I missed a birthday once. Not the birthday of a friend or a family member, which I've done more times than I care to admit, but an important birthday that I share with - well, no one else I know. I missed my own.
I was in college - studying hard, Mom - and just forgot it. Woke up on September 26th to a full day of ... college stuff ... and forgot all about it until an aunt called to wish me Happy Birthday. "HUH?" Oh yea, it's my birthday.
Makes for a good story, and it's true as well, but I apparently didn't learn my lesson because I've done it again. This blog turned two on December 24th, and I waltzed right by it as I recovered from the joy and ecstasy of a wrapping
paper party. So Happy Birthday blog. The first post was a Merry Christmas to no one in particular because no one was reading at the time, and two years later I'm admitting my failure as a good student and manager of important dates. Wow ... I've come so far.
Thanks for reading, thanks for suggesting topics to discuss, and thanks for getting involved in the conversation. The opportunities presented to me because of this blog have exceeded any tiny idea I ever had of how it could benefit real estate in the New River Valley, and it's because of the conversations we've had - on and offline. I hope that will continue, and I'm looking forward to it ... hope you are all as well.
Happy Birthday, blog. We now return to regularly scheduled programming.
Earlier in December, Dr. Hong's RoMeLa humanoid robot DARwin conducted the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra in Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" ... that's right, DARwin, a robot, conducted a symphony. He's told me before how it's done, but I don't understand a word. It should be noted this isn't a preprogrammed response to the song - this thing is actually conducting and responding. Freaky. So enjoy, and congratulations to Dr. Hong and his amazing group of students. (It takes a couple of minutes to get into the song, but well worth the wait).
Last week I asked how you decorate for Christmas. My wife and I decorated for Christmas this year for the first time in a very long time, and we were excited to have the chance to do it again. Some people decide to decorate a little, others go over the top, and a lot of folks fall in between. So I asked ... how do you decorate?
I received several emails from readers, and comments on the blog - thanks for sending your pictures along! Here are some of the highlights:
Jason wrote ... "Well
I didn't get around to it this year because I just didn't have time,
but I usually put up any where from 20,000 to 30,000 lights on my
parents house. I have all the parts to make it a computer controlled display, just
have to find time to solder and wire up the controllers and sync it all
to music. I plan on having it all ready to go for next Christmas though." Wow. 30000 lights? That's Griswald.
Katy wrote ... "We used to move constantly, so I
painted my own Christmas ornaments on circles of heavy watercolor
paper. All my decorations fit in one little margerine tub. We're still
using them even though our nomadic lifestyle ended when I retired and
we moved to Radford, the beautiful New River City!"
Darla sent some pictures from her daughter's home in New Jersey:
And from our own home:
I know, the tree is pointing the wrong way. I promise ... it's still upright. HAPPYHOLIDAYS!
Looking to buy a house in Southwest Virginia? Perhaps you've been looking at homes in Christiansburg, or in Radford, and you just don't think you can afford it. I'd remind you that the opportunities are there for buyers right now for two reasons - (1) the inventory available, and (2) the rates that local lenders are willing to lend at. Let's look at the numbers ...
Principal & interest: $805.24 Prop Taxes (estimate): 114.83 PMI (None with USDA): 0
Total Payment: $920.07
Imagine - a $150000 mortgage for less than $1000 a month. And it's important to note that this is a USDA loan, with a secure 30-year fixed rate and NO prepayment penalty. STILL think you can't get a loan? I promise you that it's still easier than you think. Contact me, I'll help you search for your best option with local lenders who have money to lend.
This can work well for many buyer profiles, but what one buyer often has a job, credit and no money? Recent college graduates. Virginia Tech and Radford alum, let's see how we can make this work for you!
Updated 12/19 8:05am - Stan Norris of Prosperity Mortgage emailed me to take me to task a bit, and he's right. There are a number of variables that need to be considered regarding mortgages, including whether points are paid up front, whether the Seller is paying some closing costs, what type of property it is, etc. This isn't an endorsement of the USDA program in every case - your local lender and agent can walk through the best options with you to determine what makes sense. And I forgot to include insurance costs, as well - that's kind of important. According to Eric Johnsen, a good rule of thumb to determine monthly hazard insurance on a residential property is to multiply the market value x .0025, then divide that by 12. So in the example above, ($150000 x .0025) / 12 would mean a monthly insurance cost of $31.25 ... still less than $1000.
I've been meaning to put this post out there for quite some time, then a month or two ago another agent did
something similar and so I figured it was probably time to move it up the To-Do list. A lot of people ask me "when's that house down the street going to sell?", or "how much did that two-story on Main Street sell for?" While I'm glad to tell you, there's a way you can find out even faster. If you'll email me your name, email address and the neighborhood you live in, I'll set up a search in the MLS that'll email you every time a property in your neighborhood comes on and off the market. You'll be the first to know when it this the market, the first to know if the price changes ... be the envy of all your friends! Don't worry - by providing your email address I won't be spamming you, or sending you cutesy recipe cards in the hope that you'll remember my name. If it helps, I won't even save your address.
