Rain and The Art Of Home Buying

It’s pouring in the New River Valley today, just a long, steady rain. The ground is soaked, there’s pooling water everywhere, and by 8am I’d already received a text from a client asking who to call regarding a roof leak at the home they purchased earlier in the year. It’s the kind of day you just want to curl up and Netflix-binge.

Except today is the perfect day to see a house. Given the circumstances, it seemed like the perfect time to repost this from 2010, one of the most popular posts on NRVLiving.com.


Last Thursday it poured rain, and I was showing houses to clients most of the day.  When I say it poured, I mean cats and dogs.

In my opinion, there’s no better time to see a house than when it’s raining.  Now, I don’t mean it has to be The Flood 2 or anything, but a nice steady rain is a good time to see a house, and I said so on Twitter.  At the very next house, my rationale was explained – we walked into the basement to find standing water, a squeegee, and everything stored off the floor on portable plastic shelving.

See, rain isn’t always a bad thing!  While getting in and out of cars and traipsing through a house might not be your idea of a great time, if you really want to get a close look at a house, I’ve found that seeing it when it’s raining can often be helpful.  Most of the time it’s not quite as serious as a swimming pool in the basement; sometimes it’s as simple as a window seal that’s showing condensation that might not otherwise be there during a dry time, or standing water in poor-draining sections of a backyard.

So next time you want to take a really good look at a house, let me know; I’ll bring the waders.  But so we’re clear, I also like looking at houses when it’s sunny, too.

Thanks to Roger for the picture.

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Are There More Termites This Year?

TermitesThe short answer? Yes.

it seems like, this year, we are seeing more and more pest inspections come back with evidence of active termite infestation. On the surface, that’s not necessarily a big deal, but left untreated, the little buggers can wreak havoc on a structure, and one of the main contingencies of every real estate transaction is an inspection to make sure that there are no active termites (or other critters) at the property.

Earlier today, at the pest inspection of a home, I asked Sean of Bug Man Exterminating if they were seeing more and more infestations this year. He said that without a doubt, termite activity in the New River Valley was higher this year than in recent years. He said it had to do with the fact that we had a moist spring this year, followed by a dry summer, and the pests are traveling looking for food.

Sean said that termites, when faced with a lack of food, will travel hundreds of feet – subterraneously, don’t look down! – to find a food source. The ones that do the damage are actually blind, seeking out fresh meat wood and leaving pheromones that the rest of the colony then follows. Once they’ve arrived on site, they can quickly do damage to a structure, eating it one sliver at a time.

Bug Man ExterminatingSo … what should you do about termites? First, don’t panic – they’re everywhere, and in the vast majority of cases will have no impact on a home. But make sure to walk around your home and make sure the soil is not in direct contact with the exterior siding. If it is, pull the soil down, and away from the home, so that 6″ or so of the foundation is exposed … termites don’t like to be left out in the open. Additionally, make sure you don’t have wood – like a firewood pile – directly up against the house. This gives them a back door right into your home. Finally, if you want to give your home a thorough checkup, call our friends at Bug Man Exterminating and have them come out to take a look – we love using these guys, and they’ll give you an honest assessment not only of the health of your home, but also ways you can ensure your home will stay pest-free.

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The Nest Report – Q2 2015 Real Estate Market Report

It’s time once again for the Q2 2015 Nest Report, Nest Realty’s statistical report on what the New River Valley real estate market did during the last quarter. All stats, no fluff.

Find your own nest here.

Last year at this time, we were reporting a very unusual quarter. While the first quarter of 2014 saw brisk sales, particularly for that time of year, the second quarter lagged, and we were left shaking our heads. It wasn’t until the third quarter that it made sense – Montgomery County Public Schools had a short (42 day) summer last year, and so real estate sales were pushed aside as folks squeezed all their summer fun into six weeks.

Not the case this year, and the market has responded. The full report is posted below, and as you can see most sectors of the market have rebounded quite nicely.

  • Christiansburg townhomes, traditionally slower due to an oversupply, have surged back in the last 24 months.
  • Floyd County, which will see slower sales as a result of being considered “rural” by the market, saw a decrease in inventory, and a 35% INCREASE in median sales prices.
  • Blacksburg hit a median sales price (for single family homes) of $300000, the first time we’ve ever seen that level reached.

As always, there are positives and negatives in every report, and there are some indicators that say we are not a robust market yet. Condo sales continue to lag, and will do so until the financing environment is on par with traditional financing – as median sales prices rise, condo affordability (and availability) will continue to be an important gateway to the first-time buyer, so we need that market to improve. Overall, however, the second quarter of 2015 in the New River Valley real estate market was very different from what we saw at this time a year ago.

As always, I’m glad to share a cup of coffee (I’ll even let you have your own!) and talk some more.

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What’s The Most Expensive House On The Market Right Now?

I get asked all the time, “what’s the most expensive house on the market in the New River Valley right now?”.

As of a couple of months ago, it was a nice Victorian in Christiansburg, on the market for the “bargain” price of $2,000,000. That house has since lost the title, however, when the West Wind Farm came on the market.

