Latest RealPodVA – Housing, Cash, Internet, Home Inspections

Our eighth podcast is out.

This was a fun podcast. We talked about housing as a luxury good, cash transactions, internet as a utility, and should you get a home inspection every couple of years?

Listen and subscribe here in iTunes.

Once we get a few more episodes under our belt, I’ll start asking for reviews.


(without edits, post-transcription)


Dave: Hey, Jim.

Jim: Hi.

Dave: What are we talking about today?

Jim: We’re talking about a little bit of market update. Maybe talk about home inspections. Maybe fiber in Albemarle County. And possibly housing as a luxury good, but I think, as you said, that might be too heavy for a segment. I might bring in somebody else for that one as well, but it’s something that I was in a quasi-conference last week in Portland, Oregon, and that was one of the unintended running themes was the cost of housing in America and around the world is becoming such that it’s not affordable for the bulk of the population. And that it’s becoming … not intentionally. It’s just a matter of course … is that in a lot of our markets, housing is a luxury good that most people can’t afford. Like San Francisco. Granted, they’re bizarre and weird in a lot of ways with their real estate market, but $120,000 salary is low income.

Jim: It’s certainly an extreme in a whole lot of ways, but it’s something that you’ve got a lot of people in that market that are flying to the Midwest to afford a house. And you have people from the coasts who are saying, “I can’t do this anymore,” and they’re moving inland. And we see affordability in Charlottesville Albemarle is tough for a lot of people. I’ve been mulling that over for the last few days and weeks about just where we are as a culture and society as far as housing perspective.

Bart: That’s what I said about heavy.

Jim: Yeah.

Bart: That’s pretty heavy.

Dave: On the other side to that, I do have a question of what a quasi-conference looks like.  So, it’s a show. I say it’s a conference, because people understand what a conference is.

Bart: Yeah.

Jim: This was more of a show in that they had the interlude between speakers was a didgeridoo. That was the interlude between speakers. Everyone spoke for 15, 20 minutes, 25 minutes. You had someone talking about branding, and she used David Bowie as her news for all things branding.

Bart: I’ll co-sign that one all day long.

Jim: Yeah. Then someone did a talk on the bigger real estate market from a national perspective. One guy came in, and he talked about the Yo Ching, a take-off off the I Ching. It was the most varied show I’ve been to. It’s a conference in that people go of sort of like mind within the real estate space to go and interact and network and stuff, but you go for more than, “Here’s a new piece of technology you can apply.” It wasn’t any of that.

Bart: Yeah.

Jim: It was more, “This is somebody awesome that I think y’all could benefit from hearing.” A lot of the guys were not from anywhere remotely real estate related. So it was a conference, but it was more of a production and a show and creative types coming together to learn.

Dave: Cool.

Jim: Yeah, so. But that was one thing throughout. One was an MLS executive. So I’m still processing my notes and my pictures-

Dave: Yeah. Yeah. That’s cool.

Jim: … and taking in it, because there was a lot. But it was one thing that they said that looking at America’s national real estate market, the coasts in some pockets are getting so bloody expensive that it’s just not even unpractical, it’s impossible for people to rent or buy a home. So it’s something that we’re going to have to reckon with at some point. I got an email from someone a little while ago, within the last two weeks, and she said, “I see that there’s a new house coming up on old hilltop. And I did some digging, and I see that a lot of those houses along that street …” and for our listeners, it’s houses built in the ’50s and ’60s. They’re good homes, modest homes, probably between 250 and 325 from a price perspective. And she said, “I was doing some digging, and it looks like a lot of those homes are zoned for R2,” which allows for duplexes and stuff like that, which adding more housing units is one way to increase affordability. And she said, “I know that Crozet is growing, and at some point, I wouldn’t be surprised if those houses get torn down and replaced with newer stuff.”

Dave: Yeah.

Jim: And the gist of the email was how do we stop that? How do we stop tearing down existing houses? It happens. A lot of markets, it gets to the point where it’s not practical to refurbish existing house you see. So u tear it down, and you rebuild. But she said, how do we stop that, because I don’t want R2. I don’t want more people and more houses around me. I’m like, so you’ve got what you’ve got, and you want to keep other people from having that?