I've just found that if you're interested in following the values in your area, this is a good, real-time way to do that. I've set it up for myself to track my own neighborhood, and those of some of my former clients, and can do the same for you. Just email me and I'll set it up; I hope you find it useful.
How do you decorate your home for the holidays? Do you even decorate at all?
My wife and I were out in Blacksburg the other night and came across a house that - let's say they REALLY get into the Christmas spirit. We call them "Ho-Ho Houses" ...
you know, the homes that'd give Clark Griswald a run for his Christmas bonus money. I didn't have my camera with me, but I'll snap a photo next time I'm over that way.
I started wondering how other people decorate their home for the holidays. I know I've seen several people talk online about how decorating the house reallyhlp them get int the mood of Christmas, and I wonder how you decorate your house? Are you a garland-and-lights, simple and classic decorator, or do you go all out - the more lights and candy canes and dancing Santas the better?
Post your style in the comments below, and feel free to post a link to pictures if you'd like. In a few days, I'll post pictures of some of the things Natalie and I have done this year.
I haven't mentioned in a very long time that NRVLiving Real Estate has things for sale. We have for a long time, actually. Shirts ... and mugs ... and stuff for kids ... and it's Christmas, don't you need to pick up some last-minute gifts for the special pet in your life?
It's true, the NRVLiving Real Estate Group has it's own store, and you can buy all kinds of things there that are emblazoned with our very own NRVLiving logo. I mean, look at that smile on WDBJ7's very own Natasha Ryan as she shows off her new t-shirt! Don't you want that same sense of excitement?!
Seriously though, we do have a store. And it's not to put money in our pockets, either - we're an entrepreneurial bunch here, but not quite like that. See, we don't talk about the ways we're involved in the community very much, but one of the things I AM proud to talk about is our involvement with a local child care center, the Valley Interfaith Child Care Center. The folks involved with this center are very dedicated to their mission ... taking care of children from low-income, working families throughout the New River Valley, so that Mom and Dad can get back into the workforce. One of the many ways we support this group is through the NRVLiving Store - 100% of all profits we make go directly back to the center. It's not much, I promise you, but every little bit counts.
All kidding aside, if you'd consider supporting the Valley Interfaith Child Care Center through our store we'd greatly appreciate it. And if you'd like to discuss other ways you might be able to support, either through volunteering your time and talents, dedicated giving, etc., let me know - I'd be glad to tell you more about what we're doing. The needs are great, for sure - thanks for considering how you might give back. NOW GO GET YOUR SHIRTS! :)
It's the winter time - duh, it's cold outside - and many folks are looking for inexpensive ways to save dollars AND energy in their homes. I came across this list from GreenCville.com and thought I'd repost it (italics are mine):
Seal duct work - this is the number one way to conserve energy during the winter. Duct work can leak heated air into the attic or crawl space if all the joints and intersections are not sealed with foil-backed tape or silicone caulking. (which is another reason Mt. Tabor Meadows is so unique)
Seal air leaks to attic - seal all holes from pipes and wires that run in and out of the living space. This includes light fixtures, pipes, wires, attic stair openings.
Seal fireplaces - never use a fireplace as a heat source for your home. Even as a supplemental heat source, the cold air introduced to a warm home through an open flue isn't as efficient as sealing off a fireplace and using the primary heat source. For natural gas fireplaces, turn off the pilot light when not in use.
Lower thermostat - in the winter, set the thermostat between 65 and 70 degrees during the day and to 58 degrees at night or when away from home for several hours. Keeping the temperature at 70 degrees is recommended for homes where there are elderly or infants. (this can be hard to maintain in homes that take a long time to heat - a programmable thermostat might help as it allows the home to begin heating at a prespecified time of day)
Lower water heater to 120-125 degrees - many water heaters are automatically set at 140 degrees. Lowering the temperature on your water heater will reduce the amount of fuel needed to heat the water.
Change furnace filters every month - This is the number one reason for furnace breakdowns. Inspect heating and cooling equipment annually. Have a professional check and clean furnaces once a year.
Weatherstrip doors and windows - inspect doors and windows for air leaks. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then it needs sealing. Air leaks can be sealed with caulking or weather stripping.
Insulate water pipes coming from the water heater - insulate the first three to six feet of cold and hot water pipes near the water heater. Insulating all hot water pipes is not necessary if pipes are lo
cated in an attic or crawlspace.
Add an insulation blanket to your water heater - wrapping the water heater with an insulation blanket can save heating money by slowing the drop in temperature from the hot water tank as it sits unused. Inexpensive insulation kits are available at most home improvement stores.
Add insulation to attic - when adding insulation, start at the top and word down only after eliminating air infiltration. (I've had clients do this and it drastically reduced their heating and cooling bills)
What are YOU doing to save money on energy costs this winter?
