Buy Build Nextdoor Zillow | Monthly Note Archives | February 2020

Archives of my subscription-only monthly notes. This is for February 2020.  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). 


Buy or build?

Short answer is, “It depends.” What are you looking for?Could you afford new construction? If you could, would it be in a location that you would like? Most new construction in Albemarle County is on small lots. Of the 972 resale single family homes that sold in Albemarle in 2019, 394 (41%) were on lots smaller than .5 acres and 233 (24%) were on lots smaller than .3 acres. Average price for the 972 resales was $541K. Of the 215 new construction single family homes that sold in 2019, average price was $644K. 167 of the 215 (78%) were under half an acre and 95 (44%) were under a third of an acre. A lot of the “older” homes in Albemarle may need updating but may be in better-for-you locations. Are you willing to compromise and get a less-than-open layout, but be in a neighborhood that puts you closer to things that are important to you? How long are you going to be there? How many of your kids will still be there in six years? Or eight? Or three? How long do you expect to be there? Will your parents be coming to live/stay? “Buy or build” is not an easy conversation and that decision making process is one that requires a lot of questions, conversations, and listening. Also note that the costs of construction are up. Quick numbers from a friend:
Looking at the overall area (excluding condos) for January over January:
All contracts were up 15%. Resale contracts were up 14%. New home contracts were up 18%. All attached contracts were up 7%. All detached contracts were up 18%.

A Nextdoor or Facebook page contingency

Nearly six years ago I wrote about how one can evaluate the “neighborhoodiness” of a neighborhood. Nothing has changed.What if a seller would accept a contingency that allowed the buyers to have a temporary login so they can see what is being discussed in the neighborhood? What do the neighbors complain about? (Besides dog poop and people knocking on doors)  What activities are there? What about neighborhood text threads? There is a whole lot more to a neighborhood than the house you are evaluating.
or this, from Nextdoor
I had a client who got her hands on (thanks to me) the HOA package for a neighborhood and spent time reading it. Everything was fine but for one thing – the minutes of the most recent neighborhood meeting reflected a discussion about how one woman was upset that she had not been invited to another neighbor’s party. My client said something to the effect of, “I don’t care that she wasn’t invited; it sounds like it was deserved. But that they spent time in the HOA meeting!? No.” They bought a house in an area without an HOA. Which sort of leads to a recent conversation with an older couple who may be looking to move to the area. They asked about the demographics of the neighborhood because they wanted to be in a neighborhood with other active older people. (Inlookers: our area has very few 55+ communities.) Reasonable. They were surprised (shocked?) when I told them that I could not answer that question. Their kids helped me explain the why, but it’s a hard why to understand, when their last buying experience was so different. Paraphrasing their response: “When we bought our house, I told my realtor it needed to be on a street with a bunch of little kids so that our kids would have friends to play with. She knew all the people and knew that we would be happy there, and we were!” I get it. I do. There is no malice in their desire to be with people with whom they will get along, but times have changed.  Read the Newsday piece. If you like it, make an offer I had shown an old farmhouse in Madison County that had been on the market for something like 500 or 600 days. I called the agent and told her that I was meeting my clients at the office that night, after which I would fax her the offer. (I’d wager that most of my current clients have never used a fax machine, unless they’re in one of a few archaic professions.) She responded, “Great! We just got two other offers.” After a couple hundred days. If you like the house, make an offer. If you like the house enough to seriously consider making an offer, there’s probably someone else out there who likes it, too. And if you do make that offer, make it one in which you will be comfortable winning or losing. Zillow is market exposure There used to be a time when marketing outside the MLS was considered to not be full market exposure (as related to me by appraisers). Fair market value was thought to be best determined when the property was exposed to the widest possible market. In the early days, Zillow wasn’t sufficient to satisfy this threshold. In the lens of an appraiser I spoke to recently, it is now. He told me that now, if a property is marketed only on Zillow, that is exposure to the market. Everyone is using Zillow and that’s a good thing. And it doesn’t much matter if you think it’s not; for now, Zillow is here to stay. A good agent does a lot more than price a house for a seller or find a house for a buyer. More than I can write here. I’m always happy to talk. Call or email me. 

What top things should sellers know?

  • First, call or email me.
  • Don’t have smelly things. I’d rather my folks smell your dog than half a dozen smelly things.
  • Price your house right from the beginning.
  • Hire well. Interview agents. I saw a listing the other day that came on the market that said, “Photos coming soon.” You never get a second chance to make a first impression;  today’s buyers are watching the market very closely. They all get notifications on their phones for homes that may be suitable. I make sure I proof everything and have my sellers do so too, before going live in the MLS.
  • Your house is no longer your home; it’s a product on the market to become someone else’s home.
What’s the market going to be in Spring 2020? I’ll answer this in Winter 2020. Seriously. The only way to answer this question honestly is to have hindsight. That said:
  • If you are a buyer and you like a house, make an offer. But … there is always going to be another house.
  • If you are a seller, you may be in a very good position to sell, depending on your micro-market. But if you’re going to move locally, where are you going to go? (See new construction conversation above.)

What I’m Reading


Next Month

– What Development areas/regions are buyers missing out on? – An aging Realtor and keeping up – I’m running now, and I’m not hating it. Next month I’ll tell you about how I ran up a stupid hill to get a cup.

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.


Take time to listen, and focus. You never know what you will learn; sometimes you’ll hear something that is meaningful that matters. And focus on the little things; every little thing matters, even the act of listening.

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