Monthly Notes | Real Estate Disruption & How It’s Supposed to Be

I’m going to be posting my previously-written monthly notes. Since starting these in early 2013, the only thing that I’ve lamented about the notes is the lack of search- and link-ability. I’ve written before that the blog is my pensieve, and, simply, I want to be able to link to these stories for my clients (and for me).


So, apologies for the cluttering of your feeds for the next few days (fixing formatting from the notes to the blog is time-consuming). This one is from August 2013.

The Monthly Notes category.



It’s August (2013)

As always, thank you for choosing to spend a few minutes of your month reading my monthly note (and for all of the thoughtful replies you send every month!) I thought I’d do a note of anecdotes or notes from the field, as they are … I have a few ideas already germinating for September. It’s been an interesting first 7 months of 2013 for real estate.


Not how it’s supposed to be


I had this whole outline of what I was going to write about this month and then a friend/client sent me the blog of someone in Charlottesville who is writing about her homebuying experience. In short, it’s not going well.


This struck me:

Every time I called my Realtor with questions, she made me feel belittled and like a nuisance.

No. No. No.


That’s not how it’s supposed to be. I can’t tell you how painful it is to read those words. In my practice, I strive to have every one of my clients feel that they are the only clients with whom I’m working. The responsibility that we as professionals accept is significant. I came to this realization a couple years ago – the guidance and advice that I give my clients is such that it will affect the rest of their lives. Really. Achieving this for 100% of my clients isn’t possible, but over 12 years of practice, I’m damn close. When a client calls, I try to always answer the phone – even if it’s during dinner, especially when we’re in the midst of negotiations – if only to say “I’ll call you back after dinner.” Sadly, I’ll call a client back after dinner before I’ll call my parents back (reminder: call Dad).


The market

I sense that the excitement, the hype, the “holy cow! The market’s back!” mentality is waning. In short, things are slowing down.


For now, the data don’t bear out my instincts.

In Charlottesville and Albemarle –

July 2012 – 147 contracts were written

July 2013 – 177 contracts were written – a 20% increase in contracts written.

June 2012 – 165 contracts were written

June 2013 – 189 contracts were written – June to June – a 15% increase in contracts written.


But. Interest rates are rising and more homeowners are seeing and sensing that now may be the time for them to sell – for the first time in five or seven years, they feel that they might be able to sell. This trend is likely to keep the market flat or slightly appreciating for the next several years. In 2016 I’ll let you know if I’m right.


Innovation in real estate

This too, wasn’t in the outline.

Two things will disrupt real estate:


A – Remarkable service. The best professionals. The smoothest transaction possible. The first is achievable. The third is somewhat achievable and is entirely transactionally and situationally dependent. The second … is dependent on the other agent. I could be the best damn real estate agent in the entire world (I’m not). But … if the agent on the other side has “represented” five clients over the past 9 years, we’re likely going to have a hard transaction, and my clients will suffer (for those who read June’s note, you’ll recall “We’re only as good as the agent on the other side of the transaction, and that scares the sh*t out of me) . Not until “Realtor” actually means something other than “paying dues” will the second become remotely achievable. Related reading: Buttered Toast.

B – Clients pay as they go. This is radical, innovative and would change the industry. Think about it: a buyer starts the homebuying process with a free consultation with a buyers’ agent. She likes him and hires him. When she wants to see a house, she pays him for his time. When she has questions about the house’s value and the market, she pays him for his time. When she wants to meet with him to make an offer … you get the idea. Will this ever happen? Maybe. Will it be widespread? Doubtful. But it’s innovative.

For perspective – how much would/should the professional assistance be worth for aiding someone to decide that Charlottesville is not the right place to call home? I’d argue it’s priceless. For now, the answer is “free.” I spend two days working with clients to educate them on the market, the area, schools – all that life in Charlottesville entails – only to have them conclude this isn’t the place for them. Would buyers be willing to pay for that service? Doubtful, and that’s the life of one working on contingency.


Building something to last

I’ve been working with a builder for the past couple of years who, when earning the opportunity, builds a great house. His not-quite-tagline: if you don’t paint it for 50 years, it’s still going to be standing. I’m in talks with another builder who expresses the same mantra – he wants to build something that will last and something of which he’ll be proud in 50 years. It seems that for the 2003 – 2007 “boom time” this mentality was shamefully absent from our market (and I assume others’ as well). When builders had to struggle to earn business from 2007 to 2011 or 2012, I witnessed a remarkable resurgence of quality, of pride of workmanship, of dedication to the craft. Now that the market seems to have turned, the focus for some seems to be returning to “build it and they will buy it.” I’ve always been an idealist as well as a realist; while I knew the quality couldn’t last, its loss still saddens me.




I’ve been writing my little real estate blog for eight and a half years; there was a void in local real estate news, a void in local information … Google and Apple are seeking to fill that void. Rapidly. I’m not going to go into those programs here, but thought I’d bring them to your attention. If everyone’s focused on local and volume, there’s a real opportunity for local and quality.


Looking at the blogs

RealCentralVA – I looked at condo sales in Charlottesville and Albemarle, thought about what constitutes the “best” in real estate, and provided a look at the first half market report.


RealCrozetVA (community blog) – an interesting conversation about WAHS and its (and surrounding schools’) future, a controversial gas station is finally underway, and the Crozet Gators won the swimming league for the first time in 22 years. I despise Facebook, but the RealCrozetVA facebook page is a thriving source of conversation for the community.




It’s been just over a month since my transition to bicycling, and I’m absolutely loving it. I wish there were more hours in the day and week that allowed me to ride more. Three things:


– Bicycling’s not running, but if you want an insightful laugh or twelve, spend a few minutes reading The Oatmeal’s take on running. One of my favorites: “They say you should treat your body like a temple. I treat mine like a fast-moving dumpster.” And Godzilla.

– I’m finding the Strava app remarkably useful for goosing my competitive side. I’m enjoying the Charlottesville bicycling community more and more. Follow me there if you’re interested.

– Lastly, while I’m not quite on track for the training aspect of the 100 mile Boys and Girls Club challenge, my commitment hasn’t wavered. If you’re interested in supporting the Boys and Girls Club, you can donate here.


Next Month

Thoughts after having Google Glass for nearly two months, it’ll be September and I expect we’ll be seeing Christmas stuff on the shelves. (and I’ll try to fit in the two or three things I wasn’t able to squeeze in this month)


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