Monthly Note Archives – December 2019

Archives of my subscription-only monthly notes. This is for November 2019.  The blog is more searchable. Interested in not waiting a few months to read it? Subscribe 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). 


Happy December. Thanks for reading this note. Hope you like it; it’s a bit longer than most of my notes. I think that’s ok.

“Do your work so you can spend time with me.”

My now not-so-small-one said that to me recently. Her words say it all. Balance in this life is key.


I’ve written about compromising many times over the years. 201020112013; 2018. I tell every one of my clients that the time will come when they will face a choice – buy this house, which fits seven or eight out of their 10 boxes, or don’t buy? I call it getting to “good enough.”I did have one client who called me after I wrote in 2011 about compromising who challenged me, as she hadn’t done so. Aside from her, everyone negotiates and compromises.

Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, and still you’re compromising? Yes, that’s what I’m saying.

On Discrimination

I don’t discriminate because it’s neither nice, profitable, or legal. That said, I’ve been questioning, and will continue to do so, everything I say or write to clients.I tell every one of my clients this story. Years ago, someone called me out of the blue.

Me: Hello?
Him: Hi, I’m moving back to Charlottesville.
Me: Great. How can I help?
Him: I want to buy a house.
Me: Great.
Him: I’m a veteran and I lived in Charlottesville years ago.
Me: Great. Welcome back.
Him: I want to live in a white neighborhood.
Me: <click>

Most people aren’t that explicitly ignorant and hateful.

This stuff happens, more than we’d like to think

Newsday published recently this story. Everyone should read it.

In one of the most concentrated investigations of discrimination by real estate agents in the half century since enactment of America’s landmark fair housing law, Newsday found evidence of widespread separate and unequal treatment of minority potential homebuyers and minority communities on Long Island.

The three-year probe strongly indicates that house hunting in one of the nation’s most segregated suburbs poses substantial risks of discrimination, with black buyers chancing disadvantages almost half the time they enlist brokers.

Additionally, the investigation reveals that Long Island’s dominant residential brokering firms help solidify racial separations. They frequently directed white customers toward areas with the highest white representations and minority buyers to more integrated neighborhoods.

I mean, come on. This was said, and captured, on video.

Said one agent when speaking to a white customer: “I don’t want to use the word steer, but I try to edu – I use the word – I educate in the areas.”

As I said on Twitter, “I’m making my way through this today. It’s astonishing, enlightening, sickening, & highlights the role(s) real estate agents have.”A followup must-read is my friend Rob Hahn’s response. For those outside the real estate space (95% of you readers) it’s long. And worthwhile. Read the whole thing.

This is a social, political and most importantly moral problem. Housing is the American Dream because it is so important and so far-reaching in its consequences. It is a path to generational wealth, a path to economic and community development, and a path to mutual understanding between people of different backgrounds.

Denying people of opportunities to live and work where they want on the basis of skin color is a most profound form of racist discrimination and oppression, and it is abhorrent to the American ideal.

What Rob said. Real estate agents serve a profound role as gatekeepers for  neighborhoods, streets, cities. Root out the bad, keep the good.


A year ago, I had my first (and hopefully last) bad bike wreck. The beer picture is from this year’s post-ride celebration where we rode the same ride for the first time since the crash. Notably, this helmet is intact, unlike last year’s. It’s a been a long year of recovering; and it continues.

The Silver Tsunami, sent by an old friend.

“The U.S. is at the beginning of a tidal wave of homes hitting the market on the scale of the housing bubble in the mid-2000s. This time it won’t be driven by overbuilding, easy credit or irrational exuberance, but by an inevitable fact of life: the passing of the baby boomer generation. One in eight owner-occupied homes in the U.S., or roughly nine million residences, are set to hit the market from 2017 through 2027 as the baby boomers start to die in larger numbers, according to an analysis by Issi Romem conducted while he was a senior director of housing and urban economics at Zillow. That is up from roughly 7 million homes in the prior decade. By 2037, one quarter of the U.S. for-sale housing stock, or roughly 21 million homes will be vacated by seniors. That is more than twice the number of new properties built during a 10-year period that spanned the last housing bubble.” (via The Wall Street Journal)

And then he followed up:

I’m not sure this baby boomer generation is going to go as fast as everyone predicts.  That said those homes are going to be on the market either way b/c of downsizing or the recession …  So first question, yes or no since this is email, and who has the time, I’m assuming your don’t tell your clients any of this depending on the state of the market since your demand is driven by a more dire need, shelter, than the state of the economy, right?

He’s right.

America’s older population is experiencing unprecedented growth, but the country is not prepared to meet the housing needs of this aging group, concludes a new report released today by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP Foundation. According to “Housing America’s Older Adults — Meeting the Needs of an Aging Population,” the number of people in the United States aged 50 and over is expected to grow to 133 million by 2030, an increase of more than 70 percent since 2000 (click to view interactive map). But housing that is affordable, physically accessible, well-located, and coordinated with supports and services is in too-short supply.


Hopefully most of my clients aren’t in dire need of anything, really. And you know what happens when you assume, right? I noted in 2009, The Slums of Tomorrow Might Be Here Today. But I do try to help guide my clients to consider as much as possible when making a significant life decision that will affect the rest of their, and if they have them, their kids’  lives. Part of that consideration ise thinking about how long they plan to live in a place and what will that place look like in 10 or 20 years?

A lot of stories have been written about the Silver Tsunami recently, and there will undoubtedly be more.

Quick thoughts

  • Many younger buyers don’t want, and won’t want, McMansions
  • A lot of boomer homes are in exurbs; what’s going to happen to those?
  • Many younger buyers will buy these homes because they may be reasonably affordable. Not the right house, but the right location.
  • We will know in five years what happens next year.


Be Kind. 

I wrote this in April 2018:

This encounter has stuck with me. In early January I was returning a gift and tried to get it put back on my wife’s credit card, which I didn’t have. The young girl working at the counter tried to make it work, but could not. She sought out the manager, who tried as well, went back to try something else, while the girl at the counter kept valiantly attempting to process the return. They were understaffed and overworked, and they were exasperated, but kept trying.

We were at about the 15 minute mark of them trying to make this right, and had determined that issuing a gift card would be the best path. The manager went to the back.

The original girl looked at me, and with somewhat pained candor said, “Thank you for being kind about this.” Someone thanking me for not losing my mind over them trying to do more than they needed?

Being nice isn’t hard. It’s quite simple. We would all do well to be nice more often.

Next Month

  • 2020 Predictions
  • Future Nests
  • Trusting, and firing
  • 2019 Market wrap-up

What I’m Reading


I wrote this in 2016. Figure I’ll publish it again.

What I’ve Donated to.

I hesitate to put this out there, but we’re in interesting times. I’m giving a bit of money to the causes that I think are going to benefit our society in the coming weeks, months, and years.

Jim on: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn RealCentralVA | Instagram

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



Last thing: Regrets are a waste of time and energy; better to live life best you can, come to terms with the unchangeable things, and communicate as best you can. When an opportunity to grow, think, learn, feel, presents itself, take it. And the ebbs and flows … roll with them. 

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