First US Large-Scale Solar Power Tower

July 14, 2009

Chris On-site


eSolar Plant

OK, for those of you who care about my family (of course all of you do) you might be interested in watching the National Geographic Channel at 5 PM on Thursday, July 16 where Sean Riley in World’s Toughest Fixes will participate in constructing America’s first large-scale solar power tower, courtesy of eSolar, Chris’s company.

Not literally his company, but he does have stock options. And he’s R & D-ing power tower designs.

In Fairfax County, that’s Cox HD channel 719 or Cox Digital Discovery Tier channel 160.esolarlogo


One Last Graduation . . .

May 11, 2009

Vicky HannemannMy youngest child Victoria . . . no more a “child,” to be sure . . . graduated from James Madison University on Saturday, with her older already-anointed brothers looking on with pride. It’s hard to believe this was the angsty teen who four years ago  in her first dorm room was putting her stuff back into the boxes as fast as her Mom was taking it out, insisting she wanted to go home.

Somehow we all survived that first month and she made the Dean’s List. Fourteen months later she was off to London on her own for a semester of history, literature, theater and pub crawling. Then it was the rigors of two years of regimented nursing school curriculum, and now she’s a BSN – or Bitchin’ Sexy Nurse, as I like to say. And a good one, apparently, because INOVA Alexandria wants her on the Labor & Delivery floor badly enough to drop an open RN2 position to pick her up as a fresh grad. She must have impressed them when she interned there last summer, and did her student nursing there afterwards. She impresses me, that’s for sure.

But I might be just a little biased, perhaps. A father’s prerogative.

March 2009 Northern Virginia Sales Info

April 15, 2009

chartMarch 2009 home sales activity for Fairfax and Arlington counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna (this sounds like a weather alert, doesn’t it?):

A total of 1,384 homes sold in March 2009, an increase of 11% over March 2008. That’s great, but look at this – pending home sales, based on signed contracts, are 2,306, up a fantastic 33% from last year!

Active listings – homes on the market – decreased by 20% from last year, with 8,069 active listings in March, compared with 10,123 homes available in March 2008. Fewer homes on the market usually means prices are poised to start rising. The supply of homes has again fallen into the under-six-months “seller’s market” range.

Another sign of strong activity – the average days on market (DOM) for homes in March 2009 decreased by 18% to 89 days, compared with 109 days in March 2008.

Sales prices continue to remain lower than those realized last year. The average sales price in March fell 17% percent from March 2008 to $395,512, while the median price was $335,000, also a decline of 17%. Interestingly, though, the average and median sale prices are both about 5% higher than last month.

Agents are reporting a considerable number of multiple-offer situations on foreclosures, and on attractive well-priced homes in good condition, particularly in price ranges under $425,000. If you are looking for such a home, be prepared to act decisively – and, if the home is right for you, don’t let yourself be outbid.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email:

It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!

Kim & Janet Visit New York City

April 11, 2009

newyorkskylineYes, it’s true, we went to the b-i-i-i-g city. We have the photos to prove it. And you are going to see some of them.

After hemming and hawing over whether to take a so-so cruise for Janet’s spring break, we decided instead to visit New York. Janet had been listening to the Jersey Boys CD for a couple of months and was really itching to see the show, and she hadn’t seen Ellis Island. Apparently she missed that marching band trip, the one where the band director got on the wrong ferry leaving Ellis and left 3 busloads of high school kids and chaperons sitting in New Jersey for an hour wondering where he was. Battery Park, it turned out . . .

affinia-dumontI was going to book a hotel in Midtown near the theater, but one of Janet’s friends suggested a small chain called Affinia. I found the Affinia Dumont on 34th Street in Murray Hill, and it was great. 35 stories but only about 7 rooms to a floor.

affiniasuiteWe had a junior suite on the 28th floor with a full kitchen and an executive desk setup, not to mention a corner view with the Chrysler Building out one window and the East River out the other. I felt like a big shot sitting there in my corner office. We admired a building across the street with nice gardens on some of the upper floors. At first we thought it was an exclusive condo, but it turned out to be the US headquarters and conference facility for Opus Dei (remember The DaVinci Code?).

newyork093The Barking Dog Bar & Grill – and yes, I did the usual and asked the clerk if he said “Barfing Dog” – was next door and served as the hotel’s restaurant. They have a small plaza where they welcome dogs to enjoy a meal with their owners (in decent weather). Their motto is Sit! Stay! Great place – we had breakfast there every day, and a couple of dinners too.

One evening we ran into Sandy Davidson, the owner of Annandale’s AnnSandra – one of Janet’s favorite shops – where Vicky has worked on and off for a couple of years. Sandy was also staying at the Dumont and was having Seder with her family and friends.

