Williamsburg Real Estate Reality Check V 2.0

3004 river reach (2)From time to time I get frustrated with what buyers are looking for versus what is on the market, and more frustrated that the first thing an agent does when a buyer calls to see a home is put them in their car and hit the town, before spending any time educating the buyer. Why does the agent do that? Because the buyers rarely care or want any advice. After all, they’ve looked at Zillow or Trulia, the clear authorities on market value right? There is no doubt buyers have ample sources for online house hunting and listing websites. Are they accurate and are they complete? Not always…

Buyers need to let us help. They shouldn’t have to ask us to help explain the market. Realtors should require a  sit down to explain the market. We should help them evaluate what it is they want and need,  and what is their budget. Is the budget a cap or is it a beginning point? Many buyers come to me and want to start thousands over their budget cap, while not giving an inch on location, condition, terms. What a buyer visualizes, may not be in their budget.  I really do want to help you find what you want and need, but even when money is no object, it really is.

So what is it an experienced agent brings to the table that Zillow and Trulia don’t?

First and foremost agents have local experience, knowledge and perceptions. Granted the levels of those all vary greatly and need to be vetted. But any agent maybe better than no agent or an unknown agent. Secondly, an agent will or should be able to separate you from the emotional aspect of buying. Not replace the emotion, but to help you see the logical and long term aspects of your search and ultimate decision.

Statistically Speaking

Weeding through the market intelligence available is important. We are all flooded with statistics every day. We make decisions based on those, while hopefully tempering the emotional part of the decision.

So my value to you will be my 11+ years of experience, education and training. As both a very experienced listing and buyers agent I can help you see both sides of the transaction. I use my experience as a buyers agent to help my sellers understand the transaction from that perspective and likewise, my buyers learn from my understanding of the listing process and sellers perspective.  Lately, we’ve been getting lots of encouraging news about real estate activity, albeit nationally. Locally, I can report mediocre sales and activity. I think expectations and buyer readiness is part of the problem and coincidentally that is the same for sellers today!chart graphic

Here are some stats simply listed as a starting point. My criteria was pulled from the WilliamsburgMLS which carries the brunt of our local listing data. There is a margin of error because not all sales are listed properties or may not be listed or sold using the WilliamsburgMLS or Realtors who belong. I used the whole MLS for sold listings over the previous 12 months from this posting date, then looked at various price ranges and detached single family homes in zip code 23188 for now, and factored out the sold properties in 55+ adult communities. My next post will break down the differences between the various zip codes and municipalities making up “Williamsburg”.

Todays active listing count is 1459 total. The past 12 months sold count is 1798. For zip code 23188 that dwindles to 464 and when factoring out the local age restricted community that drops to 297 sold detached single family properties in the last 12 months. The same criteria for 9/2012-9/2013 was a total of 1494, and 9/2011-9/2012 was 1215 closed sales respectively. Data excluding age restricted communities is not avalaible Year to date we are slower than last year, but way better since the bubble burst!

For zip code 23188 the average sold price in the last 12 months was $371,002 vs an asking price of $380,343 and the average square footage was 2616. Looking at that more closely there was a low of $275,000 for a 2641 SF home and a high of $488,000 for a 2629 SF home. Looking at the average price, I found a $375,000 1600SF home and a $375,000  3359 SF home. So buyers focusing only price or price per square foot can see vastly different “values” or homes.

Out of the 434 active homes in 23188 today, 337 are single family detached. They break down by price this way:

  • Under $300,000=72
  • Under $200,000=19
  • Under $150,000=5
  • $400,000-$499,000=68
  • $500,000 to $999,000=91

Once we start looking at other criteria like bedroom count, schools, age etc we can really get to the heart of the “market” for a particular buyer or seller. That is the value of finding the right agent. You have to be willing to share and accept information, criticism and advice as an agent and as a buyer or seller!

Here is one of the newest listings I just put on the market in Williamsburg!

http://www.circlepix.com/home/JFPJPX

This is a 5 bedroom 3 bath 3100 square foot home in Williamsburg Virginia. It is spacious, stylish and in in great condition! Check out the virtual tour and let me know what you think!

The ups and downs of a home inspection…

ImageOnce the elation of actually finding the right home and getting through the initial contract negotiations behind you, you have to take a deep breath and get ready for the next set of negotiations…the home inspection.

