Date Archives October 2013

Walking a Mile (in My Shoes) as a Real Estate Agent

Overgrown railroad siding. Red Hill VA, September 2010

Being a real estate agent is one of the greatest privileges in the world. It requires a diverse skill-set of sales, compassion, empathy, marketing, organization, hustle, wit and patience. It’s connected me with people in ways unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before and is incomparable to any job I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a lot). It takes no guts to start but it takes all of them to continue.

I briefly started to emulate Greg’s thoughts and style and quickly determined that wouldn’t be fair to either of us. So I went with a bit of a stream of consciousness. But pulled out two of his points that resonated most with me.


I’m a real estate agent.

This is the life I’ve chosen. And I love it.

Every day is a Monday. Or a Friday. I work when my clients don’t.

Answering a phone call from a client at 9pm. Skyping with international clients at 11pm. Or 5 am. My sole requirement for family vacations other than “being together” is “wifi”.

Meet with a first time homebuyer. Hear and see their excitement. Quickly tamp it down because you’ve see so many wacky and unpredictable things go wrong. Allow a little bit of excitement to seep in; this should be a fun process.

Listening. Reading body language – of the individuals and their relations to each other. Helping them ask questions of themselves and each other. Because I’ve done this before.

Discover in the first 20 minutes of meeting a couple that they’re planning to have kids in the next 12 months. Push them to have that conversation a wee bit sooner than they had intended.

Meet with an underwater seller whose life’s dreams and goals are tied up in a seemed-like-a-good-decision-at-the-time-house. Hope you can help them. Negotiate hard for a buyer knowing that the seller is taking a financial (and emotional) bath. Don’t let your clients know how painful this is.

Meet with a divorcing couple and hear and see the anguish. And pain. And realize that you are now forever part of their lives.

A client told me this year that moving is the single-greatest trauma aside from death or divorce that you can inflict upon yourself and your family. He’s right. If I can help my clients through this trauma, that’s my privilege.

Tell a buyer to walk away from a transaction, knowing that they’re not going to buy anything now meaning that the 47 hours you’ve spent with them from showing to education to negotiation to inspections to Release of Contract will likely result in no income.

Work with agents who poorly represent their clients. Resist the urge to tell the clients just how badly they are being disserviced.

Telling clients that I’ve heard my home inspectors describe countless times that getting water away from a house is thing to do #1. And that stair-step cracks in block foundations are usually nothing to be concerned about. And that you’re supposed to be able to see daylight in roofs. And crawl spaces aren’t that scary … even when you hear a critter crawling around the corner and there are only 8 inches of space above your head.

Represent that formerly-young, now-older with two kids, couple when they sell and see that they’ve lived their lives well for the six years they’ve been in their home. Seeing their kids sad to leave their friends but excited at a new chapter.

Coach my daughters’ soccer teams because my “flexible” schedule allows for it. And never negotiate their games. Ever.

Get belly to belly with the public and clients; no amount of social media can replace a handshake. Or looking a client in the eye. Or a hug.

I understand that the advice and guidance that I give to my clients – the best that I possibly can – will directly affect the rest of their lives. More importantly, the decisions that my clients make based in part on my professional (and life) experience will directly impact the lives of their children.

This is a nearly overwhelming and humbling realization, and one that I never forget.

I’ll wear flip flops as often as I can.

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How Do you Feel about Paying for Each Mile you Drive?

Source: http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/1p97m6/the_hovenring_is_a_suspended_bicycle_path/

Would you prefer to raise the gas tax or pay for each mile you drive? America’s infrastructure is crumbling. Literally. How might we pay for it?

Proposals for taxing vehicles’ miles traveled have been around for a long time.

A quick search on Richmond Sunlight shows that this bill “Motor fuel tax; joint subcommittee to study replacement with mileage-based fee. (HJ626)” failed to make it out of committee in 2009.

Virginia’s Department of Transportation released a study in December 2008 that addressed many of the options available for a VMT tax:

One alternative widely proposed to the fuel tax is a “Vehicle Miles Traveled” (VMT) tax. Under this system, drivers pay a fee based on miles traveled rather than a tax on the amount of fuel used. The VMT tax concept can serve broader policy aims as well, by enabling policy makers to set variable fees in different network areas to reduce congestion during peak travel times, a critical and worsening issue in some metropolitan areas.