Bart: And that’s always the problem, like everybody trying to shut the door behind them.

Jim: Yeah.

Bart: That’s happen on the internet. Like when people start sites, or people start different kinds … then they want to shut the door on people on the way back in. Like, “Oh, you don’t know what you’re doing,” or “you don’t care about my community,” or “you don’t understand the characteristic of this community.”

Jim: Right.

Bart: That’s a societal issue, like everybody wanting to shut door behind them on the way back. but that gets into density. That gets into all those things. And I think that that’s where it gets heavy. Like you said, for housing to become a luxury good, is that the situation you want? Entire pockets of cities will just become developed around that ethos that I just want it to be this way. And then you price out of the market any kind of diversity, any kind of artistic class, any kind of everything.

Jim: Well, it’s people. There’s a cleaning person I work with, and she does an awesome job. Works for a lot of my clients. And I live in Crozet, and she lives in [Greene 00:08:15]. I said, “You’ve got so much business here, why don’t you move from there to there?” And she says, “I can’t. Housing prices too high.” It’s more efficient to drive 100 miles a day, or whatever it is, than it is to move somewhere where it’s bloody expensive.

Dave: This is the part that I was going to ask about, though. Are we going to see a change in that direction? I can say growing you, I grew up in New England. My dad worked in Boston for almost my entire young adult life, but we lived in Rhode Island. And so he would travel. He would drive 30 minutes to get on a train for another 30 minutes. And then after work, he would get on a train for 30 minutes to get back in the car and drive for 30 more minutes. And hour commute from living in a suburb an hour outside the city in a completely different state to travel into the city to go work. Because, as you can imagine, Boston is impossible to live in unless you’re in a college dorm, period. It just isn’t possible to live in, basically. Are you going to start to see more of that? You brought up San Francisco. Even Portland is becoming that kind of a city too. Are we going to see more of that, because housing prices in the market is becoming so inflated that you’re going to see more commuter communities popping up.

Jim: I think you’re going to see more commuter communities, but I think that more likely is you’re going to see more people remote working. I always make this number up, but my lens, I’d say 17 to 28% of my clients work out of the house.

Dave: 30% of the American workforce is part of the gig economy, as they call it.

Jim: Yeah. So I think that it’s something that you’re going to see more of that, and I think that that actually is a delightful segue to one of the things that someone brought up on Twitter, is that unless we have sufficient internet infrastructure, we’re hamstrung.

Bart: Yeah.

Jim: Unless we have solid fiber up and down, upload/download has to be-

Dave: And you’ve got put it in rural communities.

Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dave: You’ve got to, like states have to make an investment to get fiber internet into rural communities.

Jim: Yeah.

Dave: My recording studio is down in Nelson, right at the bottom of Wintergreen, and we have to operate on satellite internet, because we just don’t have another option there. And so in which, it’s like, “Hey, the internet is slow as could be.” But I also have to tell clients like, “Hey, when you’re done using the internet, I need you to actually shut the internet off of your device, because your phone, when it’s in your pocket, is just going to suck on it.” And we only have like 25 gigs a month to work with. And if I have five members of a band plus assistant engineers and myself, and everybody’s got their phones on, we’ll suck up 25 gigs in an hour if we’re not careful. And so you’ve got to get it in the rural communities.

Jim: But it has to be recognized, and it’s not looking at it from a political lens at all, but it has to be recognized as damn near a need.

Bart: It’s a utility.

Jim: Yeah.

Dave: It has to become like a utility. It has to. And my small government and pro-business friends, I have this argument with them all the time. They’re like, “No, this needs to be you’re going to get better service by having competition.” I’m like, “But right now, there is no competition. That’s the whole problem.” And it needs to be treated-

Jim: Well, again, looking at it from the perspective of a utility, which I think it needs. It’s like water and sewer. Water and sewer are a utility.

Dave: And electricity. It has to be there.