Yes, that is still a negotiation. When presented with the contract you were most likely also presented with a contingency addendum. There may be several contingencies depending on the house, buyer, the loan or state you are in. Sometimes a seller has an addendum or two up their sleeve that show up too! In any case, the terms of the inspection were presented up front and you knew a time frame, and you might have known what items would be included. Many are limited to discovering latent (hidden to the buyer and sometimes the seller) defects. Generally cosmetic issues are purposely not included. Latent defects are typically those things that would prevent a reasonable buyer from making a contract had they known them, or might have addressed in the contract had they had the knowledge of them.

That begs the question, is a prelisting inspection a good idea or not. That is a whole other future blog topic I’ll delve into for you later.

So the contract has been negotiated and the seller took less than their asking price, unless you’re in Toronto or Missassauga where list plus and arm or leg will get you a contract. The seller is thinking, I took less, the buyer realizes that and will be accommodating in their request for repairs, and I’ll be accommodating in my offer to repair. Then the emotions flare up. The home inspector found a few burned out light bulbs but his E&O insurance carrier would like him to call those open circuits and to have an electrician check them, He found some windows painted shut, so a licensed contractor must be called in to address. He might also have found a rocking/movng toilet or two. I’m not sure I have ever witnessed a toilet move except in a house for sale. At your next dinner party play detective and check to see if your neighbors loo has any movement when applying force to both sides of the commode to “rock” it. Unless the house is for sale, my guess is it wont move!

So what else do they usually find? Insulation missing in the attic, sagging insulation in the crawl space, dripping faucets, clogged gutters,shingles missing or nail pops in the shingles, roof vent caps deteriorated, closet doors that stick or hardware that doesn’t line up, and just yesterday, a seller was asked to remove a bag of sand…and the bag. Hopefully, your inspector caught the cracked foundation block, bad chimney flue, HVAC malfunction, the mold or mildew problem…the biggies. Those things which really affect your decision to buy or not. If you’re looking at a 20 year old house, there will be issues. If you look at a brand new house, there will be issues. If you buy the house, have the seller fix every little thing on the report, chances are in 2 months, you’ll be fixing something else. Or you’ll say “meh, no big deal I get to it next week”. Then in 5 years you try to sell the house after neglecting it and the next buyer wants it fixed. You’d think they were asking for your social security number!

The bottom line is you negotiate. You don’t take the inspection or the buyers response personally. Don’t let emotions kill the deal that you made on the house that took you months to find, that you probably got a good deal on. Sellers, thinking about the cost of repairs in terms of years you’ve owned the house. Chances are you saw the repairs coming or should have and chose not to address them right away. If you’ve owned the house for 5 years and have to spend $1000 to make the buyer happy, that’s $200/yr.

Sellers should have their homes inspected regularly, just like a car or your teeth. Don’t wait until a buyer shows up to buy it, and vilify them for finding something wrong. Buyers, be reasonable. If you bought the house and took the seller to the woodshed and wore them out, expect some pushback on repairs. Chances are you’re better off fixing things yourself rather than a seller trying to save money in the repair.

How’s the Real Estate Market in Williamsburg Virginia?

Here Are Some Updated Market Statistics

When Looking at statistics, as I’ve often said, “statistics can be made to prove anything, even the truth”. The problem is statistics can be manipulated to prove almost anything. Someone else once said “98% of statistics are made up”. The irony is of course that that is a statistic so who knows, maybe that’s true!

What I have below are real time graphs fed directly from my MLS. You’ll have access to what is going on in our entire MLS, which geographically covers a very large section of SE Virginia, and a more localized important group of zip codes representing the greater “Williamsburg” market. Those zip codes are 23168-23185 and 23188. The problem is those zip codes cover 4 municipalities: The City of Williamsburg, James City County, Upper James City County and Upper York County. Within each of those are dozens of communities that span price ranges from the mid $100,000 to several million dollars. So statistically,  any statistics covering the whole MLS may be less accurate or skewed. Imagine what that really means when you hear, and pundits often rely on, NATIONAL housing statistics.

It’s also important to understand that medians and averages, yield different statistics. Medians are perhaps more reliable since they represent the mid number-half higher and half lower. Averages are important but can easily be swayed by a few large or small transactions or prices. That may give the reader the wrong message. Say for instance two homes sold last month. One for $1,000,000 and one for $100,000. The average sold price would be $550,000. But is that in any way helpful? It’s also important to factor in re-sales or new construction, attached or detached, condos-townhomes, arms length sales-short sales or foreclosures. THERE ARE LOTS OF VARIABLES AND ENDLESS CHARTS AND INTERPRETATIONS! Don’t dwell too much on the market stats, because you’ll never make a decision to invest, buy or sell at the very most opportune time. You can’t time the market, and by the time you act, you’ll be late.

