Monthly Notes | Being Wrong, Good Decisions, Pocket Listings

I’m going to be posting my previously-written monthly notes (subscribe here!). 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 March 2014.

The Monthly Notes category.

Writing music this month: The Infamous Stringdusters.

Know what? Being wrong sucks. I’ve been wrong so far about the expected increase in housing inventory in the Charlottesville area.  I’m inclined to think that we’re now in the midst of a different market (aren’t they all?) than the market we’ve been experiencing for the past few years. Fewer distressed sales, fewer investors, fewer first time homebuyers, plus homeowners are staying in place for longer. Fewer overall home sales may be the new normal. I hate being wrong, but I’d hate even more if I obstinately stuck to my beliefs.

This month: 

– The Market

– Coaching soccer

– Validating clients’ decisions

– Pocket listings

– Blog roundup

I didn’t write about all the topics I wanted to because I intended as I chose fairly meaty topics.

The Market


March has brought more snow and few new listings to the market – the first 6 days of March last year had 128 new listings; this year, 76. The market report in short: The City is doing better than the County.

Briefly for Charlottesville + Albemarle:

– Sold in February 2013 – 18 + 71 = 89

– Sold in February 2014 – 25 + 47 = 72  (Down 19%)

– Under contract in February 2013 – 37 + 113 = 150

– Under contract in February 2014 – 36 + 97 = 133


For the Charlottesville MSA (Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Nelson):


– Sold in February 2013 – 161

– Sold in February 2014 – 118


– Under contract in February 2013 – 249

– Under contract in February 2014 – 221


Want the data? Here it is.

I’m always looking for insights and opinions about the real estate market and the influencing factors that affect my clients. I had the pleasure of hearing a talk by David Crowe, the chief economist of the National Association of Homebuilders. He was refreshingly candid, and afterwards we briefly discussed the employment rate (it’s lower than usual) and the impact of student loans. He identified five key turn-around points, and I encourage you to take a look at his presentation. The key points are: 1) Consumer is back, 2) Pent up demand is waiting, 3) Growing need for new construction, 4) Distressed sales diminishing, 5) Builders see it.


Charlottesville 2-27-2014 Crowe.pdf


Coaching soccer. Again. 

I’ve coached girls’ soccer for around 13 years. While I’ve sponsored the teams each season, I’ve yet to have a business transaction result from it, and I’m okay with that. Coaching connects me to my kids, their friends, and the community in a way that few other activities can.

At the end of every season, I debate my answer when the parents and girls ask if I’ll be coaching next season. Every season I say yes. At the start of every season, I occasionally lament coaching and start hoping a little bit for rain. And then those darn girls, who provide so much frustration and angst, confound me by being so happy competing, laughing, focusing and playing for the love of the game. I’ve said for years that my philosophy is that if they’re still playing when they’re my age, hopefully they’ll remember playing when they were little. Few things are as satisfying as hearing one of my girls who I coached 10 years ago say “Hi coach” to me.

What does this have to do with real estate? Not much, except to illustrate that when we bought our house in 2004 we thought it might be a five year house. It’s become more than that – it’s our home and it’s provided us with the place where we’ve put down our roots, and this is something I think about when advising my clients.

While I don’t tend to simply link here to stories I’ve written, particularly personal ones, this is one of my all-time favorite posts.


Are we making a good decision? Should we buy this house? Should we accept this offer?

These are perhaps the most difficult questions posed to me by my clients, more challenging than “What should we offer?” or “Are there kids in this neighborhood?” or “What’s going to happen to that parcel of land across the street?” “Are we making a good decision?” means “Will we be happy here? and “Will we lose or make money when we sell?”

Note: This is not directed at any single one of my clients, because many, if not most, of them have asked me one of these questions. 🙂

“Should we do this?” My honest answer is “I don’t know, but …” I usually answer this question by asking questions that lead my clients to come to the decisions themselves. I’m not the one writing the mortgage, and for a decision this massive, I truly want my clients to be comfortable and confident not just in their ultimate decisions but also in the process by which they arrived at that decision. Often, the decision is to not make an offer or to walk away during the home inspection timeframe. More often, the decision is to move forward with the purchase. But the process matters. The discussion matters.

More often than I’d like, this market presents multiple offer situations, and I do my damnedest to encourage my clients to make decisions in a vacuum. Ignore that there is another offer and focus on whether this home is the one in which you want to be living in 17 months. And three years. And 10 years. And maybe longer. Selling a house is a hell of a lot harder and more expensive that terminating a lease.

Many times I’ve told my clients with kids many times that my concern and focus is obviously on helping them make good decisions, but I recognize that the advice and guidance I provide is going to impact their lives – and their kids’ lives – likely forever. This isn’t something I take lightly, and I try to convey the gravity of the decision to my clients … and then help them work to make good decisions.


“Went under contract before MLS” 

“Under contract prior to going on the market”
“Under contract with multiple offers before we hit the MLS”
“Entered for comp purposes only”

Few things frustrate as much as these phrases. There remains a dearth of quality inventory on the market in the Charlottesville area, and market knowledge and awareness bring value to my clients. But. It’s getting harder and harder to know what’s actually on the market. I’m showing (or have shown by the time I publish this) at least three homes before they are activated in the MLS. At least one of those had more than one offer before hitting the market. Who benefits? Who’s harmed? Right now, there are 18 homes in the Charlottesville MLS that aren’t new construction that have zero days on market; many of these have the phrases listed above. Who benefits from pocket listings?

– I benefit because I’m more valuable to my clients because I know about these homes.

– The listing agents benefit because they may be trying to get both sides of the commission

– Sellers may benefit because they a) have greater control over the process and b) don’t have to go through the full-on invasive-by-definition listing process.

– Sellers may benefit because those buyers who get in early know and perceive that they have to offer a darn near perfect offer if they want the house before it goes on the open market.

– Sellers may not benefit as the open, efficient market tends to bring better prices.

– Buyers who know about these homes benefit because they know about them.

– Buyers who don’t know about them until after they’re sold suffer – and this suffering leads to a justified fundamental mistrust of organized real estate.


Nothing in life is fair.


Many times a week I get emails from agents describing homes that are coming soon to the MLS and an equal number from agents looking for homes to show their buyers. There’s a definite shadow market in the Charlottesville area, and it’s frustrating. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as the listing is signed but photos are still being taken, or painting and other prep work are being done, my belief is that everyone – agents, brokerages, buyers, sellers – benefit when the market is open and efficient. That said, I do my damnedest to be on the inside of these conversations for the benefit of my clients.


Recap from the Blogs


– The Downtown Mall is getting an Arthouse Theater (sweet!)

– Why move to Charlottesville?

– NAR Chief Economist came to Charlottesville

– Low Housing Inventory Continued in Charlottesville and Albemarle

– The Charlottesville City Police are Ticketing Bicyclists (good)

– How to Pay for Albemarle County Schools?

– A Quick Look at Albemarle County Assessments (I found a new infographic tool)



– They Fixed a Giant hole in the Road – This is one of the most-trafficked Facebook posts I’ve ever had. Really. (traffic images here, if you’re curious)

– Looking for new Housing Inventory in Crozet

– Would you pay more property taxes to fund the schools?

– Recap of the Crozet Community Advisory Council Meeting. Storify is such a remarkable tool.

– Property Re-Assessments varied widely in Crozet.

Would not of seen this had I had my head buried in my phone. Need more practice.


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