Jim: Electricity. But there’s one community that I’m thinking of that they sold their private water and sewer authority to another private water and sewer authority, and the rates quintupled.

Dave: Geez.

Jim: Yeah.

Bart: You’re talking about Fluvanna.

Jim: I’m not saying where it is. I’m saying-

Bart: I feel like you’re talking about Fluvanna.

Jim: It could be, but I’m not going to say. Yeah. I don’t understand. To me, it creates economic opportunity for people. If you put it into the rural community, then you’ve changed the opportunity for a ton of people to be able to start their own business, or to be able to run their own business from their house. To me, it’s like a lot of things. You can look at it as an investment, or you can look at it as an expansion of government. But in the end, that is going to create a larger economy. It’s going to create more opportunities. It’s going to create a more level playing field. It’s going to create less poverty. To me, you put that kind of thing into rural communities, you have the ability to change what happens there.

Dave: I’m not going to disagree with you. I’m not going to disagree with you. 

Jim: I don’t know that we’ve got enough voices in this room that could come up with-

Dave: There’s a very large opposition to that argument.

Jim: Yeah. But I think recognizing, though, to your point though, that a lot of the kids in public schools, or in private schools too, if they don’t have internet at home, they are at a massive, massive negative versus their peers.

Dave: This is the stance that I take with it all the time, is we live in the information age, and that information then has to become accessible to every American in the country, period. And currently, that is restricted to some of the areas that I feel need it the most, which is rural and underserved communities in our country and especially in our state right now. And so in the information age, we can look up anything on our devices. We can look up any piece of information on our devices in a moment’s notice. But if you don’t supply communities with that, then you are, by design, leaving certain communities behind.

Jim: Well, and when people and businesses target areas to which they want to relocate, they look at the infrastructure. They look at roads. They look at bike lanes, walkability. There’s a real push, like Apex alternative energy company. they do a program where they will give their employees a bonus, there’s a bonus structure in there that if you walk or ride to work, you get a discount or something like that. There’s an incentive.

Dave: So you’re saying Amazon is not going to relocate their new headquarters to [crosstalk 00:12:31]-

Jim: God, I hope not. Dear God, I hope not. But people look at the internet infrastructure. And so people … and I’ve got a client now that he needs a hard number of up and down. And if it’s not available, he’s not going to buy a house.

Dave: Yep.

Jim: And so companies do that too. Like downtown Crozet, they need fiber. They need legit fiber for businesses to come in and get what they need.

Dave: Well, so obviously we all know Ting is in Charlottesville. And I hope everybody in this room has done it, but Ting has it right there on the website. Plug in your address, and then we tell you if it’s available. And of course in Crozet, it’s not. But it says, “Get more people to request it, and we’ll start to work out there.” Literally everyone I know in Crozet … and again, I’m hoping this room is included on that … has done this. And so part of me just wonders, what else are we waiting for? How do we incentivize that to push out further? Or are they just not going to do it? If they say, “We financially can’t do it,” I just want to know.

Jim: I don’t know anything about them. I know that a client of mine in town could see Ting’s line within eyesight across the street, and he could get the hookup, but they didn’t have the capacity on that particular node to accommodate another customer. So I think the infrastructure is taking time to build out.

Dave: Sure.

Jim: But there’s Sugar Hollow. Rural, very rural, community. And they to together with CenturyLink, the DSL provider, and they raised within their little community like 50 or 100 grand to buck up and say, “Look, we will all subscribe, and we’ll even carry some of that cost.” And so they’re laying fiber. But yeah, I think it’s something, it’s a slow process, but it’s one that needs to be recognized as a need, not just a luxury to have. “Oh, I’ve got internet.” No, we need internet.

Bart: That’s awesome that a community got together and did that. That’s almost like an argument for maybe having an HOA, as I get 30 stares across the table.

Jim: Again, it gives an opportunity to band together and do good things.

Dave: [crosstalk 00:14:35] coffee right now and ignore this.

