Category Archives: General Real Estate
If the “open rate” for my monthly note is only 2% yet it generates this kind of response, I’ll be happy. I’ll lead with “thank you” to the reader who took a great deal of time to email me this response, and for the three stories her response has generated.
Part 1 of 3 …
This month I asked what you (consumers) would change about the real estate process.
A reader responded – (bolding mine)
I wish house listings included a floor plan, even if it were a rough, not-to-scale, sketch. We’d be able to understand better if a house would or would not work for us if we knew the relationships of the rooms to each other. If the agent/photographer is good, we can sometimes get this from the photos — if they are presented in a rational, spatial sequence, and include the transitions from one space to the next — but the quality of the photos is many times misleading (if they look good) or downright awful.
(It amazes me that owners allow their agents to post pictures that are dark, out of focus, include inadvertent selfies in mirrors, or show clutter and junk that could have been picked up and moved out of the field of the photo for 30 seconds.)
Look – providing floor plans isn’t a difficult task; it’s not inexpensive, but neither are houses.
I noted the advent of affordable floor plan technology in 2010. I hand sketch floor plans all the time – just Saturday I drew for a client a house I’d seen a few days’ prior. From memory on a piece of scrap paper, and it worked (maps are useful when combined with verbal descriptions). I don’t know my older daughter’s phone number (which she’s had for 5 years) but can typically recall the layout of a property I saw five years ago.
I’ve written many, many times (and so have my clients!) – since at least 2007 – about real estate photos. The only thing that will change poor photos being used is for consumers to demand more. I send the photos to my seller clients before using them on anything – I want to make sure they both approve and feel good about how we’re marketing their homes.
I’d love to be able to provide recent examples from the Charlottesville MLS of head-smashingly bad photos – photos so bad I wish I could call the seller and ask them what they’re thinking. In one example, I know the agent consistently takes bad photos, and the seller would have known that if they’d spent 30 seconds researching. That the seller permits these photos to be used is confounding, but there you go.
Floorplans – yes, they cost money. So do professional photographers. So do professional Realtors’ services.
Two and a half miles to dinner (x2) – about 16 minutes – is easy. Bicycling as transportation is something other countries (and some American cities) understand. It’s about time we did so as well.
Last week I asked a seller’s agent to get the download speeds from a property in a not-so-rural part of Albemarle County.
“Here is what my tenant sent: … The results were: Pings 36 Download 2.89Mbps Upload 0.47Mbps”
My client will not consider this property, nor will they consider 75% of the properties that they find interesting – properties a bit outside of the City with a couple acres under $500k.
Albemarle County is conducting a broadband survey (click through for the press release).
A few thoughts before you take this survey:
1 – This is just such an opportunity where this should be a City of Charlottesville and County of Albemarle (and UVA) survey, not an isolationist one.
2 – How does this fit in with the Albemarle County School system seeking to build a “dark fiber” network? Note it’s an “upgrade” in the budget. (and who’s bidding on and building it?)
3 – High speed internet increases property values. I haven’t found the numbers defined (yet) but I’ve heard that high speed adds $7,000 to a property’s value. In more stark terms, often the “value” is a binary one – in that high speed access yields a “yes” or “no”.
6 – If a state wants to be known as the crossroads of America and to attract local, national and international businesses – and what state doesn’t? – even its smallest communities need to offer broadband connectivity via fiber to the home (FTTH).
In a transient place like Charlottesville, “Where are you from”? is a common question.
Small talk. Innocuous, right?
The ability to make and sustain small talk is a critical skill held by successful real estate agents – learning about clients and potential clients, asking questions, listening. But. What if innocuous conversation is (wrongly) perceived to be “discriminatory”?
I’ve written many times about and told my clients about the seemingly-absurd limitations imposed on real estate agents regarding fair housing laws. This morning I read the account of a real estate broker in Massachusetts who asked a prospective tenant where she was from – and ended up being fined $60,000. The woman who filed the complaint seemingly suffered emotional distress not merely from being asked the question, but also because she’d been denied an apartment by another real estate broker ostensibly because of her national origin, but also because this case went on apparently for nearly 6 years!
I asked friend and colleague Sarah Stelmok, Principal Nest broker in Fredericksburg and licensed Fair Housing expert for her thoughts. She agreed, with more context:
Besides this being mind-numbingly stupid, here’s the thing; if a customer/ client comes into your office and wants your services, but doesn’t speak English, we are required to get them an interpreter. If I get someone an interpreter, it’s important for me to know where they are from. Not all Spanish is Spanish. Not all Chinese is Chinese. And, what, exactly, was her distress over the question? Fair Housing laws in VA clearly state that there has to be a limitation of housing choice. It doesn’t sound like her choices were limited at all. What if a Venezuelan agent asked the question? Would it have been brought to case? Yes, this is so stupid, it defies any type of common sense. I feel really bad for this agent.
As a real estate agent, I can’t talk about schools, demographics of neighborhoods, and I know that I can’t ask someone their ethnic background. But it’s ok to analyze and interpret the housing preferences of different ethnicities? (This is a fascinating series by the way – What Home Buyers Really Want: Ethnic Preferences Parts I, II, III, IV.
These laws, while grounded in good intent, have become overreachingly insane speech codes that prevent reasonable people from exercising common sense. But I get it. This is the story I tell my clients that explains the absurd fair housing laws that prevent me from discussing whether there are kids in a particular neighborhood:
A couple of years ago a man called me from out of the blue saying that he was retiring and wanted to move home to Charlottesville. Ok, I can help. And he wanted to do so in a few months. Ok, I can help. And he wanted buyer representation. Ok, I can help. And he wanted an all-white neighborhood. At this point I hung up.