West Wind Farm

West Wind Farm

Listed by RE/Max First-Christiansburg, the home includes a vineyard and winery, set on 100 acres, in Max Meadows, VA. From the listing description:

West Wind Farm-Vineyard & Winery is an award-winning Virginia vineyard and winery producing quality certified label wines. After years of establishment, management, and growth, it is now being offered by the owners for sale as a complete, turnkey operation. One visit to the property and you’ll see a dedication to excellence everywhere you look. The owners have worked hard to develop a top-shelf business and it shows in this elite property. Nestled on a fourth-generation homestead in the Southwest Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, West Wind Farm offers 100 acres of pristine land, vineyards, winery & tasting room, and beautiful custom 3,122 sq. ft. home surrounded by stunning vistas year around. Five acres of quality label certified vinifera varieties produce over 1600 cases of wine annually.

This sale will include all equipment needed to continue management of the winery and farm. Several revenue streams are established that will allow a new owner to generate income from day one.
ADDENDUM: The winery produces approximately 1,600 cases annually. 90-95% of sales occur on-site via the tasting room. West Wind Farm has been voted as one of the top 23 wineries in Virginia out of the 250+ in existence. The gift shop provides a comfortable shopping environment where guests can choose from a large selection of unique items that compliment their wine purchases. Corporate and social events can be held on-site. The outside gazebo surrounded by lush, green hills is the perfect site for an outdoor wedding. The formal dining room inside the winery has been home to catered meals for various corporate entities. The winery also hosts monthly dinners and seasonal concerts for their patrons. Off-site grape sales can also generate additional income for the business. About every other year, the owners sell surplus grapes to other wineries and clients in the state. The property also includes an 1850’s-era farmhouse that has tremendous potential for a bed and breakfast.

Don’t worry – if you’re looking for a better deal, you can find those here.

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Why I Want To Work With Vendors I Know

Local. It’s all the rage these days – local food, local business, local anesthesia. Okay, so that last one doesn’t apply, but you get the point. Heck – even Blacksburg has gotten into the act.BlacksburgLooking through the lens of supporting local business, or eating locally grown food, it’s easy to see why local is important. But when I recommend wanting my clients to work with local vendors – folks like home inspectors, or lenders – I’m not doing so because it’s the catchy thing to do. I’m doing so because it matters to getting things done. An example:

Recently, we listed a beautiful home in Christiansburg, on an acre, for $269000. The owners had remodeled everything, and done a fantastic job – they’d made a master suite downstairs, complete with a sliding barn door, updated the kitchen with beautiful counters and crosscut tile floors … it was stunning for the price point, and a home the sellers had hoped they’d be in for years to come, until life took them in another direction. When the house went on the market, activity was high, and it went under contract quickly, in 3 weeks, at 96% of list price. While the sellers gave a bit of a discount to be sold quickly, it was obvious that demand was high on a property that was in good condition, and priced well. Everyone was happy.

As part of the closing process, the buyers had an appraisal done. By all accounts, the appraised price should have been at least the sales price, if not higher. But when it came back, it came back almost 20% lower than the sales price – a full $7000 HIGHER than what it had been purchased for 5 years ago, and before the upgrades had been made.. Unbelievable. If the house had been 20% over priced, we wouldn’t have had more than a dozen showings, and gone under contract, so quickly, in a strong sellers market. Somewhere a mistake had been made; everyone – except for the appraiser and the bank – agreed on that point. Of course, appraisals are a bank’s way of making sure that the value of a property is in line with the market, so this low appraisal meant the bank wouldn’t make the loan, and the buyer couldn’t buy.

After some time of going back and forth, both the buyer agent and I realized that the bank was just looking at the buyer as a number. The buyer was a number, the house was a number, and it didn’t matter the circumstances. It didn’t matter that everything else in the market said the value was the sales price. It didn’t matter that the house had gone under contract quickly. It didn’t matter that the buyer’s income supported the sales price. The bank wasn’t local, the underwriters weren’t local … the whole transaction was just a small number that made up a bunch of much bigger numbers. So we shifted course, and the buyer agent went to a local bank. The representative there, who knew the agents on both sides, spoke to the borrower at length, and within 36 hours we had FULL approval. Not preapproval, not conditional approval, FULL approval.

Moral of the story? Local matters. The parties involved knowing each other matters. It doesn’t always make the difference, but in this case – and in many cases – it did. Real estate is about people – not numbers, not algorithms, but people. It’s a home, a place to create memories.


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Q1 2015 Nest Report – “How’s The Market?”

How_s_the_Market_Without a doubt, one of the top three questions we’re asked as real estate agents is “how’s the market?

At a dinner reception last week, after I introduced myself to the table, someone asked “how’s the market?”. When I got coffee this morning, a regular at the Pub (fantastic breakfast and coffee, by the way) asked “how’s the market?” Heck, even an agent asked me that yesterday at a broker open – “how’s the market?”!