Jim: So one of my favorite Twitter accounts is Best of Nextdoor. Dear God. And it is awesome, because it will take screenshots of Nextdoor communities around the country and just highlight just the insanity that happens on Nextdoor. And usually one of the titles would be Good Things Happen When Neighbors Talk. And it’s never a good thing. It’s never a good thing when neighbors talk. It is awesome, because it’s not my community. And it’s nice to look in. So best of Nextdoor on Twitter is phenomenal.

Dave: I saw one on Nextdoor recently where somebody made a comment about people getting upset about bikers on the roads, and I just thought, “There’s nobody who’s on Nextdoor that I know more than Jim Duncan.” I just imagine you like seeing that [crosstalk 00:15:24].

Jim: I stepped into that. I stepped into that briefly. The woman is a neighbor in my neighborhood. And it was somebody that just, the guy made not an awesome decision. It wasn’t the end of the world, and she went on a tirade about how cyclists are just the worst people in the world, and they’ve got bad children, and their dogs are ugly. And it was just like, “Lady, they’re just people riding bicycles.”

Bart: Why do people on bikes have ugly dogs?

Jim: I don’t know.

Bart: What are y’all doing to get all these ugly dogs?

Jim: We don’t exercise them enough, because we’re on our bicycles.

Bart: Yeah, obviously.

Dave: I thought it was more like a humanitarian thing, like you were going to the ASPCA and be like, “I want the ugly ones. Because the ugly ones aren’t going to get the home right away.” [crosstalk 00:16:06].

Jim: Because people on bicycles are good people. We do that sort of thing.

Dave: Exactly.

Bart: Well, that doesn’t sound true.

Jim: Socially conscious bikers.

Bart: I’m sure there are evil bikers. There’s evil cyclists out there.

Jim: There are. Not in my club.

Dave: There are evil drivers too.

Bart: His name is Lance Armstrong.

Dave: Moving on.

Jim: Yeah.

Bart: He broke Dave’s heart.

Dave: All right, next. Don’t get into that. I can’t deal with Lance today. Home inspections.

Jim: I can’t deal with Lance today.

Dave: I just can’t deal with it.

Jim: One of your old news story?

Dave: I’m the most reliable source for how to take a solid discussion and throw it off the rails. I’m the most reliable source for that.

Jim: The oldest news story ever. I can’t deal with the New Deal today. You can’t just shelve history. It lives in all of us.

Dave: Hey everybody. I want to take a quick break to talk about Rockfish. We are a new music entertainment company in Charlottesville, Virginia, and are producing records with independent artists. I’m sure you’re all aware that the music industry has changed pretty dramatically over the last 10-plus years. In some ways, it’s been rough, but frankly, we view it as a good thing. Artists are able to create more music for fans than ever before with less barrier for entry. However, the larger industry has pretty much given up on developing artists, only signing bands that have proven themselves. We view this as an opportunity to work with independent artists to provide resources to make great records for the fans and create a closer connection between artists, fans, and the recording company. It’s really pretty simple. Inside, you not only get the records the artists make, but all kinds of rough tracks, alternative takes, bonus material, and more. The goal is to let fans access all of the stages of recording an artist goes through. So check us out at and subscribe. If you’re a music fan, this is an amazing way to access new music and directly support independent artists.

Jim: Right, so it’s June 29th. This year so far in Charlottesville, more than 1278 have sold. Last year-

Dave: 1200 homes have sold in 2018 so far this year?

Jim: Almost 1300. And it will be more, because you’ve got 29, 30 June. Most closings happen in the last couple of days.

Dave: That seems incredible.

Jim: Last year, same timeframe, 1140 had sold. So a fairly significant increase in volume. But the one reason I pulled this number for the pod was that this year, of that 1278, 310 have sold with cash. And last year, almost 300 had sold with cash, so fairly consistent. That’s the one data point in the MLS in that house sold perspective that I think is fairly accurate. The other ones between ARMS and fixed-rate mortgages and stuff are not always properly selected.

Jim: But yeah, out of 1300 homes sold, over 300 have sold just cash.

Bart: What does that tell us?