Discrimination is rarely so in-your-face, but reasonable people should be able to discern whether “where are you from?” is being asked in a discriminatory way.
It is undisputed that Linder violated G. L. c. 151B, § 4(6)(c), and § 1.04(i) of the commission’s amended regulations by inquiring into Mrs. Stokel’s national origin in connection with her and her husband’s application for a new apartment on July 25, 2007. While completing the application process to rent an apartment, Linder asked, `Gladys, where are you from?’ to which Mrs. Stokel responded that she was from Venezuela. The Stokels believed they were discriminated against on the basis of Mrs. Stokel’s national origin and found Linder’s question to be insulting and upsetting. Despite the fact that Linder’s comment was found to have no discriminatory animus and did not result in discrimination, his inquiry itself is a per se violation of the statute and the regulation. Therefore, on appeal Linder only challenges the amount of damages awarded.
To my layman’s reading of the Decision, the harm seems to have come from the aggregate of the rental-search process, not the small talk question asked. But.
I’ll keep practicing carefully on the knife’s edge of fair housing, pointing out signs of children (literally, the “Watch out for Children throughout Neighborhood” signs) as well as others’ descriptions of neighborhoods. Continue reading
One of the best things I do every month is write my monthly note. Really.
This month’s note is quite interesting – I’m looking at my audience, the reasons for unsubscribing, and I’m taking a bold step in how I define the need for septic system inspections. But one of the highlights being a note from a client that exemplifies and highlights why I do what I do – and why I work so damn hard to assemble the right team for my clients.
I’m also inclined to touch on representation and an anger/sadness-inducing phone call I received in the past few weeks.
Interested in the Charlottesville market and round up of the stories from RealCentralVA and RealCrozetVA? Two clicks is all it takes to subscribe.
Posting early next week; I’d have published this week but I wanted to get a few more days of MLS data before I pull and write about the market data. Continue reading
I have never shown a house in the neighborhood where the neighbors waving was deemed offensive by my buyer client evaluating the neighborhood.
Two of the criteria I and my clients tend to frequently apply when evaluating neighborhoods and areas is how friendly the neighbors appear to be. Think about it the next time you’re out for a walk. A wave and a smile go a long way.
I drive through a lot of neighborhoods in the course of a week and while there’s not yet an algorithm that measures the waviness of a neighborhood and I haven’t yet seen a smileZestimate for a neighborhood, friendliness is pretty easy to discern.
The family riding bikes together in the middle of the day last weekend? Left a great impression on my clients (and they were all wearing helmets).
One decades-old question was answered with a resounding no.
“A bypass is not something we would consider,” Norfolk-based consultant Philip A. Shucet, the head of the advisory panel and former commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation, told the board.
Nearly two years after officials awarded a contract for the bypass, and after $54 million was spent on the project, the planned 6.2-mile road has become a footnote.
The transportation board, a 17-member panel of gubernatorial appointees that presides over Virginia’s transportation system, will determine what happens to unspent money from a project state officials had valued at more than $244 million.
If nothing else, this seems to remove the uncertainty from the conversation about the Western Bypass. We can return now to our discussions about the woes of traffic on 29 North and how the CharlAlbemarle area is woefully incapable of understanding the issues and equally incapable of implementing solutions. Such is life.
Rather than go into the history of the Western Bypass (it goes on for decades), discuss the various regional influences (Lynchburg is key), the various local players (broadly it’s growth vs no-growth) and whether VDOT is going to sell the houses it bought many years ago (it should if the Bypass is truly dead) or even whether the Western Bypass was the right route (it wasn’t but that’s because it’s a 30+ year old design, designed well before massive growth on 29 North) – start looking at background at Charlottesville Tomorrow.
There is a fundamental disagreement over what, exactly, U.S. 29 is. Is it a major north-south transportation corridor with the goal of providing relatively unimpeded traffic flow to through traffic along its 1,000-mile path or is it, in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, a local retail strip? It can’t be both. …
Charlottesville and Albemarle, however, still persist in their silly, outdated belief that U.S. 29 is really just “Emmett Street,” the local retail strip, and has no connection to the rest of the state. That’s evident in Albemarle’s “plan” to address improvements on Emmett Street: a silly, utopian “Places29” with overpasses — built where major retail centers now sit — for through traffic, pedestrian-friendly amenities and added lanes for traffic.
I think they’re right. If the bypass is truly dead, what’s the solution?
Short story – a new solution needs to be implemented. One would assume it would need to be agreed upon first, so let’s accept that the segmentation of the Charlottesville – Albemarle region will continue. Not that that’s a bad thing, it just is. (more)
I’m thinking we will need to wait for Elon Musk’s hyper loop.
From time to time, I’ll see a house that’s still active on the market (I showed one on Wednesday in fact) but is under contract with a kick out clause. Right now, there are 6 such instances out of 1764 active listings in the Charlottesville MSA and MLS.
What’s a Kick out Clause?
A kick out clause is a chance for the seller and buyer to have their respective cakes and eat them, too.
Or, when a buyer wants to buy a home but hasn’t yet sold their current home, and the seller wants to accept the offer but not fully remove the home from the market.
If a house is under contract with a kick out clause, that means it’s under contract but the buyer most likely has a home sale contingency. If another buyer were to come along with an offer the seller wanted to accept, the seller would accept the second offer, subject to the first offer’s termination and give the buyer notice and give them 48 hours or so to remove their home sale contingency. If the buyer chooses to not remove the contingency (most likely because they cannot) the seller could kick out the first offer and accept the second one.
Seller’s happy, second buyer is happy, first buyer notsomuch.