Saw this today from Handshake 2.0 and it just made me chuckle. I don't have anything from LimbGear so I can't speak to their quality, but if they'd like to send me some stuff to test out on the slopes I'd be glad to review! :)
Seriously ... enjoy. This made me laugh; I was working on a couple of Price Opinions for new listings and it was just the thing I needed. Thanks LimbGear.
Ever been in a candy shop? You know, the type where there are candies of all sizes, shapes and colors lining the walls? The shops where you shove a big metal shovel the size of Delaware into a barrel of assorted candies, and you come up with all different types of sweets?
Yea - that's what the real estate market is like right now.
It's not that it's a huge surprise ... the winter is always slower than normal, so we were prepared for that. I can't say anyone saw bailouts of the banks, the construction folks, the auto makers, the pizza bakers and the professional matchmakers, but needless to say here we are. See how I did that, the whole rhyming thing and all? I know - Eminem I'm not.
Nor am I fan of bailouts of irresponsible mismanagement, but that's a story for another day.
Buyers, if you: (1) have a job, (2) have money to put down and (3) have good - notice I didn't say excellent - credit, our current real estate market will be like walking into that candy shop and taking your pick of everything that's available. I don't mean that you'll get it for pennies on the dollar, but the opportunities are there to pick up excellent values right now. Think about it - if a property is listed now, between the Thanksgiving and Christmas time frame, don't you think that Seller is serious about selling his or her home NOW? I do, and my Sellers are. And it's important to note that when I say you need money to put down I don't mean ten's of thousands of dollars. There are lenders here locally, right now, offering great rates on FHA and other buyer programs that are requiring as little as 3% down, not to mention the free money - yes, free money, not additional loans - that localities like Blacksburg are offering qualified buyers.
Let me post the latest absorption rate numbers for the New River Valley market now, and then check in with folks that might need to sell their home in the next few months. When it comes to absorption rates, we're
looking at how long it would take to sell the existing
residential inventory in a particular area, if nothing else came on the
market until supply was exhausted. Anything over 5 months is typically
a buyers' market, and anything less than 5 months is typically a
# of Active Properties
# of Sold Properties
Sellers, the market's not in your favor now when you look at the numbers above. 28, 54, 64 months worth of inventory? An average of more than two years worth of inventory is a scary thing when you're putting your home on the market, but remember it's not taking EVERYTHING that long. The average for the NRVLiving Team in 2008 is 101 days, or just over 3 months. Some have taken less, some will take more, but we're doing our best to expose our listings in every effective way possible. That being said ... selling right now isn't for everyone. If you bought a townhouse in Christiansburg last year for no money down and expect a 10% return, it might be a good idea to rent for the home for a while. Those are products that are having difficulty selling in today's market, and will need some time to settle out. Nevertheless, there ARE ways to get it sold ... not the least of which includes patience. There is a lot of uncertainty right now, and it's going to take patience and carefully executed marketing to reach buyers who are ready to execute.
At the halfway point of the year, I wrote a post looking at what the market was doing up to that point, and compared it to the year prior. The results were striking, and I'm working on a follow-up for the entire 2008 year that I hope will be helpful. There will be some in the real estate market who will be happy they held off selling, and others that will regret not buying, but the time is not right for everyone. Be patient, find an agent who is studying and demonstrating they know the market they're serving, and grab that shovel - there's candy to be had.
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by WDBJ7's news anchor Natasha Ryan about a story she was writing on the online social media site called Twitter.
Now, I've admitted my addictions here on the blog before, and it was interesting to see a local news outlet not only recognizing the power of the service but taking the time to investigate it further. Below is the final result, in two parts done on last night's broadcast:
Certainly I feel the service is an invaluable tool - it helps me connect with friends, it's enabled me the opportunity to meet current and future customers, and it's even influenced the creation of a new small business startup in the New River Valley. It's nice to see local news outlets exploring new ways of breaking news and staying in touch with their viewers. If you're on Twitter, make sure to check out these local news and civic organizations:
There are many more, I'm sure, but these were some I could recall off the top of my head. Thanks to Natasha and WDBJ7 for the story, as well as to Patsy Stewart, Ira Kaufman and Stuart Mease for their participation as well, and to Kevin Cupp for recording the video!
Last week I mentioned that I'd been knocked out of the second annual VAR Blog Brawl. In the words of Lee Corso, "not so fast, my friends." I can't say for sure exactly what happened because truth be told, I've no clue. But I've just learned that I'm in the semi-finals of the contest and I need your help! Take 30 seconds, visit VARBuzz.com Take 2 and
please vote for NRVLiving Real Estate. Your reward? Absolutely nothing but the warmth in your heart from knowing you took the time to vote.
Yea, we're keeping it simple like that; no hanging chads here. I'd greatly appreciate your vote.