How Accurate Is Zillow In Montgomery County?

Over the last few days, I’ve been following a conversation on Twitter – yes, those actually happen – between a few Nest Realty agents in Charlottesville and Fredericksburg. They’ve been discussing the validity of Zillow’s “Zestimates” in their respective areas, and in metro areas in general.

Tool ShedI’ve written about Zillow before, sometimes with some disdain, but the truth is I really really like Zillow as one tool. Like any tool it’s not perfect, but as one tool in a larger toolbox it can be useful … which is why you’ll see me there quite a bit. I haven’t always had such a fondness for the site, but that’s changing.

What I don’t have a fondness for, and what initially propelled Zillow into the public eye (alongside a massive marketing budget), is the idea that based on information like tax records and neighborhood sales we can determine a value for a home. While Zillow doesn’t specifically state Zestimates to be THE end-all for pricing strategy, it’s suggested enough times to be believed. As a single tool it’s a nice way to look at specific houses, or neighborhoods, or areas. As an all-encompassing platform to defining market trends and current data, it misses the boat.

To see our latest Nest Report for Q3 2014, check out our Nest Report.

Zillow gives it’s Zestimates a star rating, with four stars meaning “Best Zestimate”, and one star meaning “Tax assessor’s value, or unable to compute Zestimate accuracy”. So how accurate are Zestimates in Montgomery County? According to the Coverage Accuracy in Virginia, Montgomery County ranks as a One Star county. Same goes for Pulaski County, Floyd County, and Giles County.


Taken from

I don’t point this out for any other reason than to say that, as a pricing tool, Zillow in Montgomery County – or Zillow in the New River Valley as a whole – is woefully inadequate. If you want to talk specific marketing position, let’s do that.

Man, it’s always dusty in here when I watch this commercial.

Photo Credit.

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What Did The Q3 2014 Real Estate Market Look Like?

The Nest Report, our quarterly look at the real estate market in the New River Valley, is out for the third quarter of 2014. I wrote in August that the second quarter of 2014 was different than expected, and at the time we didn’t really know why. I suspected it was because of a very short summer for Montgomery County Public Schools, and from what we’ve seen in Q3 and now, Q4, I think that that was, in fact, much of the reason for the slow down.

Throughout the New River Valley, most of the metrics tracked showed nominal change from the same quarter in 2013 – median sales prices, inventory levels, and total sales were all basically flat. Where we saw the most fluctuation was in the various Towns and locales, with tracked metrics bouncing up and down all over the place.

As we head into winter, we expect to see the historical slowdown before the spring market heats up in Q2 2015, leaving opportunities for buyers and sellers who are ready, willing, and able to act now while rates continue to be held down.

If you want to chat about this in more detail, first cup of coffee is on me!

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A Sincere Thank You

inc5000logoJust announced – Nest Realty has landed on Inc. Magazine‘s Inc.5000 list for the second year in a row.

We’re thrilled to have made it onto Inc. Magazine’s Inc.5000 list for the second consecutive year. The magazine’s annual national ranking of privately owned businesses creates a list of the top 5,000 U.S. companies based on their percentage of growth over the last three years, along with their 2013 annual revenues. Nest Realty boasted a 428% growth over the last three years, earning us the ranking of 1,041 out of 5,000.

Nest Earns National Ranking of 1,041 out of top 5,000On a more targeted level, the magazine breaks the companies into categories, placing Nest Realty as the sixth fastest-growing private real estate brokerage, nationwide. On a local scale, Nest is listed as the fifth fastest growing company in Charlottesville area, and 74th in Virginia. Click here to read the full press release.

That’s a lot of numbers. And while customers are and always have been our bottom line, we’re pretty proud to share this ranking. As we launch into our seventh year at Nest Realty, these rankings reinforce our philosophy that being a “different breed of brokerage” is beneficial for our clients and our community. Embracing the latest latest technologies and strategies isn’t just something we say, it’s something we live. And now we’re furthering our regional reach with the recent addition of a sixth location in Wilmington, North Carolina. (More details coming soon!) As we continue to grow and expand, our core values remain the same – providing our clients with a superior level of trust, honesty and integrity.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to our clients, community and partners.

Thank you. #LiveWhereYouLove

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The Difference Real Estate Photography Makes

This is a tale of two homes; or, more specifically, the same home looked at in two different lights.

I’ve written about how great real estate photography can make the difference in the way a home is presented when it’s for sale – I firmly believe it’s a crucial component to the process of selling your home. In fact, starting in 2009 I was the first real estate agent in the New River Valley to use a professional photographer on all of my listings, and Nest Realty believes so much in professional real estate photography that we use it on every home we list – including foreclosures.

Sean Shannon and I have talked for years about doing a “With v. Without” series of photos, showing how a home looks both with and without professional photography, but we’ve never gotten around to it. Yesterday, a house came back on the market (listed with Coldwell Banker Townside) that highlights just what this looks like. The house – previously listed with photos presumably taken by the homeowner or agent – looks dark inside, but in reality it’s really a beautiful, light-filled home … which Sean’s photos captured. Here are some photos, of both the interior and exterior …

Kit_1 Kit_2 LR_1 LR_2 WB_1 WB_2The same home, viewed through two different lenses (literally), looks completely different.

Professional real estate photos matter. Whether we ever work together or not – and I’d certainly welcome the opportunity to talk – insist that your listing agent present your home in the best possible light.

Want to see this house? Let’s set an appointment soon.


