-round. Parking is plentiful and costs $1.75 for the first three hours.

Gwyn Donohue is the author of the blog Two Dog Tales. Head there to read about more events, activities, and news for Washington dog owners.

Posted at 01:03 PM/ET, 01/08/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Washington's real-estate market continues to be one of the country's hottest. By Benjamin Freed
NoMa, typified. Photograph by Flickr user BeyondDC.

Rising prices and quick closings are staples of Washington's contemporary real-estate market, and a year-end summary from the listing company Redfin piles on even more evidence that Washington continues to be one of the trickiest places to buy a home. Redfin included six pockets of DC in its roundup of 2014's "Most Competitive Neighborhoods," more than any other US city besides San Francisco.

After a top ten dominated by Northern California, Washington first pops in at No. 12 with condo-saturated NoMa, where homes sold last year at a median price of $645,000, an increase of 7.2 percent from 2013. Moreover, homes for sale received an average of 4.4 offers, and nearly half of all listings were sold for more than the asking price. Redfin calculated its rankings based on increases in sale prices and the frequency of competitive bids, as well as other factors including all-cash offers and how quickly homes sold after hitting the market.

Following NoMa, other DC neighborhoods making the list were Hill East at No. 14, Capitol Hill at No. 16, Brookland at No. 17, Shaw at No. 20, and Petworth at No. 27, suggesting an increasingly aggressive real estate market in sectors of the District that have seen the most investment by developers and other businesses. In Shaw, for instance, the median sale price jumped by 4.4 percent last year to $600,000, with homes staying on the market for just seven days.

Redfin's findings, which the company admits are limited to data based on its own agents' dealings, suggest that Washingtonians looking to buy a home will need to brace with a hypercompetitive market for a while, especially when it comes to making an offer as quickly as possible. In 2012, there were no Zip codes in the area in which listings' median lifespan was less than ten days. Last year, there were 26.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Posted at 04:49 PM/ET, 01/07/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()