Selling The Perfect House for $739k (in Clarksburg, MD)

A few years ago, my wife and I decided to move our family back to the Washington DC area because my mother was getting too old to live alone. Our plan was to buy a house that was big enough that she could move in with us.

So we set out on a mission to find the perfect house. These were our criteria:

  • a basement that would work as a semi-separate apartment for Mom
  • the basement needed an easily accessible ground-level entrance
  • the basement apartment needed its own laundry hookups
  • finally, the basement apartment needed its own full kitchen
  • a 2 car garage
  • enough room upstairs for the 4 of us to not feel crowded living with Mom. The kids (ages 2 and 7 at the time) needed a place to play where they could be loud without bothering her.
  • space for a potential live-in aid if Mom ended up needing one
  • a good school district
  • within reasonable commute distance of downtown
  • close to Mom’s doctors, which were mostly clustered around Shady Grove Hospital

For a location, we settled on upper Montgomery County. Our initial search area included much of the 270 corridor. Rockville, Gaithersburg and Germantown. Unfortunately, the search did NOT go well.

We found zero houses that met our criteria. The biggest problem was the ground-level entrance. A lot of houses had them, but then you had to walk up a hill around the house to get to the driveway…that wasn’t helpful. Even if we converted a basement after purchase, the entrance issue was a deal-breaker.

We searched for a few months before deciding we were better off building something to suit our purposes. My mom’s financial advisor recommended Clarksburg, MD. I grew up in DC, and I’d never heard of Clarksburg. Turns out it is the next town up 270 after Germantown. It’s basically at the Milestone shopping center (Walmart / Target / Home Depot) and not far from downtown Germantown.

We flew in from the west coast to take a closer look and fell in love with Clarksburg Village. It’s a beautiful little neighborhood, it is right off 270, and it is surrounded by state parks. Most importantly, the residents fit our profile very well: Families with small children. Our kids would have plenty of playmates their age.

So the next question was who should build our house? We settled on Ryan Homes. It wasn’t a hard decision…their model home was beautiful, and their reputation was better than other builders we looked at. We talked to some people in the neighborhood about their experience with Ryan Homes and they all had good things to say.

Ryan gives you a few basic models and allows you to make customizations. We chose the largest, the Charlotte Bronte model. We also got all the upgrades: finished attic, morning room add-on, kitchen hutch, hardwood floors, extended Master Bedroom with the large Master Bath and jetted tub, and (of course) the finished basement with the extra bedroom and lines for kitchen and laundry. We also had a walk-in shower added in the basement. Between the 4 levels, it is around 5,500 square feet: 6 bedrooms, 4.5 baths.

Now we just had to find the perfect lot that would allow us to have the walkout-basement. The Ryan team was helpful here. We looked at a few options, and after consulting with the construction foreman, we chose a corner lot that was perfect. The ground-level back door would open on a flat path that lead right to the garage. Exactly what we wanted.

To make a long story short (too late), we bought the house and Ryan Homes built it. Then we added the 2nd kitchen and laundry in the basement. We moved in 3 years ago, and we’ve been very happy here.




Unfortunately, my mother passed away last year. This leaves us with much more house than we need and we are thinking about selling it. If you or someone you know is looking for a nice house that is perfect for a multi-generational family, let us know! We’re not going to officially list the house with an agent at this time, but would sell it by owner if someone were interested.

Marie & Issa (pronounced like “Lisa” without the “L”) – email us!

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My Official Rey’s Parents Prediction

TLDR: She was created by the Force.

Let’s start with the other options. It is certainly possible that she is a new character, not related to anyone we’ve met before–but this seems overwhelmingly unlikely. Discounting that, there is only a short list of people who could be her parents:

  1. Han and Leia
  2. Luke and someone
  3. A child of Obi Wan Kenobi

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Star Wars Force Awakens SPOILERS

This post contains SPOILERS. Don’t read ahead until you’ve seen the movie (movies?).

Here is some text for anyone who accidentally skipped the first line or couldn’t resist scanning farther down the page before reading that there are spoiler.


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What is your favorite band?

I decided long ago that this is an impossible question to answer. It immediately divides itself into several small categories and specific situations. Which would I rather have on while driving? To fall asleep to? As background music while I work? Even more difficult, how do you compare bands with one album against bands with ten?

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Programmers Are Still Massively Underpaid

This article by Jon Evans is a good read but I think it neglects two fundamental things. Thing One is the reason why outsourcing will never replace American programmers. Thing Two is that Programmers are still massively underpaid, even with base salaries of ~$125k. Putting aside Dr. Seuss for a moment, I’m talking about Productivity and Communication.

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The Antipattern of the MacGyver Programmer

MacGuyver is amazing. He can take a ball of string, some paperclips, and a piece of chewing gum and build a functional airplane. But the point that is often lost is that he’d much rather build an airplane out of airplane parts. Continue reading

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Munin Monitoring on Ubuntu

Munin is a wonderful tool that creates easy-to-read graphs of (just about) everything you need to know to keep your servers humming along. Setup is very simple, but it isn’t something I do often enough to remember all the steps off the top of my head. Although there are plenty of great tutorials out there, none of them QUITE fit my setup perfectly. so… Continue reading

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I Never Get Tired of Watching Star Wars

Like many people of my age group I have a child who is old enough to watch Star Wars. On my daughter’s third birthday, after much deliberation, we showed her “A New Hope” for the first time. She loved it (duh) and in the past six months she has watched it a few times a week (or possibly more, if you won’t accuse us of being bad parents). Continue reading

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Thank you, Mr. President

Historic: adjective. A word so overused in 2008 that it lost all meaning.

It has taken me quite some time to come to grips with what Barack Obama’s election victory means in the perspective of my own personal history. Though it is a story long in coming, it is one worth sharing.

Barack and I, if I may be so familiar, share a similar background. No, I didn’t attend Columbia or Harvard. But like our 44th president, I was also born in the USA, the child of a white, American woman and a black, African man. My father was from Senegal, not Kenya, but most Americans can’t find either on a map, so we’ll call it even. The parallels don’t end there. We both had absentee fathers who died early and strong mothers who battled cancer. I’m relieved to say that my mother is doing well all these years later but the President’s story certainly resonates with me. Continue reading

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The Path to Understanding

One of my favorite things about the speed with which web technologies move is looking back over the learning process. I came across a page on today where someone was asking about the differences between WordPress, Drupal, and using a PHP Framework. Continue reading

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