Weatherwise, New York did not exactly welcome us. We arrived late on a pleasant Sunday afternoon and toted our little suitcases six blocks or so up 34th St from Penn Station (we parked in New Jersey and rode the train in – yokels that we are, we first jumped on an Amtrak with our NJTransit tickets, and they booted us off at the airport to await the correct train). That was the last decent weather we had until we left on Thursday. Monday it poured most of the day, Tuesday was showers on and off, cold and windy, and Wednesday was more of the same with snow flurries. Spring, isn’t it lovely?

newyork05On Monday, Janet went to the ten-floors-of-shopping Macy’s at Herald Square, while I got in some exercise at the hotel gym (very nice, by the way). Janet had the forethought to be carrying the camera and took some pictures of Macy’s annual Flower Show, in between marveling at a whole floor dedicated to Petites and buying at least two pairs of shoes.

newyork071Monday evening we took Brendan’s advice and checked out Otto Enoteca, Mario Batali’s wine bar/pizza joint at 1 Fifth Avenue. Actually, the entrance is on 8th Street, but that’s waaaay too mundane an address for a celebrity chef joint. As is our practice, we went out on a limb with our dinner orders . . . she had the margherita pizza, but I was even more daring – pepperoni! With a glass of white zin! It was great pizza, and it was not done in an oven, but on a griddle.

desserttruck1After dinner, we went to find the Dessert Truck. Brendan told us it would be around St. Mark’s Place, just up 8th St from Otto. We searched the area twice, went around two blocks or so before giving up. We headed back to the hotel where we found the following note on the web site:


we will not be open tonight because of the weather. please watch the NCAA men’s championship game instead. thank you.

No, thank you! We saved room for dessert, but in the end we were thankful to have avoided the calories and had a nice walk. Then Janet went for a massage while I watched the Big Game. I had already lost my shirt and pants in the Big Johnson contest, so it was all fun.

newyork08Tuesday we decided to check out some of the NY cultural scene and visited the Guggenheim Museum. Although I enjoy a variety of abstract and contemporary art – for instance, I liked the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Tate Modern in London – I didn’t enjoy the art in the Guggenheim. In hindsight, I think we would have enjoyed MoMA instead, but Janet was completely put off by the thought of another modern art museum, so we went down Fifth Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Now this is one huge museum. So big, in fact, it’s almost overwhelming. We stayed only an hour or so – despite the $20 admission – but we enjoyed the incredible display of European royal porcelains.

newyork12It was so cold, though, we wound up heading back to the hotel for a nap – but not before we stopped by Macy’s so I could check out the ten-floors-of-shopping and get a photo of the Empire State Building (being rebuilt, BTW).

That evening we had dinner at a nice place in the theater district, Rino Trattoria, before going to the show. The owner said that it’s been a tough few weeks – the economy has been keeping both the locals and the visitors away. He was out in the street offering to pay for your meal if you didn’t like it! We enjoyed the meal so we didn’t take him up on the offer.

jerseyboyslogoFinally, we saw the show that was the purpose of our visit – Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Terrific show. Of course, the original cast has been gone since 2007, but the current cast is certainly excellent, and they are still packing in the crowd. We would see it again – I suppose that’s the ultimate compliment. And I understand it’s going to be in DC this coming October, so we probably will be seeing it again!

newyork10Last but not least, on Wednesday we braved the snow, wind and cold in New York Harbor to pay our respects to Lady Liberty and visit Ellis Island. Fortunately, I had booked reserve ferry tickets – otherwise we would have been standing in the cold, wind and snow for well over an hour just to get on the ferry. It was an impressive sight, especially when the sun came out in between the flurries as we were passing the statue.

We chose not to get off the ferry at the monument – we could not get tickets to go up in the statue, and it was too cold to just walk around outside – so we went on to Ellis Island.

ellisisland1Ellis Island was the point through which about 12 million immigrants, chiefly European, passed between 1892 and 1924, probably the greatest period for immigration in US history. (Restrictive quotas limited immigration after that time, and the processing moved to embassies and consulates overseas.) These were the third-class and steerage passengers on the steamships – the “rich” first- and second-class passengers were cleared to enter by the time the ships docked in New York, while the hordes of poorer folk were ferried to Ellis Island to undergo a number of screening tests to ensure they would not be “likely to become a public charge.” I know my grandparents were admitted from Denmark in 1909, but I could not find them in the Ellis Island records – it’s possible they had money enough to avoid it, but I wouldn’t have guessed that. About 100 million Americans can now trace their ancestry to Ellis Island. In the current immigration-unfriendly atmosphere, that’s amazing.

Afterward, we had a nice (but cold) stroll up the East River to the South Street Seaport. We’d been there before when Vicky’s TJ Marching Colonials played their Harry Potter show on a rainy October afternoon in 2002, but it was a lot more crowded this time. We ate a late lunch at Harbour Lights and watched people crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Did I mention it was cold (and windy)? I guess they didn’t notice.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email:

It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!

Big Johnson Basketball Winners!

April 10, 2009

bigjohnsonThe Seventh Annual Big Johnson College Basketball Tournament Classic is history. As is my reputation for competent prognostication, but we will get to that later. For now, let me congratulate the winners:

gruber1Chris Gruber won the Mens Tournament competition, after a comparison of final game point totals determined that he came two points closer to predicting the total final score than did Scott Breunig. Scott claims they tied based on absolute numbers, but all decisions of the judges (me) are final. Nyah, nyah.

Chris is the winner of a brand new iPod Shuffle, handsomely engraved with his name and achievement!

chrishChris Hannemann (a distant relative . . .) won the Womens Tournament contest going away. There was simply no way any team would beat the Huskies, and Chris wisely chose Louisville to upset Baylor and Maryland to get to the final four.

Chris has a different plan for his winnings:

Though it against my better judgment as an engineer to forgo fancy electronics, I am already the proud owner of a perfectly functional iPod. Instead of taking the $80 in iTunes cash, I have decided to go the route of Ms. Deems (victor of last year’s college bowl challenge) and have it donated through a charitable organization. Now most of you would say, “obviously, Chris will be sending a check to a fund focused on curing alopecia” (specifically, alopecia areata barbae . . . seriously, you should see my patchy stubble). But no, I instead am going to invest the money through kiva. Kiva is a microfinance/microlending organization that allows you to make small loans to specific people & projects around the globe (in fact, Kiva teams up with several partners, making it more of a microfinancing warehouse). The loans are used to help budding entrepreneurs in developing nations buy equipment, stock their stores, and otherwise get off the ground. As the money is paid back, you can donate it to the next project. I haven’t chosen which project(s) to donate to yet, but I will probably focus on manufacturing ventures.

Now let’s discuss the big loser – me. In the Mens Tournament, I was beaten by 52 of the 59 entrants. Never have I been ground into the dust to that extent. Naming everyone would take up too much space, so let me list those I did manage to beat: Jon Coggins, Christy Cunnington, Brendan Hannemann, Ron Frazier, Brian Johnson, and Michelle Boyd. In the Womens Tournament, I did better – aside from Chris, only Jason Pollan, Tiernan Doyle, and Pat Hayes beat me, with Jim Cocco managing to tie The Man.

twizzlersHowever, given my appalling performance overall, I have made the Executive Decision to pay off every participant with Strawberry Twizzlers. If you were entered in either contest, you can expect to receive your Twizzlers either in person or in the mail soon – meaning when I get around to finding the appropriate mailers, etc, etc. . . !

One Of Them Finally Did It

April 6, 2009

A personal event:

My son Brendan proposes to Jill with cupcakes . . .


She accepts. Yay!


Tips for First-Time Northern Virginia Buyers

March 20, 2009

pricedownReductions in Northern Virginia home prices, and unprecedented low interest rates for mortgages, have combined to offer tremendous opportunities for renters to become homeowners. The prospect of making the change may be exciting, but also overwhelming.

Here are a few common mistakes to avoid:

hud-logoNot understanding the home buying process. Educate yourself. Find a homebuyer seminar that you can attend, or research online. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has an entire section devoted to first-time homebuyers, information on mortgage programs, downloadable tools such as a “wish list” and home-shopping checklist, tips on selecting a real estate professional, and so on. Another good source is a solid lender such as Wells Fargo or  Prosperity Mortgage whose websites offer consumers a variety of tools and resources on purchasing a home.

housequestionNot asking questions. There are many intricacies to the home buying process, and even though you can gain a basic knowledge on your own, you will still have questions. Be sure to tell your real estate professional that you are new to the process. Choose an agent (like me!) who is willing to spend time with you and walk you through the entire process. A good agent will expect you to have questions at each step – from house-hunting, to making an offer, to the closing (such as, “What the heck is a closing?”). This is one of the largest financial transactions of your life, so you want to have a clear understanding of what’s going on at all times.

Looking outside your price range. Before beginning your home search, get pre-approved by a mortgage professional – preferably one you know or one recommended by your agent – to get an idea of how much you may be able to borrow. Use this information as a starting point in determining your price range. Then take into consideration other factors that will affect your monthly budget once you are a homeowner, such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities, and maintenance. Don’t go out looking at homes before you have a firm idea of your range.

Buying on impulse. Don’t feel pressured into making an offer on the first home you see. Buyers, especially first-timers, may be impressed by the first two or three homes they view. Look at a good selection, then narrow the prospects to a select few and return for a closer look. When you decide to make an offer, work with your agent to get all of your questions answered first. But don’t wait too long to make an offer. The longer you wait, the greater the chance other prospective buyers may place offers, making it harder for you to negotiate a good deal.

storkNot planning ahead. Think about personal changes you are planning in the next five years. For instance, are you starting a family, and if so, is the home large enough and will it continue to be? If you think you’ll be relocating in a few years, you’ll probably want to pay closer attention to potential appreciation and resale value. If two incomes are needed to qualify for financing or to make your payments, do your plans include the ability to sustain those incomes?

Failure to consider location. Don’t just focus on the house. Examine the community. Does it suit your lifestyle? Is the area safe, well-maintained, close to work, stores and schools? Find out about zoning and whether new construction is planned on vacant land in the immediate area. Also consider the potential market for resale in the future. Your agent can also help with that.

    Above all, remember knowledge is key. No question is silly. Your agent and your mortgage professional are invaluable assets throughout the process, and they want you to succeed. Making smart home buying decisions will make the home-buying process less scary and your first home purchase a rewarding experience.