So back to some local stats. These are median numbers when looking at prices! I am putting closed median sales price, closed sales units, days on the market (for the median sold price) and our inventory of available homes. These are all attached and detached home types in the areas mentioned. When I am talking about buyers or sellers market, it is usually in reference to the number of homes available relative to the number of homes that have been sold. So if we have 1200 homes on the market, and sell 100 homes every month, our “inventory” is 12 months. That’s how long it would take to sell what we have. In reality, homes come on and off the market every month as well as  seasonally all year long. But a balanced market is typically looks like 6 months of inventory. Again, you must look at the price range, type of dwelling and numerous other factors to know if you are buying or selling in a buyers market or sellers market. Hovering your mouse over the graph line will show you quarterly statistics!

Closed Sales-units

Ending Inventory

median sales price graphic

Median Sales price

Median Days on Market

 If you want me to help you figure out how your market is (in Williamsburg or Hampton Roads), please let me know!

NO Fee, NO obligation, NO Pressure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have added a new page where I will be making updated stat reports and opinions, so please note that page on the left side bar. I will be playing with the site design a little to make it fresher and easier to work with and find things. Please keep in mind I am an excellent Realtor, and do spend all day trying to become an author, web designer, tech guru and welcome your input and comments!

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While the market may appear dark and stormy, I believe there is reason to be very optimistic looking forward! Remember, the housing bubble burst almost 7 years ago!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Top 10 New Years resolutions for 2014!

ImageWhile I am waiting for my MLS to implement their new stats program, I needed something to talk about. And since this is the time of the year for new resolutions, I’m going to put in writing some of mine so you can hold me (or to hold myself) accountable!

  1. Exercise and eat regularly and better. This is cliche, but but my schedule is anything but a schedule yet I always find time to do everything but eat and exercise. So I will be “off the grid” this year a couple hours a day and will focus on some personal time to improve my health. On December 31 2013 I weighed 236lbs and am 6ft tall. By December 31st 2014 I will weigh 195lbs or will be 7.5ft tall so I am not called obese on my Wii!
  2. I will call my mom and dad to check on them weekly, and will let my brothers and sisters know I appreciate all that they do since I am not close by.
  3. I will schedule time every week to reach out to my clients and customers for regular updates. Again, this needs to get scheduled to get done so every Friday will be my contact day. I’ll allocate two hours to call, email,text or visit my current clients who are buying or selling a home
  4. I will do a better job of following up with my recent buyers and sellers who have already closed to say hello, check on their satisfaction. That will be done on a monthly basis. So my schedule on the 25th of every month will be to call or write the clients from the last 60 days. That way I’ll be “touching them” twice right after we’ve parted ways
  5. I will read an article that will make me a better Realtor every week. We have to continually be looking and learning about this ever changing career and economy. I will re post what I’ve learned or discovered that might help you
  6. I will continue to treat everyone with respect and gratitude regardless if it ever gets repaid.
  7. I will continue to open the door for you so you can enter the store or get in line before me at Starbucks or Panera or anywhere else the line is long
  8. I will continue to treat other peoples property with respect. I will make sure my shoes are clean or off when I enter the house, I will make sure the lights are off when I leave and the door is locked. I will leave a card so you know I was there.
  9. I will continue to donate to those in need. United Way, Childrens Miracle Network, Susan G komen, Salvation Army all benefit from my closed transactions
  10. I will continue to smile, wave and say hello and thank you whether you acknowledge me or not. I WILL NOT LET ANOTHER PERSON RUIN MY DAY!

The Time of the Year For Statistics…

AboveTheCrowd_Balloon_Color_WebCan you believe it is already the end of 2013? With just a few days left, businesses are scrambling to meet objectives set in a different economic climate. How do they measure the successes or failures of this year? Some, measure unit sales while others sales volumes. Others may look at price increases. Still others will look at employee productivity. The truth is all of these measurements can be made to look as good or as bad as they want.

The bean counters look at one stat, the tax people another, consumers want one indication, while the sales force measures the money in their paycheck. So who do we believe? Who can we trust to help us make the right buying decision, whether it’s a stock, a car, a college or one of your most expensive purchases…a home?