Some specific possible implications for real estate:

– Real estate agents might be less inclined to do full-day tours for incoming buyers
– I’d be tempted to encourage more drive-bys of homes and drive-throughs of areas than I do already
– We might see further hyper-local focus on areas and neighborhoods. When I was a new real estate agent in 2001, I used to go all over. As my career developed and gas prices went up, my geographical range for representation has shrunk. I tend to not go to Trevillians or Faber or Pratts very often anymore.
– Increase in bicycle use? Right now in most European countries, bikes are outselling cars. This, I’d say, is a good thing.
– Human settlement patterns may see even more trending towards denser urbanization.
– Higher demand for public transportation.

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Walking a Mile

If you’re curious about what it’s like to be a Realtor, spend a few minutes reading Greg’s post, Walk a Mile.

From yard signs (people who almost always say “that’s a lot of money”), from Zillow inquires and from escrow officers. From agents asking for feedback from a showing, from idx inquiries on other agents listings and from buyers who have to see a few houses “right now”. From loan officers telling you the appraisal didn’t come in at the right amount, from a buyer saying “thank you” or from another agent telling you that their seller went with “the other offer” instead. Answer in the middle of dinner with your family, at 11pm, on vacation.

I’m inspired to write my story. Publishing Monday.

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Questioning the Data – 3rd Quarter Nest Realty Market Report

2013 Q3 Cville Nest Report - 5 Year Sales Trend

The third quarter of 2013 ended with a neither a bang nor a whimper, but a nice, consistent breathing pattern. As it stands right now, recovery seems to be in full swing.

I’ve said for years to question the data – whatever its source (it’s why I tend to provide raw data for readers to vet). If you’d read the market report from CAAR last week, you’d have been reading inaccurate conclusions different conclusions than the ones in our report. I won’t go point-by-point through the discrepancies (but will in my monthly note), but will say simply: the conclusions are wrong. We look at data differently using the same sources. As I’ve said for years – question everything (even the stuff I write – and ask me your questions).

Download the full 3rd Quarter 2013 Nest Report

If you watch national news you’d see:

September existing home sales fall 1.9% (USA Today)
USA Today is much the same as the NAR’s blog post
Existing Home Sales in September: 5.29 million SAAR, Inventory up 1.8% Year-over-year (Calculated Risk)
– and then we have Zero Hedge: Existing Home Sales Plunge At Fastest Pace In 15 Month As Affordability Drops To 5 Year Low

Those trends are evident in the Charlottesville area as well. As prices rise, sales volume drops.

Some quick year over year numbers for the Charlottesville area:

MSA – sales volume up 19%
Albemarle – volume up 16%
Charlottesville City – volume up 16%

Single family home prices, long the bellwether for the housing market:

MSA – up 10%
Albemarle – up 16.2%
Charlottesville – up 12.5%

Your micro market will vary.

Update: so I upset a few folks with my calling the CAAR report “wrong” and “inaccurate”. I apologize for my tone, but remain 100% confident that the numbers I and we present are accurate. We do use different methodologies when looking at the data.

I’m not trying to pick a fight and could have been more diplomatic in my original post’s tone. For that, I apologize. I cannot apologize for presenting accurate data to my readers and clients.

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The Walkable City – Achievable in Charlottesville?


What would it take to make Charlottesville and Albemarle truly walkable? People who live in areas that are walkable are happier, leaner, have more money for leisure, spend more time with their families … is that really achievable in the Charlottesville area?

The answer is – the public would have to express its desire for this, the leaders would have to listen to the people, collaborate, plan and execute a vision that would enable the City of Charlottesville and County of Albemarle to create more walkable and bikeable localities. Of course, in an area that takes 30+ years to build a short Parkway, I think there’s a better chance of flying cars gaining prominence than thoughtful infrastructure being implemented.

What could be done to craft a truly walkable City/County?

Walkability matters – there are growing urban cores within Charlottesville and Albemarle and the sprawlish segmentation continues. But … what if each of these urban cores grows up and densely?

This is the original Google Map I did in 2007. I’ve updated it for today’s world. Biscuit Run is no longer planned. Albemarle Place is now Stonefield (and is built). North Pointe is far off in the horizon.

This is a map of the “town centers” in the Charlottesville – Albemarle area

(If you’re looking for homes near these, use the radius search on my search site)

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