Jim: It tells us that there’s a lot of cash in the market, but it’s also fairly consistent year over year. For next time, I’ll pull a 5-, 10-year history. But in my 17 years, it’s been fairly consistent between 20 and 30%, year over year, has been cash transaction. Which is good for the seller, because usually you don’t have an appraisal contingency. You have less concerns with the loan, etc. But it’s also when cash is so high, and in some environments we’ve had within the city and county, you’ve had multiple-offer situations. So if you’ve got four offers, five offers, I’ve seen it personally with my clients where if you’re asking 400, and you go in at 407 with a loan, and the cash one comes in at 402, or 397, the seller might take that lower offer because it’s cash.

Jim: On the flip side, though, I’ve also seen it because where cash is so prevalent, and loans are so … if you have the right loan package, you can have a pretty significant degree of confidence that it’s going to go to close. So if everybody’s cash, the value of cash is diminished.

Jim: I’ve seen it where people will say it’s cash, and then they’ll pull out a home equity line or they’ll go get a mortgage. But they’re saying that it’s cash, and they can prove that they have 400 grand in the bank, but they don’t necessarily have to go that route.

Bart: Right.

Jim: So that’s just something for sellers to be aware of, that if it’s cash, it can be a good thing. And for buyers, if you’re competing with cash, know that you might not win.

Jim: Home inspections. One guy on Twitter asked me how often should he have a home inspection on his existing house. Should it be part of-

Bart: That’s a thing?

Jim: Not yet, but the home inspectors, if any of them listen to this will be happy to hear that I’m recommending it. More business, good. And you can’t-

Bart: I inspect my own house every day. I walk through it, I look. I see that I didn’t clean the baseboards last month. I’m inspecting.

Jim: I ignore the things that a home inspector would look at on my house, because I know I don’t want to deal with it. I know the water coming out of that channel probably should be diverted. Okay, it’s fine. I’ll get to it tomorrow. That was like six years ago.

Bart: Sure.

Jim: Yeah.

Bart: Yeah.

Jim: Yeah. No big deal. It took me years to get into the-

Bart: I just call that home ownership.

Jim: Yeah. Ignoring? Yes.

Bart: Yeah. If this is going to turn into a podcast where you try and make me more responsible, Jim, I got a lot of problems going on.

Jim: I can just put the advice out there. If you take it, great. If not, just as great.

Bart: I know, but now I know, and I’m going to feel guilty when I don’t. Before, the ignorance was so nice.

Dave: So, what would be the benefit of getting a home inspection, even if you’re not intending on selling. Just to know the condition of your home?

Jim: Yeah. I think that you have your HVAC service twice a year. That’s something that legitimately, you should, because you drive your car, what? An hour a day, an hour and 15 minutes a day, and you get the oil changed every 3 to 5000 miles.

Dave: Right.

Jim: But you run your HVAC 24/7. And it makes sense that you pay 150 bucks and have it looked at twice a year.

Dave: Yeah.

Jim: But for a home inspection, I think that it’s not unreasonable to have it inspected every three or four years, and just to get a sense of what that is. In the last wind storm, I lost a bunch of shingles. My house is 14, 15 years old. And my guy came over. He’s on the roof replacing the shingles, and he calls or texts me. He’s like, “Hey, all of your boots are cracked.” The vent boot is the thing over the white pipe coming out of the … “So they’re all cracked. Do you want me to replace them.” I’m like, “Well, yes, I want you to replace them.” But I never would’ve known that there was potential for a leak in my roof if he’d not gone up there and said, “Your boots are cracked.”

Dave: Yep.

Bart: Right.

Jim: So for me, that’s a little thing to say maybe every three, four, or five years, have someone who comes through, give them 400 bucks, 500 bucks to inspect the house and see what latent things are that you might not have paid attention to.

Dave: Kick the tires on your house for you.

Jim: Yeah. So I think it’s a good idea. Home inspections, they are-

Dave: I’m going to go find a home inspector to sponsor this episode, is what I’m going to do.

