Date Archives September 2013

Government Shutdown Threat to the Charlottesville Real Estate Market

Update 1 October 2013:

From the NAR’s page:

Federal Housing Administration

HUD’s Contingency Plan states that FHA will endorse new loans in the Single Family Mortgage Loan Program, but it will not make new commitments in the Multi-family Program during the shutdown. FHA will maintain operational activities including paying claims and collecting premiums. Management & Marketing (M&M) Contractors managing the REO portfolio can continue to operate. You can expect some delays with FHA processing.

Update 2, 1 October 2013 – lending seems to be ok in face of the shutdown, for the most part. A greater challenge will be the IRS –

A less-talked about impact of the shutdown on housing is the impact on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). The IRS has announced they will not process any forms, including the issuing of tax return transcripts (Form 4506 T). The Social Security Administration will retain a skeleton staff, but may prioritize new claims, resulting in difficulties in verifying Social Security numbers.
Some lenders and brokers have been able to race to get these documents certified for loans they currently have in the pipeline before the shutdown.

But new mortgage applications may face delays without these crucial documents. So far, secondary market participants, including Fannie and Freddie, have been unwilling to alter or suspend overlay requirements which require these documents in order for a loan to be sold onto their books.

The biggest threat is uncertainty. And decreased confidence in the market and the government. That said …

So the government might shut down … so what? (with respect to real estate). VAR Buzz has a starter:

Fannie and Freddie will continue to operate. They aren’t funded by the government; they make their money via fees.

However, FHA, VA, and USDA loan applications won’t be processed.

Using current data from the Charlottesville MLS, about 18% of all transactions in the Charlottesville MSA would be potentially directly affected by a government shutdown, assuming the above is accurate (and I believe it is). Again, right now, there appear to be about 500 homes under contract in the Charlottesville MSA. Carry out the math and we’re looking at about 100 transactions likely to be affected.


If an application for an FHA-insured loan has not been approved by the time of the shutdown, it will have to wait until after the shutdown ends.
FHA-backed loans accounted for 45% of all mortgages used to purchase homes issued in 2012, according to the Federal Reserve. The FHA alone insures about 60,000 loans a month.

FHA loans in Charlottesville presumably account for nearly 9% of transactions. So far this year, per the Charlottesville MLS, VA loans have made up about 6% of all transactions, USDA about 4%.

Nearly 20% of transactions might not seem like a lot – until you’re one of those FHA, VA or USDA buyers – or sellers waiting for the FHA loan to fund and close. Then that’s all that matters. Everything is affected when these are delayed – movers, attorneys, real estate agents, utilities, jobs, schools, household goods – everything.

Update: per @rqd and then USA Today – more uncertainty.

43. Does that mean I can’t get an FHA mortgage? No. The Federal Housing Administration says it “will endorse new loans under current multi-year appropriation authority in order to support the health and stability of the U.S. mortgage market.”

44. Does that mean I can’t get a VA mortgage? No. The Department of Veterans Affairs says loans are funded via user fees and should continue. However, during the last shutdown, “loan Guaranty certificates of eligibility and certificates of reasonable value were delayed.”

Some of the things I’m reading this morning trying to educate myself:

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No, Zillow – My Listing Isn’t For Rent

196 Brookwood Dr, Charlottesville, VA 22902 - Zillow.jpg

Zillow has a “rental estimate” on the page for my listing in Charlottesville that is for sale, and it’s confusing enough that people are inquiring as to whether it’s for rent. Consumers – let this be yet another reminder that if you’re searching for homes for sale in the Charlottesville area, the two best places to search are my site and Nest’s site. If you’re searching for rentals, start here and here. Searching for rentals? Start at Nest and then my site again .

My listing is not for rent.

But thanks, Zillow for making it easier to discredit you to my clients and consumers. One day, you might be right enough; one day.

First, Zillow’s customer service response time via twitter first then email is impressive.

My email:

1) It’s not right to display a rent estimate on a property that’s not for rent 2) Assuming you’re not going to stop displaying the rent estimate it would be honest to state explicitly that the property’s not for rent.

Zillow’s response is particularly unhelpful (bolding mine):

Thanks for contacting us! We include a rent Zestimate on properties, even when they are not active for sale or for rent listings, because we feel this information would be useful to a homeowner if he or she was thinking about renting out his or her home. Just as many homeowners are curious about the Zestimate for their property, the believe the Rent Zestimate would be interesting and useful to them as well. When a home is for rent it has a purple home icon and displays “For Rent.” When a property is not for rent or for sale we display “Not for Sale” with no color in the home icon. Please see attachments. Since displaying “Not for Rent or for Sale” would be redundant on each property, we default to “Not for Sale” for inactive properties on Zillow.

