Category Archives: Home Buying

Should My Offer Include A Letter To The Seller?

Ah, the offer letter when buying a home. Does it work? It depends.

My first clients, Adam and Michelle, bought a house in Blacksburg. It was their first house, it was my first sale. I still remember what my commission check was, and I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to get paid to sell a house.

During the process of working with Adam and Michelle, I avoided having to tell them that it was my first sale. I drove to every listing we visited in advance, so I wouldn’t get lost. Before showing them the home I would tour it separately – but only if they were vacant, because I was scared to call a seller – so that I wouldn’t open a closet door and mistakingly say “and here’s the basement!” I did everything I could to avoid showing how new I was, because I didn’t want them to think I was a fraud.

writing an offer letter to the sellerSo when the time came to make an offer on the house they eventually bought, Michelle asked “should we write a letter to the seller?” Sure! Why not, what a great idea! Turns out the seller loved hearing about their plans for the home, and it factored in to the seller’s decision. I truly had no idea that was something people even did.

Fast-forward 17 years to 2020, and our buyer just wrote a letter to a seller who was receiving multiple offers. This buyer talked about their plans for the future, and what they loved about the home. It revealed a little something more about themselves than just names and terms on an offer, and they ultimately won the house. We weren’t the offer with the best terms, but when the listing agent brought it back to us, they said our offer letter “struck a chord with the seller, and she felt they should be the ones to be there.”

So do offer letters work? It still depends. It did for Michelle and Adam, it worked for our buyers this week, and I’m sure we’ve had others over the years where it’s worked, as well. It’s certainly no guarantee, but when a seller has the opportunity to connect faces with names, and hear your plans for the home (maybe leave out the part about wanting to rip down the paneling they spent weekends putting up), it just might urn the deal in your favor.

PS – my wife and I played the “we’re having a baby!” card when we bought our house, one of eleven offers. I think the offer letter works.

Buying A Home With Private Wells and Septic Systems in Virginia

Last month I wrote “Ten Things To Know About A Well in the New River Valley”, and just this afternoon received notice that the Virginia Department of Health just last week posted a video entitled What To Know When Buying A Home with a Well and Septic System in Virginia. You can see that video below – even more timely as I had, just minutes before, met with new buyers and we’d talked about buying homes with a well and/or septic system. Thanks, VDH!


Terms to Know When You’re Looking to Buy

As Realtors, we act as both buyer’s and seller’s agents all the time but, in my opinion, and in the opinion of all of us at Nest Realty, never at the same time. Legally we can do it, but ethically? It’s a slippery slope.

Coming Soon

When it comes time to buy your first house (link), there’s a few terms that get thrown around. You’ll be expected to know what they mean like it’s all your first language and not the Realtor-speak we’ve become accustomed to.  It really helps to understand what the people around you are talking about.

Buyer’s Agent

The buyer’s agent represents you, the buyer. I hope, especially if it’s me, that you’ll come to know and trust this person for your homebuying needs. I like to say that you’re going to date your agent for a while, so you’d better like them – if you don’t, get another one!

As the buyer agent, sure we help you search for properties, we walk through them with you, and we fill out the contracts … all the stuff you see on HGTV. We will also negotiate with the Seller’s agent when it’s time to make an offer, working towards getting you the deal that accomplishes your goals. More than all of that, though, the real worth of a good agent is helping you drink from the firehose of information that’s coming at you, answering all your questions and helping you navigate the process. If we can do all of that, we’ve done our job well.

Seller’s Agent

The “Seller’s Agent” represents the person selling the property. They are the ones whose name appears on a yard sign and is eager to show the property to prospective buyers. They should be the one working with you to establish the marketing plan, the pricing strategy, and constantly monitoring how well the home is performing next to the competition.

Think of Coming Soon as a teaser to the real show. It’s a property’s opening act–there to drum up interest before a home  really goes on the market.

In competitive areas, a “Coming Soon” sign can help encourage prospective buyers and drive up the value for the seller. If you do see this on a home you’re looking to buy–be ready. Side note – some markets, including the New River Valley, are reconsidering the use of Coming Soon advertisements, and whether they are in the best interest of the consumer.


The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a technology that makes Real Estate transactions more efficient. Think of it as the Google of real estate search in the New River Valley. It’s where brokers list the information about a property, allowing other licensed agents and brokers to share in that information and, through the magic of technology, consumers far and wide via websites like, Zillow, Trulia, and dozens hundreds more.

If a home is listed as “Coming Soon”, it isn’t yet on the MLS. Once it appears, your Realtor can provide you with information and also learn a lot that might help guide buyers to–or far far away from–a property. We live and breath the MLS and use it everyday … it’s the most frequently used tool in our toolbox.

Under Contract

We’ve been saving the most asked two for last! What’s the difference between “Under Contract” and Closed?

“Under Contract” is easier to understand than it seems. It simply means that a buyer has made an offer and a seller has accepted, contingent on the terms on the contract. It hasn’t sold yet, technically, but both buyer and seller have agreed to terms, and are working toward closing.

A house is “Under Contract” while all of the nitty gritty homebuying stuff happens. There’s a lot of steps that we’ll cover in another post, but it’s things like the appraisal, inspection, and final approval of your mortgage, as well as removing any other conditions established by the buyer.


Closed! That’s an exciting day for everyone involved. It’s the day when you sit in an office and sign more papers than you ever thought possible. With a good Realtor, it can be a fairly straightforward process. There may always be a hiccup or two but for the most part, we’ve learned to maneuver what goes wrong, and with the right team in place you might even know about the hiccup!

Four Biggest Buyer Mistakes

Ready to buy? Great! That’s why we’re here. Buying a home–whether it’s your first or your tenth–is an exciting time. Chances are if it you are a seasoned homebuyer, you’ll already have learned most of these mistakes either by experience or a good realtor before me.

For those new to the whole experience, it’s important to understand that it’s a stressful time and overwhelming experience for everyone. The best way to help ease some of this anxiety is to do your homework and work with a great realtor who has done this many times before. Once you’ve been doing it long enough, you learn what is and isn’t important.

Continue reading

How To Time the New River Valley Real Estate Market

My friend Mike Simonsen posted this on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, in response to someone saying they wanted to buy their first home in 2020 (note – he said “do” try and time the market … he meant “don’t):

100% correct. There is no timing the real estate market, Mike’s exactly right. And he should know – as the CEO of Altos Research, one of the premier real-time real estate data firms around, Mike knows market timing better than most. You cannot time the market, at least not intentionally; sometimes you might get lucky and sell at a real peak, or buy at a real valley, but the reality is that without the benefit of hindsight we simply don’t know that we’ve reached the peak, or climbed out of the bottom. Which leads me to my second point … I replied:

As Realtors we have a fiduciary responsibility to our sellers to help them sell for as much as they can get in the market they’re in, and when we’re representing buyers, helping them buy as great a deal as we can in the market they’re in. But if we’re pitching that you need to make a quick decision and buy now, you can rest assured that that agent is only serving one person, and it’s not you. The market you’re in is the market you’re in – unless you’re simply not going to buy, you can’t avoid what the market gives you. So work with an agent who listens to what you’re targeting, tries to help you find that, and helps you navigate things at your pace, not theirs. I promise – you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience.

Thanks, Mike, for the prompting.

PS – also avoid that agent who alternately says both “it’s a great time to buy!” and “there’s never been a better time to sell!” They are mutually exclusive of each other. Don’t do it. Seriously.

Go Look at Houses in the Rain – Seriously

Picture your dream house and what do you see? A gourmet kitchen with a wraparound front porch on 80 acres? You bet, we can do that. A perfectly adorned downtown condo, if that’s more your style? We’ve got a few of those.

Bet you that dream house fantasy comes with perfect weather too, doesn’t it? Sunny and 70 degrees? If it’s the New River Valley, it can be winter in the morning, and summer in the afternoon!  Continue reading

Real Estate and School Resource Officers in Montgomery County

If you haven’t been following along – and how could you not be? – school safety is rightfully the topic of the day YEAR right now, and that is no different in Montgomery County. In fact, it was on the Board of Supervisors most recent agenda this past Monday night, where BOS members listened to Sheriff Hank Partin discuss the need to add to their School Resource Officer force. Yann Ranaivo, a Roanoke Times reporter and fantastic follow on Twitter, was there and detailed the discussion, embedded in abbreviated form below. Everything takes money, of course, and the discussion revolved in part around how to fund these new positions. As a result of that discussion, the BOS voted to propose (highlighted to point out that it’s not a guaranteed increase!) of $1.5 cents per $100 assessed value on real estate in Montgomery County. The current rate for the County is $.89 cents per $100; this proposal would bump that to $90.5 cents per $100.

It’s hard to imagine, in today’s world, that we wouldn’t want to have the funds in place to ensure our schools are properly secured. For context, according to the 2017 Nest Realty Nest Report, the median sales price for a home in the County was ~ $214,500. At a rate of $.89/$100 of assessed value, that property owner is paying $1909.05 in real estate property taxes. Under the new proposal, if that rate had been $.905/$100 of assessed value, the total tax liability would rise $32.17 to $1941.22. As Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent Mark Miear posted on Twitter, “Would you be willing to pay this amount to add SRO’s to elementary schools?

You can read a Storify of Yann’s tweets below, or his article here. So … good idea, or bad one?


The Tortoise, The Hare, and New River Valley Real Estate

I’ve been sharing for years that the New River Valley real estate market is very similar to Aesop’s Fable of the tortoise and the hare. And today, a client sent a text that showed he’d been listening. He had been looking for property at and he waited and finally got the house he wanted. Now we just have to move, so we hired this company who do Removals to Denmark.

Conventional thinking seems to be that we have to make decisions quickly, particularly when it comes to real estate. I cringe when I see agents saying “you’re going to have to act fast!”, then months later their condo is still on the market. I cry a little when I see folks saying “rates are low, act now, they’re going to go up!”, which is the same thing they said two years ago. No wonder the public doesn’t trust us – when all we’re doing is pushing our own agenda, I don’t trust us, either.

When it comes to real estate, I am firmly in the camp of “slow and steady wins the race”. I know I’m in the minority there among my colleagues, but I believe 100% that clients make their best decisions when they can slow down and analyze the situation, specially when they have professionals from Prugh Real Estate Jackson Hole WY on their side helping them. Others may say you have to act quickly in order to get anything done, but I’d argue that a broader look at that line of thinking will reveal more mistakes and losses than wins – or at least more losses than you might think. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time, with doing your due diligence, with making sure your questions are answered. Can taking too much time work against you? Of course – paralysis by analysis is a very real thing. But the decisions that need to be made during our transaction are best made when you have time to deliberate, study, and think. That isn’t to say sometimes those decisions need to be made a little faster than you might be comfortable with, but if you’re constantly being pressed to make a decision before you’re ready, it might be time to stop the race.

That Aesop. He was a smart cookie.



Where To Find New River Valley Real Estate For Sale

So you’ve decided to buy a house – where do you get information on all of the real estate that’s for sale? should you get a Property Manager?

Years ago – back when people still walked uphill to school, both ways, you looked in the paper. Earlier this week I was listening to a podcast with Barbara Corcoran and she shared how, when she started renting apartments in NYC, you advertised in the New York Times because that’s where everyone looked for real estate and start working on it, people even start to learning the business or teach it like nick vertucci real estate academy review. The real estate section of the NYT was at times thicker than most sections of the paper! Residential Rental Directory – Search Local Rentals | Rental

Times have changed, and so have the methods of finding real estate. You’ve got sites like,, Zillow, and hundreds (thousands?) of others. And how many times have you found a great home on a site, emailed your agent, and found out that the house you wanted isn’t actually for sale any longer? (By the way, did you know that Nest Realty syndicates to more than 150 national and regional locations?) While everyone has a different website they like and trust, I’m always going to recommend that if you see a home for sale on one site, cross-reference it on Our search option connects direct to the Multiple Listing Service, so you know if it shows for sale on it’s available and ready for you to take a look.

Looking for foreclosures? We’ve got that too – just hit up, and there you’ll find every foreclosure listed for sale!

Happy searching!

New Phishing Scam Targets Home Buyers

Scammers – they’re the lowest of the low. And now, we’re seeing them go after home buyers, attempting to steal money via wire transfers. It’s something we’ve been watching gain momentum for a few months now, and while Nest Realty has taken steps to continue to safeguard our clients’ information, it’s still important to stay vigilant.

Nest Managing Broker Keith Davis has put together a really great blog post detailing the scam, and highlighting ways that you, as a home buyer or seller, can protect yourself. Even if you’re not working with Nest Realty, make sure your agent knows of the scam, and talk with them about steps to protect yourself. You can read the full post here.

Thanks and view fences over at Fencing Direct for the information.