Category Archives: General Real Estate
This thread on Reddit the other day prompted a bit of a writing prompt … What are some questions that home buyers should be asking?
In my practice, I ask a lot of dumb questions - dumb questions in that I know that my clients (buyers and sellers) should be asking them, but often don’t know to ask them. So I ask for them … these are just some that came to me the other day. I think I’ll add to this post over time, but felt that these were some awfully useful questions. I pulled some of them from my 30+ Tips for First Time Homebuyers post that I wrote earlier this year.
Have a question? Have a favorite question you like to ask? I’d love to hear (and add) it. 434-242-7140 or email me.
My two cents:
• Is there a survey? Where are the property lines? Are there easements about which I should be aware?
• Is there an HOA? What are the dues? What have the dues done over the past 10 years? Is the HOA professionally managed? (9/10 professionally managed is better than managed by those who have this much free time)
• What's traffic like during rush hour? What's the commute like? (Always, always visit at different times of day/night the place you're considering)
• What's buyer agency? (if you visit an open house - there's a 99% chance that the agent hosting it is there to represent the seller ... not you)
• Should I use an attorney or title company? (in my market, using an attorney is usually the better option of the two)
• Should I rent first before I buy? (my advice: yes - rent in the area in which you're going to buy so that you can learn the area)
What’s your triangle?* The above is from a map on which I was drawing the Downtown Mall, Belmont and what is “walking distance” to Downtown and UVA for some clients.
I've found that many, if not most, of my clients have specific triangles - geofences of sorts - that guide their buying areas.
The top squiggle in the box is 29 North. The circle in the center circle is the City of Charlottesville. The two points of the triangle to the West represent home and school. Typically, my clients' lives (and my life too, when I'm playing dad/husband and not Realtor) lead them to at least three points on a daily basis, and determining these points is often challenging at best to do from afar, or quickly.
Much of what I do is knowing how and when to guide and my clients to see the value of these data points, as well as help them know what's around the corner. (“Did you know there's going to be a subdivision there?”)
Today, Google is tracking wherever your smartphone goes, and putting a neat red dot on a map to mark the occasion. You can find that map here. All you need to do is log in with the same account you use on your phone, and the record of everywhere you’ve been for the last day to month will erupt across your screen like chicken pox.
(I have location history turned off on my phone, otherwise I’d have used one of my own screenshots)So ... if you're moving to Charlottesville, take my advice to rent before you buy - turn on google's location history and use them to better understand your triangles. And once we’ve figured out the triangles and have a foundational understanding of the Charlottesville real estate market, we devise a path forward.
Since I started in real estate in 2001, the fear of being disintermediated, being rendered meaningless or obsolete has been a constant. I’ve chosen to not subscribe to that fear. And still don’t.
Zillow is buying Trulia. For $3.5 Billion. The Zestimate was $2 billion. (ba-dum-bum) Good for them - they're smart companies that execute well. Truzillia? Zillowia? ZillowTru? None. They’re going to remain two separate companies, drawing advertising from the same constituency as before. They’ll save money, but the ones paying likely won’t.
"We started Zillow as a media property, not a real-estate brokerage," said Spencer Rascoff, chief executive of Seattle-based Zillow. "We sell ads, not houses."
A few thoughts, as I truly think it's too early to draw any credible conclusions:
- One of my first questions was "why didn't Zillow buy Realtor.com?" - aside from the entangling relationship that Realtor.com's parent Move has with the National Association of Realtors, I'd argue that simply put, Trulia is a better site and business than Realtor.com. Simple.
- How is the consumer affected?
As a friend/client emailed me: ""Now only half of the sites will get the data wrong? ;-)”
Zillow and Trulia have fought and will continue to fight for accurate-enough-to-get-eyeballs data. Accurate enough because the casual consumer doesn’t seem to care about inaccurate data. Smart consumers are well-enough attuned to the market to know when to not trust what they see on Zillow - and when to vet said inaccuracy through the MLS.
Searching for homes will now be easier in some respects and harder in others. One big site to search, one big place on which to advertise.
Will Zillow and Trulia share data and data feeds? If so, good.
The consumer is going to feel even more empowered than they already do, and the savvy ones will acknowledge what Don Rumsfeld said many years ago - they don’t know what they don’t know. There is immense value in hiring a real estate guide, a person to whom you can direct your dumb questions, who’s going to prompt you to ask the questions you don’t know to ask, who’s going to listen and help assemble the right team for your real estate purchase or sale.
Discerning good information from bad is going to become an even more critical skill (that’s relevant for life, too - just because it’s on the Interwebs doesn’t make it true).
This house is listed for $249,900. It’s a great house near UVA and Fry Springs. But it’s certainly not listed for $75k.
When I make a mistake (it happens), I’m accountable. My clients (or the public) can call me. 434-242-7140.
When Zillow makes a mistake, who do you call?
I responded to the above text in 2 minutes; it’s been 18 hours and I’ve not yet heard from Zillow.
Would you trust the largest real estate advertising site in the country?
Each of these is going to affect how we get around Charlottesville and Albemarle ... and I'd wager quality of life will be affected (mostly positively in the long run) as well.
"... we'll give some key data points. Some of the happiest cities measured by Glaeser and company were Charlottesville, Virginia; Rochester, Minnesota; Lafayette, Louisiana; Naples, Florida; and Flagstaff, Arizona—"
Belmont Bridge's future may be decided tonight - This is the sort of thing that will shape the City and how we live in it.
City engineers have whittled down the options for the Belmont Bridge replacement project to two resolutions for Charlottesville’s City Council to consider Monday night: endorsement of a $17.2 million design less than half the length of the current span, or scrapping all four concepts now in the running and return to the drawing board.
The engineers are recommending the shorter replacement — 205 feet instead of the 440-foot span now standing — as the most responsible use of public funds available to the city, according to a staff report.
State seeks completion of Route 29 projects by fall 2017 - I'll be shocked and impressed if this happens on time. Keep in mind that 29 will be a construction zone for some time.
Cilimberg said VDOT expects most of the projects recommended by former Commissioner Philip Shucetto be completed by October 2017. On Thursday, the agency will issue a request for qualifications from firms that want to bid on the universal contract.
Very, very cool. I do hope that they require (or at least strongly suggest/offer) a class in how to ride a bicycle safely and considerately.
We're at the halfway point. I think the market can be summed up thusly: Buyers are buying, sellers are selling, but there is, and has been, an underlying mistrust of the market by both buyers and sellers. A lot of buyers were burned or saw their friends or parents burned in the previous market and are reluctant to take the plunge to buy. A lot of sellers remain underwater - even those who bought five to ten years ago - and are either reluctant or unable to sell. About a third of sellers nationwide are still in negative equity positions. (I don't have access to local data). Short advice: If you need to sell and can, do. If you want to buy and have the life circumstances to do so, consider buying.
On to the data, solely for Charlottesville City and Albemarle County, respectively:*
Sold in 1st Half 2013: 246 + 695 = 941
Sold in 1st Half of 2014: 259 + 683 = 942
Flat market, right?
Looking broadly at the data, one can reasonably and simply conclude that when prices go up, sales go down and when prices go down, sales go up. In the City of Charlottesville for single family homes, 19 more homes have sold so far this year than last year's first half, but June's median price is down about $5K. The County's market is equally odd; 26 fewer homes have sold in the first six months than last, but June's median price is up by about $28K. Huh?
Micro markets matter.
Broad trends - even at the locality level - can be misleading. I've been advising clients (and writing and writing) that national data, while good for headlines, matters little when making buying or selling decisions in the Charlottesville area. If you're looking to make a decision, analyze your micro market.
For example, the $475K - $600K single family detached market in the Brownsville and Crozet Elementary districts: There are 64 such homes under contract in Albemarle County; 38 (59%) are new construction. In Crozet, there are 22 homes in that price range under contract; 18 (82%!) are new construction. If you're trying to sell a home in Crozet in that price point, your primary competition is new construction and you need to prepare and price with this in mind. In contrast, in Baker Butler and Hollymead Elementary school districts (29 North region), there are 46 single family homes under contract and four in the $475K - $600K range and all are resales. Micro markets are far more relevant than county-state-national market data (or zestimates).
Broadly, we might be witnessing a balancing of the market. I'll let you know next year what today's market is doing.
(All of my PDFs are here, if you're curious and/or you want to fact-check me. Please do; I'd appreciate constructive criticism.)
The inventory question:
In the Charlottesville MSA (Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Nelson), 2,759 homes have been listed so far this year versus 2,876 last year, which is a small enough difference - about 5% - that I'm going to call the new listing numbers mostly flat.
Have questions about the market? Curious what your home might be worth? Thinking about buying? Call or email me anytime - 434-242-7140.
Update 12 July 2014: We at Nest Realty have released our First Half 2014 market report. Download it here; it’s a brand new format - I/we hope you like it!
Update 14 July 2014: I wrote a brief market report specifically for Crozet, Virginia; it’s a highlight that micro markets matter.
Know what this is? (we wouldn’t have had we not done the well inspection)