Jim: Yeah. There’re a good thing to look at with a third set of eyes that you’re not looking through every day. The weather stripping. I know I need weather stripping. It might help to hear somebody else say that.

Bart: Yeah.

Jim: And Bart has great consternation.

Bart: I’m just working on trying to muster the motivation to go clean out my gutters.

Jim: Yeah, now that we have trees in the neighborhood, that’s a thing. 10 years ago, we didn’t have trees.

Bart: But myself and my neighbors, all three of us just stared at our houses like, “So we got to clean those ones that are up at the top of the house? How do we do that?” And then we all decided that we hire somebody to do that. Yeah, dude.

Jim: Amen, amen.

Bart: Don’t die.

Jim: And check the corrugated pipe coming out. So my house, there’s a little fault in my back yard, about 15% or whatever, and the black corrugated pipe for my gutter, it runs out to the back of the yard about 30 or 40 foot away from my house. And I was inside one, and it was pouring down rain. I looked at my gutters, and my gutters were overflowing like crazy. And I knew there was nothing in there. I’d gotten the lacrosse ball out of the gutter before, so I knew that wasn’t the reason.

Jim: And so I went out there, and walked around my house, and looked up. Saw the gutters were overflowing. And I walked down to the corrugated pipe, looked in it, and it was so remarkably clogged. So I dug out all the funk and gunk in there, and listened to the water coming out of my gutters. Little things like that can-

Bart: Probably smelled awesome.

Jim: Oh, it was disgusting.

Bart: Same thing happened to us, except that the corrugated pipes seemed to rupture somewhere in the yard, and then I thought that we had a new natural spring on the property. So I dug it out. I was like, “Hey, look at this.” Nope. It’s not what it was. Because we already have one. That’s what’s under the bamboo. That’s what’s causing the bamboo, is there’s a natural spring on the property that’s like piped off.

Jim: Why does everything focus around the bamboo? It’s just bamboo.

Bart: You come live there for six months and see if it doesn’t focus on the bamboo.

Dave: I don’t think you understand how much of Bart’s life has to revolve around the bamboo to begin with.

Bart: That’s what causes that bamboo issue. But I’m just saying, we thought it was a new natural spring. It wasn’t. The pipes were just blocked.

Jim: There’s something to pitch when you go to look at a house, and there’s a septic system that’s overflowed. You’d be like, “Oh, no. It’s a natural spring.”

Dave: That happened to us, too. That happened to us, too. No, that happened to us too.

Jim: This natural spring smells bad.

Dave: We’re talking like, I’m serious, two months into having the house, something backed up into the shower. It was covered. It was awful. It obviously smelled horrific. And they came out, and they’re like, “we think you have a septic tank, and it’s just full.” I was like, “No. We definitely are on county water and sewer. I know that’s true. We do not have a septic. There’s no chance we have a septic tank.” They ran the thing out, and they’re like, “You definitely have a septic tank.” I was like, “No, we definitely don’t have a septic tank. That is not true.” And finally they went out there and figured it out, that the pipe that was going to the sewer, the people that had put a new fence right before we moved in, had set a post right on top of it-

Jim: Oh my God.

Dave: And it had settled through the pipe. And so they were running that camera out there, and they thought that camera was ending in a septic tank. It wasn’t. It was just ending in a blocked post. And so then they had to put a blow-out around the post and get it out. But it sucked. Yeah. Do you have that kind of-

Jim: The whole time, Bart’s in there like, “You sure this isn’t a natural spring?” You should have a positive outlook on things, that you should walk around and assume, “Oh, this flooding is probably a natural spring that’s going to maybe open up some opportunities for me.”

Dave: That’s is a positive outlook on the world.

Jim: It really is. [Anna 00:27:13] was like, “I don’t think that’s natural spring.”

Dave: I’m shocked.

Jim: She turned out to be right.

Dave: I’m shocked at your positivity, and I’m impressed.

Bart: Dude, I was really trying to have a good attitude about it.

Jim: So that is why for older houses, I advise my clients to have the sewer lines snaked

Dave: That is a good suggestion.

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