March 2024 monthly note.   Published on Substack, and available by free subscription there. Archived here, but I have more confidence in the links I control than I do on someone else’s platform. Much as in real estate, better to build a business on your own real estate than on someone else’s. I started RealCentralVA in January 2005. I wrote the first monthly note on the TinyLetter (TinyLetter is going away/being deprecated in a month) platform February 2013. Transitioned to Substack in December 2020. If you’re interested in reading stories about real estate, Charlottesville and Albemarle real estate market insight and analysis, and other fun stories, please subscribe.

Every month, I have a moment when I realize the value of human interaction.


Commissions, lawsuits, and change

I’m glad people reach out to me. I don’t know exactly what is going to happen. I don’t make “hot takes” in writing, and certainly don’t know enough yet to accurately predict what the next few months and years are going to bring to the real estate industry.

The more I understand about the coming changes, the more I believe that something will be very similar to what they were six months ago, and some things will be very, very different. Competence, and conveying said competence to clients is more important than ever.

I earn my living working to understand the local, regional, and national real estate environments and represent clients with that knowledge.

I read. A lot. My only conclusion thus far is that, in the words of Bob Dylan:

The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast
The slowest now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
‘Cause the times, they are a-changin’

I don’t mean to trivialize this change in the real estate industry. It’s change. We will adapt. The real estate world will be different in 18 months, and 36 months. And that’s ok.

This from Matthew Ferrara, who is not in the real estate space:

“***Most important of all: Nothing in the agreement prevents agents from representing buyers, being paid by buyers or sellers, or from delivering buyer services.

Which means that representing buyers will continue after the settlement…

Perhaps in more forms than ever, as great salespeople continue to sell valuable services to clients who continue to desire them as they’ve always done: in open, transparent and contractually obligated relationships, earning their commissions by delivering value.”

I know this one fact: a lot of people need and want representation when buying or selling homes, and I think that is not going to change. I do think that how good realtors get paid is going to change, no one knows exactly what the new world will look like, and there are going to be consequences – both seen and unforeseen.

And I also know this: the talking points you are seeing online, in print, and on TV are generally too broad, too short, and too uninformed to be useful.

Here is the actual proposed NAR settlement, if you’re curious. This hour from Sharran Srivatsaa, President of Real Brokerage is exceptional, for consumers and real estate folks.

If you’re not in the real estate space, I’d love an opportunity to have coffee with you and talk about your perspective on these suits and messaging. Please reach out if you


AirPods and Isolation

I often listen to my AirPods when walking or running, and I try to make a point to mute while passing someone to at least say hello.

“The neighborhood is less friendly. Everyone is wearing AirPods.”

A client said this to me recently, and I think they’re on to something. We choose isolation more now than I feel we did pre-covid, and certainly pre-AirPods. I don’t have a moral to this observation.

Related: In short: we need each other.


Bikes are good.

In 2008, I wrote about how I was going to ride my bike more around Charlottesville, and the times a million math that comes along with that.

Nest’s new office on Rose Hill Drive affords a new opportunity to ride around Charlottesville, so I got a new city bike. Here’s to many more short trips to show houses, meet clients, and get a cup of coffee.

One ride last week: 4.13 miles. 22 minutes. 1.45 kg CO2 of carbon saved. Not bad.

If you’re e-bike curious, you can borrow an e-bike from the Charlottesville e-bike library.

A Story About a Buyer

This is not a story of sour grapes, but an attempt to describe what happens in the real estate space.

I worked with these buyers for several years. We wrote many offers on houses. Spring was rolling around and he emailed me, “You might have heard, but we bought a house that was not on the market and used my out-of-area relative to write the contract so we didn’t have to pay you.”

Knowledge is useful. And valuable. And worth paying for. Working with them cost time and money, and the lost opportunity cost could be calculated I guess, and the real cost is that I tend to trust others a little bit less for a bit. After several buyer broker agreements, I thought I’d earned their trust and business; I was right, and wrong.

I’m OK working on a contingency basis, often for months or years. Less OK is doing the work for free.



Don’t be the smoke house

I’ve seen one buyer three times in a week! Seeing the same client so often has become rare, as we’ve had such low inventory for so many years.

Don’t be the house that buyers remember as “the smoke house” or “the cat house” or “the house with the cracked driveway.” Now that we have a bit more inventory on the market in Charlottesville, buyers are going to remember the bad things as well as the good.

Also, get rid of the smelly things in the walls — you aren’t fooling anyone, you’re just making your house stink.


Mistakes are Fine

When I was a kid, I printed and put on my wall a sign that said, “Make New Mistakes.”

I made a mistake today. I learned from it, and I’ve already applied that lesson. Now I need to remember to not make that same mistake again.

Next Month: a bit about the market as we close out March. I just ran out of time this month.



What I’m Reading


What I’m Listening To

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