Railroads, Appraisals, Offers, Blogs | Monthly Note Archives

Archives of my subscription-only monthly notes. The blog is more searchable. Interested in not waiting a few months to read it? Learn more here.   For these posts, I don’t do much formatting/changing as I’m more concerned about simply having the content here forever (because I own the blog, and I don’t own Tinyletter)


Those of you new here, welcome! Two things: 1) This note is not for realtors, lenders, etc. 2) If you don’t find this note valuable, please unsubscribe; if you do find it interesting and valuable, please forward to a friend!

The Railroad and the Blog Post

Try doing this with a Facebook post.

An appraiser called me some time ago about one of my listings. She said that the lender had reviewed her (good) appraisal and was kicking it back to her because a) her font was too small and b) he wanted something besides her 20 years of experience proving that the proximity to the train did not adversely affect the value of the property.  The house is in Crozet, a village west of Charlottesville that was built, in part, around trains. (NB: this is an out of area lender)

I listened to the appraiser rightfully vent. And then sent her this story that I’d written in 2011, titled “How often does the train run in Crozet?” with a multitude of comments mostly describing the positive effects of living near the train. The house appraised. House closed. Clients happy.

When I told that story to my clients well after closing, my client said, “When we looked at that house, I googled, and found that same story before we bought!”

The train is part of Crozet. If you don’t want to hear the sound of the train and depending on its load, feel the rumble underfoot, Crozet might not be the place for you.

One of the lessons learned – if you want to write something of value, write on your own domain, not on Facebook or Twitter.

*posted with permission of my clients

The Market

What can I say that I’ve not said recently? Some pockets of the Charlottesville market are smoking hot (City of Charlottesville, parts of the urban ring), others are doing fine, and others are seeing extended days on market.

I’ll dig in more in April, but a few quick thoughts:

  • Charlottesville – Albemarle are becoming quite expensive places to live (more so than even a couple years ago)
    • I have growing concerns that there is no viable solution to affordable housing. I have met and have worked with countless people who would love to make Charlottesville or Crozet their home, but there are simply no viable, livable options for under $300K, much less $250K. This sucks, and I wish I had an answer.
  • New construction prices are up significantly, driven in part by rapidly increasing materials costs.
  • Societally, we need to figure out some sort of solution to affordability; young folks need starter homes so that the live-sell-buy life cycle has a starting point.
  • I think there’s a market that is not being met – not everyone needs or wants a > 2,400 square foot home. I’d wager there’s a market for 900 to 1200 square foot homes. With bicycle garages.
  • Not everyone needs or wants to be a two-car family. If Charlottesville – Albemarle would work together to develop and nurture transportation systems that allowed for a less auto-centric ecosystem, we would all benefit.

Why I don’t say I’m bringing an offer

I work from extremes, horror stories, and earned anecdotes. Reality is usually somewhere in the middle.

1) I tell this story to most of my buyer clients at some point in our relationship.

Many years ago, when I was still working all over the place, I showed a house in Madison County (north of Charlottesville). It was an old farmhouse that had been on the market for about 500 days, and my clients liked it, and were feeling confident.

I called the other agent to let her know that I was meeting my clients at the office that night, and would fax (yes, fax) her the offer after my folks had signed it. She replied, “Great! We just got two other offers!”

Moral of the story: Regardless of the market or the property, if you like it, assume someone else does too.

2) Different experience – I showed a house somewhere in the country to some folks I’d met only once before. They said they liked the house, and wanted to write an offer. I, in my naiveté, called the agent, and said that my clients were going to meet me that night at the office, and we were going to write an offer. She said she looked forward to receiving it.

I never heard from those folks again.

Moral: wait to say you’re bringing an offer until you actually have the offer.

I also don’t tell my sellers if an agent says he’s bringing an offer until I have it in my hands. My role is to be the buffer; no need to get clients’ hopes up for something that may not materialize.

Appraisals in a Vacuum

I’ve told this story to clients a couple times recently. When I first started practicing real estate, I wondered why, during the purchase transaction, appraisers are given a copy of the purchase contract. My question was, “Why are they given a target, rather than appraising in a vacuum?” Back when I did real estate board stuff, I asked a fellow board member this question.

The answer: the appraiser is there to validate the purchase price that has already been agreed upon by the buyer and seller.

Market value (as I understand it) is defined as what a ready, willing, and able buyer is willing and able to spend and what a ready, willing, able, non-distressed seller is willing to accept (assuming an arms-length transaction).

In this case, market value has already been defined; the appraiser is there to affirm it. This is all assuming that everything is above board, no fraud, etc.

In the current market in Charlottesville, I’ve heard that some appraisers are having difficulty hitting numbers … and that’s ok. In some pockets of the market, prices are accelerating (too) rapidly. If the comps and the data don’t support the price, so be it.

How Low Will you Go?

I got a call recently from someone whom I met a few years ago and discussed marketing their home. They opted to work with someone else and their home didn’t sell. I don’t win them all; I didn’t feel bad. Fast forward to present day, and they’re going to put their home on the market again, this time for a more aggressive price. They emailed, asking for a quick call. The conversation started with normal greetings, them remarking how impressed they were with Nest(thank you!), how they were looking for a change in agents, and then the first question:

Will you work for less? 

The answer might have been, “Maybe.” Are they willing to price the home at a point that would likely ensure it would sell? Be willing to reimburse me for out of pocket costs after X days on the market, if it hasn’t sold? Stagger commission somehow?

Humans are funny things. I am always open to a conversation about how clients and I might work together. “Do we like and trust each other, and will we work well together?” This is a fundamental question I ask and the client should ask.

There’s more to life than money, but if the conversation starts with “I like everything you do and want to work with you, but don’t really value what you do,” we’re probably not a good fit.

Next month, I’ll go into how good agents close gaps.


Have a question about the market? Thinking about buying or selling? 434-242-7140, or reply to this email.

What I’m Reading

On the Blogs

Yes, I still write on blogs. This professor makes a solid argument for continuing to write on blogs – Back to the Blogs. Per my railroad post, blogs are valuable.


  • Of the stories I wrote on RealCrozetVA in March, this one is the one about which I’m most excited. How Does Local Government Work? Borrowing an idea from some folks in Tacoma, Washington, I’m hoping to have coffee and beer hours where we get together to learn about our local government.


Nest is now offering franchises.

Next month – Stories I tell clients (I wrote some of them down, finally!), closing gaps, evolutions of Charlottesville & Crozet, the market, and at least one more thing that I’ve not experienced or thought of yet.

Jim on: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn Subscribe to RealCentralVA | Jim’s Instagram

Jim Duncan, Nest Realty, 126 Garrett Street Suite D, Charlottesville, VA 22902. Licensed real estate agent in Commonwealth of VA.


I got a new notebook and bought it locally because I was Twitter-shamed by friends.

(Visited 11 times, 1 visits today)

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: January 2019 Monthly Note | Stories, Offers, HOAs, the Charlottesville Market - RealCentralVA.com

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *