What Does The Future of Real Estate Look Like?

Last night, I attended a speech given by Robert Scoble, and hosted by Rackspace.

Robert is “a futurist” – he looks at what’s coming, or what’s possible to create – and talks about real-world application. At least that’s my interpretation.

Blacksburg and the New River Valley has an incredible startup community that, while still in its infancy, is really, really exploding – there are some tremendous companies here doing some really incredible work. Autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, DNA study … really, really cool stuff.

So why would a real estate guy be thinking about this kind of technology? Because it’s comingit’s here – and we at Nest Realty need to be thinking about how we can apply this kind of technology to the everyday experience of buying and selling homes in the New River Valley. The real estate industry as a whole is notoriously slow-moving, but companies like Nest Realty are doing our best to stay as innovative as possible, understanding and taking advantage the trends before they get here, not afterwards.

As Alex Obenaeur posted later on the luxury real estate South Lake Tahoe meeting (and if you’re not familiar with Alex, you should be – he’s part of the startup community here that’s really making a difference), it’s the difference between proactive and reactive tech:

These folks are working on proactive tech. They are pioneering. They are building things for a world that doesn’t even exist yet; that most of us can’t even fathom.

The world has changed. At Nest, we’re always going to be looking at what’s possible, and how to make it work for our customers and clients. That’s why we’ve made things like Matterport available to ALL of our Nest listings at the brokerage level – if a client wants to showcase their home in this way, we have the tools available to make that happen for them.

But what’s next? Will we use things like virtual reality to show off homes here at the office? Are we driving virtually to listings, showing a home buyer what the surrounding area looks like? Is it technology that helps home buyers and sellers integrate home systems, like Nest and Echo and smart home technology?

The beauty of the future is that we don’t know, and we can create it. Rest assured Nest Realty will be at the forefront of that here in the New River Valley. Thanks for putting this together, Rackspace – great experience. And thanks, Robert, for coming to our little corner of the world.



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The Federal Reserve Raised Rates – Now What?

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates. So what’s it mean for home buyers in the New River Valley?

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Thinking of Remodeling Your Home?

Thinking of remodeling? Before you start going all HGTV on the place, think about what really makes the most sense for your return. And the folks at NAR Research have to put together an incredibly handy look at remodeling projects – including what the Top 20 remodeling projects have been, how happy homeowners (and their future buyers) have been with the work, and what you might expect as a Return on Investment. Hint – there are few 100% ROI projects.

Click here for the 2015 Remodeling Impact Report.

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Buying A Home? Here’s What The Process Looks Like.

Last night, I had new clients in the office, and we were talking about the process of buying their first home might look like. They had done some research on the internet, but as with anything on the web, there was a lot of misinformation to wade through, as well.

We were joking that I needed a video of the process, and lo and behold I happen to have one of those! I wanted to explain whether you should be too worried about the pricing and details, orsilly stuffs like if they have the best shower head in the bathroom! Cheesy it may be, but it’s a quick visual of what to expect when you’re buying your home in today’s market.

So, without further adieu – grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show!

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New River Valley Real Estate Taxes

Taxes – if you own a home, you’ll always have real estate taxes to pay. And while real estate taxes in the New River Valley are relatively low compared to other areas of the country, no one likes to pay them. However, they’re a part of the equation when making your mortgage payment every month. These amounts will vary from locality to locality, and in some cases a municipality will have TWO rates – one rate will be for the City or Town, and the other rate will be for the appropriate County. Feel free to use the phone numbers below to contact the taxing authority if you have questions.*

The good news is that by paying taxes, we’re contributing to the infrastructure that makes the New River Valley such a great place to live.  But how the heck do they come up with the amount you need to pay?  Well, it’s based on the rate that’s voting on by the various municipalities, and they’re detailed below.

To calculate current yearly tax, take the current assessed value of the home, divide by 100 and multiply by the current tax rate.

The assessed value of the home is $250000 and the home is in Blacksburg:
$250000/100 = 2500 x 1.14 = 2850           Yearly tax $2850

Locale Tax Rate Phone Number
Blacksburg $.25 + $.89 = $1.14 540-961-1105
Bland County $.60 276-688-3741
Christiansburg $.16 + $.89 = $1.05 540-382-9519
Craig County $.54 540-864-6241
Floyd County $.55 540-745-9345
Giles County $.61 540-921-3321
Montgomery County $.89 540-382-5717
Pulaski County $.54 540-980-7785
Radford City $.76 540-731-3661
Rich Creek $.20 + $.54 = $.74 540-726-3260
Town of Floyd $.47 540-745-9435
Town of Pulaski $.32 + $.54 = $.86 540-994-8640
Town of Narrows $.47 + $.61 = $1.08 540-726-2423
Town of Pearisburg $.335 + $.61 = $.945 540-921-0340
Town of Pembroke $.326 + $.61 = $.936 540-626-7191

* Tax information is assumed reliable – contact the local Commissioner of the Revenue for more information.  Updated 10/30/15.

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Should I Sell My Home As A “Pocket Listing”?

A client of mine is always on the lookout for properties for sale. Although she is not ready to buy yet, she likes to see what options are out there for her, and she’s always checking out the available inventory.

Recently she was driving through a very desirable neighborhood and saw a higher-end home for sale. Curious, she checked the local listings on Realtor.com, Zillow.com, and the website of the Realtor advertised as the listing agent but did not see the listing. After several days of looking, she contacted me and asked about why a Realtor would not list a home online. She wanted to know more!

What my client saw was a home that is a “pocket listing.” This type of listing is pretty popular in extremely high-priced markets or celebrity neighborhoods. The idea is the listing Realtor will speak with other Realtors in the area about the property, and sell the home that way instead of publically listing it. For those who want to sell and have their private lives remain private, this may be the way to go. I said, “may be”.

According to CNN Money, pocket listings are becoming more common as the market is gearing more towards the seller in larger markets like Los Angeles and Manhattan. But as you’ll notice, we’re not LA or Manhattan. In some markets, I”ve heard of these being as much as 40% of the market!

If you are a celebrity, it might make sense to do a pocket listing, but in this area, not so much. Even in a seller’s market, why in the world would you want to be exclusive if you live in the New River Valley? Homes get snatched up pretty quickly if they are move-in ready.  If someone wants a higher-end home, there are several listed on MLS that are easy for buyers to research before buying. (You can find your next home here.) Having it online allows the potential buyer to do research before making an appointment to see the home which leads to fewer looky-loos and more serious buyers. A quality Realtor will not take anyone other than someone who can afford the home into your exclusive home.

Additionally, there are some other potential problems with a pocket listing, namely dual agency. A pocket listing allows a Realtor to do dual agency, where both buyer and seller are represented by the same Realtor. Dual agency in and of itself isn’t illegal, but it serves to benefit no one but the agent (who pockets the full brokerage fee). As a seller, do you want to expose your home to the broad market, or just who your Realtor knows?

Although the pocket listing my client saw is located in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in town, as of today, it has been for sale at least a month. It’s competition has already sold, because buyers knew where to look.

Search available homes in real-time here. It’s a Pocket Listing Free Zone.

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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 with the help of Willow And Everett
. 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 them on “immobilier israel”

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