No. It’s not helpful or useful; it’s confusing.

As useful as a zestimate between $386k and $528k?

Or a rental estimate between $1600 and $2500?

No, those aren’t helpful either.

But, thanks for providing interesting “information.”

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I Won’t Know What You’re Thinking Anymore

I won’t know what you (the readers) are thinking anymore – and that sucks. Google’s not sharing keyword information with site owners anymore … and this is huge.

For years I’ve looked at the keywords that have brought visitors to RealCrozetVA and RealCentralVA to discern what questions to answer and what was trending in the minds of my readers and visitors.

I know my business cycles as the keywords shift from “buyers agent in Charlottesville” to “fall foliage in Charlottesville” and “Is Charlottesville the inspiration for Who-ville” (no) and “buying a home in Charlottesville in spring.”

Google’s changing all that. I wondered about this a few weeks ago, but this week brings confirmation.

It appears that Google has cut off keyword data altogether.… This means no more keyword data will be passed to site owners.

If you’re interested in reading a bit more, Moz has a useful post.

What this means is that I (and other site owners) need to accept not knowing search keywords anymore. Such is life.

So … I won’t know what questions you’re asking anymore unless you actively ask me (you know – send me a message or call or text me – 434-242-7140).

Recent Keyword Activity - Central VA Real Estate News - StatCounter.jpg

While keyword stuffing in an attempt to game Google has been common practice by many (not just in the real estate writing space) for years, I’ve done that only a handful of times – and have stated my intentions every time.

Ultimately, as I don’t have my own Building 43 filled with people smarter than the Googlers, I’m going to keep trying to write about stuff that interests me, answers questions about the Charlottesville real estate market, growth, politics, etc and will continue to try to answer my clients’ questions.

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How to Search for a Home in Charlottesville (Without a Realtor)

Part 1 of at least 2. Part 2 coming next Wednesday.

Home buyers like the inter webs. Fact. What follows are steps to search for a home in the Charlottesville area – without engaging a real estate agent (we’ll get to why it’s usually crucial to hire quality buyer representation).

NAR 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers - Print.pdf (page 1 of 4).jpg

I first wrote You’re Going about It all Wrong – Or How to Search for Homes in Charlottesville (Without a Realtor) in early 2009 and thought nearly 4 years was sufficient time to warrant an update.

In 2009, I asked a particularly well-informed buyer client if she’d mind describing her search process. Today’s post updates the process for 2013.

How do you search for homes in Charlottesville? (Charlottesville meaning: Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Nelson, Louisa)

1. Your IDX home search site– Browse the map for affordable homes in places I want to live. Or, check the local MLS for new listings and then look on IDX to see if there is more information there. Now, a lot of people are using our site at Nest to search for homes as we’ve put together a great area search and educational section as well. (I don’t particularly care for Zillow or Trulia for searching for homes to see today or this week; but for supporting and ancillary information, they’re great).

2. Look up the found home on Charlottesville City Assessment (Ed note: or Albemarle County or Fluvanna or Louisa, etc.) website to find:

a. Tax Assessment price (In my opinion, assessed values have little to no correlation to what a property’s actual market value would be)

b. Who owns it? Does the owner live there? This often leads to another search on the City Assessment website for the owner’s name to see how many properties the owner has. Do the owners seem to be in good financial shape or have they made a lot of bad decisions (i.e. may need to get rid of the property to stay above water)?

c. Check for any inconsistencies in square ft, room numbers, etc between MLS listing and tax assessment.

d. Look at pictures to see how different the home looked a few years back. (note: this leads to a separate rant about Realtors stripping the MLS of photos of their listings when the listing expires/sells – this kills the accuracy and historical context of the MLS and devalues the MLS as a useful thing.)

e. Study transfer information to see when house was last sold, what it sold for, when it may have had work done, etc.

Realtors have access to a pretty useful (and underused) tool called RPR which allows us to compare the current listing to the previous ones.

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No High School Rankings in Albemarle County Schools?

Albemarle County is in discussions about whether to stop ranking students.

In response to calls from parents to stop reporting class rankings to college admissions offices, Albemarle County Public Schools is in the process of reviewing its policy.

Currently, Albemarle reports class ranks to colleges and universities in deciles, but many parents feel that doing so paints students below the top 10 percent negatively in the eyes of selective universities.


– Does *not* rewarding kids for achievement disincentivize them from trying harder?

– How could we focus educating kids on actually educating kids rather than passing tests in order to get better ranked?

– When folks are moving to Charlottesville – Albemarle what rankings to they consider in public schools? Do they factor in what percentage of

There is a great discussion at RealCrozetVA.

Update – Charlottesville Tomorrow has a poll – Should Albemarle County report student rankings to colleges?

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