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Christiansburg Named A Best Place To Live in Virginia

CreditDonkey says Christiansburg VA is the second-best place to live in the state of Virginia.

Admittedly, the name CreditDonkey is hard to say with a straight face, but it isn’t hard to admit that Christiansburg is a great place to live, and CreditDonkey has said as much. From the press release:

Christiansburg sits just off I-81, centrally located between Blacksburg, Radford, and Roanoke. The town of just over 20,000 is convenient to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Jefferson National Forest as well as two major universities: Virginia Tech and Radford University. The atmosphere of Christiansburg is best summed up by its motto, Progressive Small Town Living at its Best, which reflects the town’s low-key feel.

You can read the whole press release here, OR, start your search for your next home in Christiansburg using our award-winning website search.

Do you live where you love? We do.

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How To Sell A Home This Fall Or Winter

Like it or not, the season here in the New River Valley is getting ready to change from summer to fall, and then winter. Like death and taxes, the seasons here in Blacksburg are guaranteed.

While it’s hard to think about winter when it’s bright and sunny outside, humor me. It’s likely your house looks so much better with green grass, full leaves on the trees, and colorful flowers in the flower beds, than it does with gray cloudy skies, scraggly trees, and patches of snow on the ground. If you’re expecting to sell this fall or winter, go ahead and have a professional photographer take photos – at least of the exterior, we can bring Sean Shannon Photography in for the inside later – while the landscaping still looks great. The inside can wait until you are done getting the house ready, but I can promise you the outside photos will benefit from having clean, crisp images and lots of color. Your listing will look better for it, I guarantee it.

And don’t worry about the fact that there’s a foot of snow on the ground outside, while the photos show a lush, green yard; buyers aren’t going to rule out your house because it doesn’t seem to “match” the season. If anything, with the right photographs, your house is going to look so much better than anything else, it won’t matter.

Want more tips for selling your house, anytime of year?  I have 3 Ls that I can’t stress enough …

  1. Lights – turn on the lights. All of them. Open the drapes and blinds, turn on the lamps, and let the light shine in. It’ll make every room look 10x better, even if there’s a wall painted deep black.
  2. Lids – put down the toilet seat lids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been showing a house, and seen a kid’s doodie floating in a toilet with the lid up. We all know what happens there – close the lid.
  3. Leave – get out. Scram. It’s awkward for buyers to walk through a house when the seller is there; they don’t talk as candidly with their agent, which can often mean the difference between an offer and an early exit. Go watch a movie, or drive around the block … nothing says “make this house your home” like the seller following you from room to room.

And because I just think time lapse photography is so cool …

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2014 Nest Report – What Did The Market Do In The Second Quarter

To say that the second quarter of 2014 has been unusual would be an understatement. Pockets of the market excelled, while others did not. Inventory was up, median sales were down, and yet there were more contracts written in the second quarter of 2014 than there were in the second quarter of 2013.

NRV LivingWhile the New River Valley saw the strongest first quarter performance in the past five years in Q1, Q2 sales are the lowest they’ve been since 2011. Some properties have been flying off the shelves, while others – despite good prices – have been sitting idle for some time, and there’s admittedly some anxiety among sellers (and agents) as to specifically why. My line of thinking is that an extremely compressed summer for the public schools in Montgomery County is partly to blame, as families rushed to get vacation and camp plans together and not much thought was given to housing unless folks HAD to move. Nevertheless, it’s going to be interesting to see what shakes out in Q3 and Q4 of this year … the signs still tell us that there’s a potential for bounce back through the rest of the year, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

As always, I’m glad to share a cup of coffee – matter of fact, you can have your own – and talk real estate!

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Is Your Realtor Talking? Or Listening


I love this photo.

I was showing homes to clients in June, and they really liked the house. It fit a lot of their criteria, and it was in budget. All was going well. As we walked into the basement, we got to talking about the upgrades that had just been added, and then I looked over and what I saw is in the photo above. So what did I do? I shut up, backed away, and pulled out my camera. Naturally.

If we’ve ever worked together, or if we work together in the future, you SHOULD notice something a little different. My style is not one to point out the kitchen – you can figure out pretty easily which room that is. Besides, with all of the various places on the web that you can find real estate, chances are you know more about certain particulars in the house than I do. My style is to give you some highlights, or things to pay attention to, and then listen. If I’m yapping about transom windows, or polybutylene piping, or the shag carpets, I’m probably gonna miss the verbal cues you’re throwing out. Or, perhaps more importantly, the nonverbal cues.

I’d love the chance to work with you one day, but if we don’t have that opportunity, that’s cool – just make sure your agent is doing more listening than talking. It’s not something I get perfect every time out, but more often than not, I should be. And when I do, cool things happen … like the photo above. Or the one below.

home buying

Choosing the bedroom

(My mom is going to find this post ironic, since the first day of school I came home and told her I wasn’t going back – I had to sit on the Blue Line. When she asked what the Blue Line was, I told her it was for people who talked too much.)

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Graffiti in Blacksburg? Or Is It Art?

Ever wondered about those exterior walls on buildings you’ve seen around Blacksburg, the ones that have graffiti all over them? Where did the graffiti come from? Who does it?

I’ve wondered it. And now I know who does it. But he calls it street art.

What do you think? Do you like it? Do you hate it? Would you like to see more/less?

Interested in more? There are other videos on YouTube.

Hokie Feet:


A Walk In The Woods:

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