November 2022 Monthly Note | Appraisals & Race, The Market, Questions for Agents

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November 2022: appraisals and race, the market, a weird thing, questions to ask agents before hiring.

More than ever, I think people need answers. Or at least a path to knowing the wrong answers. Questions? Please ask.


Blue ridge mountains at sunrise


Appraisals – Part 2

Part 1 from last month.

I talked with someone recently about how Black people’s homes appraise for less than white people’s; they didn’t believe me until I showed them the facts, the data, and the stories.

I don’t have any specific insight or solution to offer, but write in order to raise awareness.

In September, Freddie Mac released a groundbreaking analysis of the U.S. home appraisal industry. Consistent with concerns raised by critics, they found that homes in Black and Latino or Hispanic neighborhoods are much more likely than homes in white neighborhoods to be valued below what a buyer has offered to pay.

What I can offer is what I tell every one of my clients: I don’t discriminate because it’s neither nice, profitable, nor legal.

I am not an appraiser, but I know that when I evaluate a house for a buyer or seller client, I care only about the property condition, location, marketability, and what we need to do to either prepare the property for the market or the suitability of the home for my buyer client.

There is no room for discrimination. Full stop.

In response to Appraisals, Part 1, Jonathan Miller, one of the smartest people I know, wrote to me:

One thing to point out about appraisers – our licensing requirement USPAP has us trying to get the contract so we understand the terms of the sale and so it goes without saying that we try to understand the terms of the comps – think of a homebuilder offering concessions to the latest sales in the subdivision – that props the recorded price up when the market value is really the net as compared to sales 6 months ago without concessions.

sunrise, mountains, fog and trees


The Market

It’s changing, and the crappy messaging from agents and lenders is back.

“Marry the home, date the rate” is one of the more spammy things that has come through my inbox. Rhymes don’t make the market easier, and trivialize what my clients are trying to do. Rhymes don’t make capitulation and acceptance less painful — whether you’re paying more every month than you expected, or facing a different marketing timeline and realizing less profit than expected.

In the depth of the crash, I represented a seller. The buyer was a brand new agent buying her first house. I vividly remember sitting down with her at my office and going over the offer. (Clearly, this was a long time ago.)

I remember asking her, “What do you think about the market?” Her answer was perfect. “What do you mean? This is the only market I know.

And that’s just it. Yesterday’s market is history; the one that matters is today’s.

Empathy, experience, patience, listening, and professional guidance don’t rhyme, but they matter.

Sunrise over Chiles orchard in Crozet


Do this long enough, and you see weird things

I represented the seller. When I asked them for confirmation of their utilities, they told me the ones I expected, with one unusual exception — my clients had never paid for electricity in 10 years.

They had power. They lived in a dense (by our standards) neighborhood. They had tried multiple times to get the electric company to acknowledge them and send them a bill. They gave the company the meter number and everything. No dice.

Eventually, they gave up, rather than push the issue.

The fun part was when I explained to the buyers’ agent that my clients had never paid for power, and our suggestion was that they keep getting it for free.

Lunar eclipse



I developed a term with clients a few years ago. We would go through a house that was fine, and I would say, after reading my clients’ body language and listening to their comments, “This would make a good Airbnb, maybe as a place to stay for a week, but probably not a place to live in full-time.“

I stand by that description, and frankly, think it’s pretty good.

There has been talk about an Airbnb Bust, where some Airbnb hosts are seeing fewer bookings. Is the Airbnb boom over? Too soon to tell,

The numbers may still work for Airbnbs, but I’d wager that buying a property in our market just to use as an Airbnb has a different calculus now that rates are at 7%. That, plus the current and coming Short Term Rental restrictions/guidelines in Charlottesville, Albemarle, and surrounding counties is likely to make Airbnbs more challenging and may push more property owners to longer-term short-term rentals, like FurnishedFinder.

Airbnb has changed a lot of things in our market and our world; it’s going to be interesting to see how it continues to affect both.

Moon setting over fields and mountains


Interviewing Your Prospective Agent

Even when a potential client comes to me via one or several client recommendations, I encourage having a discussion up front to see if we are a good fit.

Recently, I met with and earned the business of some outstanding buyer clients. hey came to our meeting at the coffee shop armed with 18 questions. The conversation was a fun one, and we worked together quite well.

It’s hard to pick my favorite questions so I’ll just pull the first five. I’m happy to share the full list for any interested, or, if you think we might be a good fit, I’ll bring the full list to our first meeting.

  1. Do you work as a realtor full time? (Jim’s note: this is going to be more important to ask, going into the downturn)
    1. How long have you worked as a realtor in this area?
  2. How many homes do you act as the listing agent per year?
  3. How many homes do you act as the buying agent per year?
  4. When were your last two closings?
  5. Why do you recommend the local lenders that you do recommend?
    1. Other than local lenders, are there other professionals you recommend and why? (such as a specific home inspector, electrician, etc)
      1. Do you receive compensation or benefits for these recommendations?

All of the questions are great. While I have my favorite questions, it would do a disservice to my clients’ work putting the questions together. I highly recommend you interview and vet your representation before embarking on the buyer or seller journey.


You probably saw about the horrific murders at UVA this week. I have nothing of value to add, other than to express my horror, sadness, and wish for healing, and a society with fewer and less accessible guns, more mental health support and services, and less defaulting to violence.

Verified fundraisers for the victims are here.

Questions? Comments? Ask me anytime.

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Bullseye when throwing axes
Date night with my wife; throwing axes in Harrisonburg.


What I’m Reading


What I’m Listening To


As an aside, as the social media landscape shifts with the possible demise of Twitter, I am reminded how valuable my blogs have been. I’ve used and forgotten so many social media that are now defunct.

The blogs — RealCrozetVA and RealCentralVA — will continue so long as I continue to write and pay for the hosting; there’s value in building on land you own rather than on someone else’s.

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