One of the best tools we have as Nest Realty brokers is, in my opinion, the Nest Report, our quarterly look at what’s happened in the real estate market in the past three months. It’s not
sales-speak, just straight hard facts. You can see past quarters, as well as annual reports, here, as well.

You can see the full report for Q1 2015, and read highlights, below:

  • pent-up buyer demand from 2014 has helped sales surge forward in 2015, with double-digit growth across most metrics tracked.
  • inventory levels of < 6 months in both Blacksburg and Christiansburg are starting to trend towards a seller’s market.
  • a significant bump in contracts written (29%) in Montgomery County indicates that buyers are headed back into the market ready to buy.

You can read the full report below. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to discuss in even more detail!

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How To Give Or Receive A Downpayment To Buy A Home

When buying a home, it can help a borrower’s purchasing power if they’re able to put down a down payment. In its simplest form, the more money a borrower is able to put down on a purchase, the less of a “risk” to the mortgage company who’s financing the rest.

Many times, the down payment comes from family members, which is a pretty awesome gift. But, it’s important to know just HOW to receive that money – it’s not as simple as Grandma writing you a check.

Dan Green of The Mortgage Reports has a great blog post on this, and I’d encourage you to head over and read it in its entirety – linked here. If you want the highlights, here goes:

  1. Write a Gift Letter – this is a letter stating the amount of the gift, the relationship of the person giving the gift to the person receiving the gift, the property address, and that the money is a gift, not a loan, and will not be repaid.
  2. What the Giftor needs to do – Keep a paper trail. Write the check, while photocopying everything and keeping duplicate copies.
  3. What the Giftee needs to do – Take the check to the bank (Dan says don’t do a mobile deposit), deposit it, and keep the receipt.

Again, Dan’s post goes into great detail, both with the idea of using gift monies as a deposit, as well as what the tax consequences might be, and more. I’d encourage you to read it if you’re considering giving, or receiving, gift money in order to purchase a home.

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2014 Nest Report Is On The Way!

There are tons of things I’m proud of about Nest Realty, but one of the things I get really excited about is our Nest Report. It’s a statistical look at what’s happening in the New River Valley real estate market, and it’s put out every quarter. Visually, it’s stunning – thanks to the amazing folks in our Marketing Department. Statistically, it’s one of the most accurate representations of our real estate market – thanks to the bean counters who compile the whole thing. And, interestingly enough, two real estate agents from another company told me yesterday how impressive a report it is … they look through it each time it comes out and think “wow”.

Download the 2014 New River Valley Nest Report here.

  • Median and Average Sales Prices both fell 3% in 2014 throughout the New River Valley MSA.
  • In Blacksburg, the Median Price was flat, but inventory was up slightly.
  • In Radford, Median Price was up quite a bit, rising more than 12% from 2013 levels.
  • Conventional Interest rates, projected to be at or above 5% by the end of 2014, were actually at 4%, much lower than expected by those in the know – proving once again that no one has any much of a clue.

We’re extremely proud of what has been happening at Nest Realty, and the Report will talk a little bit about that, as well. The full report will be hitting mailboxes soon, but here’s a sneak peak! You can see earlier reports here.

Want to talk further? Let’s grab a cup of coffee/tea/water/insert favorite beverage here soon!


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Blacksburg VA Named A Top College Town

I’m woefully behind on this news, but Blacksburg has once again been named a “Best” Town in America, this time by BestCollegeReviews.com. From the site:

Blacksburg is home to Virginia Tech, Radford University, and a number of large employers. With close to two students for every non-student, Blacksburg is definitely centered around college life. Though small, the town is forward thinking, as the home to Blacksburg Electronic Village (BEV) since 1991. BEV and close proximity to high quality graduates make Blacksburg an ideal location for tech firms.

As far as creature comforts, Blacksburg is situated between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains with beautiful views around town. In the mountains there are tons of scenic drives and outdoor activities. In town, there are more than 150 restaurants, pubs, art galleries, and boutiques. If you want a high quality town that’s on the smaller size, Blacksburg could be the place for you.

None of this is news to those of us who live here, but it’s nice to once again see the recognition. As I tell clients all the time, there’s nothing like living in a college town.

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Documents You’ll Need To Get A Mortgage In 2015

You’ve decided to buy a house. Congratulations! You’ve written the offer, and while you’re waiting for the seller to sign you’re driving by the house to see it and show friends and family … you’re excited, and you should be!

Now the seller has signed the offer, and it’s ratified. You’re buying a house! You’re over the moon!

And then you start to receive emails and calls from your lender, asking you for this document/that document and more. You’re not so excited any longer.

Buying a house is exciting, and while the process of getting a mortgage can be tedious, it’s not as bad as we make it out to be.

Thanks to Kim Burke – an amazing lender, by the way, if you’re getting a mortgage OR refinancing – here’s a quick cheat sheet on some of the things you’ll need to have ready in order to get that mortgage going. Remember … the faster your loan is processed, the faster you move in.

When’s the housewarming party?

Required Documentation for Mortgage

Click here for a link to a PDF of the image.

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