20131221055515This chart was pulled this morning from the Williamsburg MLS, and snapshots several price ranges with October 2013 compared to October 2012 and  YTD 2013 vs. 2012. If I choose to look at homes for sale between $550,000 and $650,000, I can boast that we’ve seen a 400% increase over between Oct 2012 and Oct 2013, or a 190% increase YTD 2013 vs 2012. Of course that’s on a whopping 6 sales over 2 or 308 over 250. What would I see if I looked at $5000 increments instead of $50,000? If you look at $200,000 to $300,000 for Oct 2012 vs  Oct 2013 the month was flat despite a YTD 46% improvement YOY. Remember, these are units and price ranges. Prices may still reflect another scenario. Today the editors want good news, tomorrow they want doom and gloom. They’ll get both from the same reports if they want!

So real estate statistics are not that simple.  Numbers get pulled from too many sources, with too many variables that greatly affect the accuracy or value or the data. Pessimists and optimists will look at the same chart and see two different things. Just like proverbial glass-is it half empty or half full?

I’ve been very fortunate to participate in over $10,000,000 in sales this year on over 30 transactions. My stats would indicate that was a good year using several measuring sticks. But I can also find the negative in my performance. Am I likely to tell you?   But the guy or girl sitting in the office next to me may have different stats. If you talk to them at a party tonight and me tomorrow, who will you believe?

Why and how “agency” made my seller $33,000

ImageDual Agency, standard agency, limited service, independent contractor, Realtor, agent…do these terms mean much to you? Are you aware that your agent may not be a Realtor or that your agent may not even be your agent?

EVERY real estate agent, possesses a license by the state they practice in. There are licensing laws everyone has to adhere to and there are ethics that in all cases a Realtor has to adhere to which in many cases raise the bar even higher. Belonging to local/state and national Realtor associations comes at a price and level of service. That’s not to say that an “agent” cannot employ those standards, but there is no obligation to do so or consequences if they don’t.

Now, with that background, onto my story. I have a vacant lot listed for sale and I am an Associate Broker Realtor. My seller agreed t a listing price of $239,000. There are hundreds of vacant lots on the market and this was a price that seemed plausible to ask and to generate interest. It was not a give away price for a vacant lot and the market is very good for home sellers, not so much for vacant lot sellers. I represented the seller only when I listed it and owed them standard agent loyalties.

A customer called in on Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend and after a short conversation expressed that he wanted to write an offer. Prior to that I could answer his questions and do whatever I could to “sell” the lot. At the point he said he wanted to write an offer, my obligation shifts to “disclosure”. Not because my license requires that, but my Realtor status does. I explained I could write his desired terms and present it to the seller still representing my seller as a client and him as a customer. I explained the dual agency relationship, as well as that of an independent contractor. It was clear he understood the options, but I said I didn’t want to do any of that, in fact wouldn’t. I suggested I could have an agent call him to be his standard agency and to perform those duties for him that I was doing for the seller. He had a Realtor friend who could do that for him which was fine with me, but that little bug in my ear said, did I just harm the seller by not writing the offer when a buyer said he wanted to write? I didn’t believe so, trusting that I did the right thing for me and him. Click here for your realtors role. Virginia has a made it a law that a brokerage relationship must be written and signed.

We ended up receiving the offer on Sunday night so the buyer was clearly motivated and ready, and wrote a very desirable offer. However, another agent also called Sunday to say we might be receiving another offer Monday morning. So we held off on answering the first offer until we knew. Low and behold Monday we received another offer-again, very desirable. Now I knew I had done right by the seller in providing the buyer their options and standing only with my initial client. The process went through notifying both agents that we had multiple offers and asking for highest and best offers which they both provided.

In the end, the seller accepted an offer of $271,500-$32,500 higher than their asking price. Had I gone ahead and written the offer for the “customer” on Sunday night, both buyer and seller might have been satisfied. But what would I have done when the second offer came in? Who would the buyer or seller think I was working for during the process. Would my “client” be concerned I might be negotiating for the “customer”? In the end, I had one client and one role-represent them in a legally competent manner, and hopefully get them the most we could for the sale.

It’s a very difficult situation for sure, but the way it went down, I had no trouble sleeping at night. I represented my client very well. I left both other Realtors with a very positive impression of how I handled the multiple offers. The customer I believe he appreciated the fact I explained agency to him and his options, even if it did cost him more in the end. But that was caused by another buyer, not me. He might have questioned my motives if I had to go to him to compete with another offer.

There’s a lot that goes into what an agent or Realtor must do for “clients” and can do for “customers”.  Only a professional can help with that, and only someone with lots of experience will know enough to objectively and expertly guide people through the process!

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