Affordable Housing Awareness Week 2016 wrap up

Each year, residents from across the Richmond region look forward to Affordable Housing Awareness Week (AHAW), when more than 500 volunteers put on t-shirts instead of office clothes to participate in a volunteer-driven event that makes a difference for hundreds of members of the Central Virginia community. Participants include the local businesses whose employees volunteer at work-sites, the nonprofits that are building and repairing homes, and most importantly, neighbors in need who often work side by side with volunteers. The event took place this past week in Richmond and was a great success.ahaw

Since the first AHAW, more than 4,000 volunteers from across the Richmond area have worked at over 350 work-sites, improving the quality of life for hundreds of our neighbors. REALTORS® across the Commonwealth have become more active and engaged in making a difference with the issue of affordable housing.

Laura Lafayette, CEO, Richmond Association of REALTORS® (RAR) and a longtime champion for affordable housing in the Richmond area, opened the forum this week and talked about the need to create and maintain an adequate supply of affordable housing. Laura told the Richmond Times Disptach, “We have our challenges, but it is equally important to lift up our positives.”

The planning contributions to Smart Growth America and other Housing Opportunity Programs by RAR and other Virginia local associations such as: Williamsburg Area Association of REALTORS®, Harrisonburg Association of REALTORS®, Virginia Peninsula Association of REALTORS® and Southside Virginia Association of REALTORS®, positions REALTORS® as leading advocates for affordable housing in the communities where they live and work. Affordable housing enhances the comfort of each person who can access it, but it is vital for the economic stability of our communities and for keeping schools, transportation, and public safety sustainable for everyone. We are proud to say that so many Virginia REALTORS® make this issue a priority.


New VAR Legal Hotline video: Housing – Advertising

Legal video fair housing advertising 2016

VAR’s Erin Barton, Staff Counsel, talks about making sure your advertising complies with fair housing law and the Code of Ethics. Topics discussed include:

  • Ten protected classes for Virginia REALTORS®
  • Whether intent to discriminate is necessary for a violation
  • HUD guidance on acceptable terms and phrases
  • Tips to create protected-class sensitive advertising

Click here to watch the video.

Erin is a lawyer and a former REALTOR®. She managed a successful team of REALTORS® and administrative staff while with Keller Williams Realty in Richmond.  She also most recently served as a contract attorney at McGuire Woods; Hancock, Daniel, Johnson & Nagle; and, Williams Mullen where she reviewed cases involving antitrust issues, SEC violations, insurance and fraud.


New VAR Legal Hotline video: Fair Housing

Legal Fairhousing Erin Barton 2016

VAR’s Staff Counsel, Erin Barton discusses fair housing law, including:

  • What are the seven federally protected classes
  • What classes are protected by Virginia State law
  • Code of Ethics Article 10
  • Risk management practices for your business

April 2016 marks the 48th anniversary of the 1968 landmark Fair Housing Act. Each year REALTORS® recognize the significance of this event and reconfirm our commitment to upholding fair housing law as well as our commitment to offering equal professional service to all in their search for real property.

Other fair housing resources:

2016 Fair Housing Focus Poster 

Fair housing poster NAR 2016

 2016 Fair Housing FOCUS
Fair Housing FOCUS explains how REALTORS® are working for diverse neighborhoods and leadership.
fair housing focus flyer 2016

Article: Fair Housing Act: Criminal History-Based Practices and Policies
In the recently issued “Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions”, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) urges housing providers to exercise caution when implementing criminal history policies or practices used to make housing decisions.



Virginia Residential Real Estate Market Continues to Improve through First Quarter

The Virginia residential real estate market continued year-over-year improvement according to the First Quarter 2016 Home Sales Report released by the Virginia Association of REALTORS® (VAR). Indicating sustained long-term growth, both the number of sales and the value of transactions rose from this period last year, totaling 20,771 units and $6.34 billion, respectively. The value of transactions for the first quarter of 2016 was 2.2 percent higher than the first quarter of last year, and nearly 15 percent higher than the first quarter of 2014. Annualized residential sales, a rolling sum of the home sales closed in the preceding twelve months, rose for the sixth consecutive period, from 108,827 units in the last quarter to 109,185. First quarter 2016 sales were 8.7 percent higher than the same benchmark in 2015, reflecting both a strong start to the first months of this year and the swell in last year’s summer volume.

Aggregate median sales price for the first quarter was $249,000, the highest first quarter median price since 2008 and a 1.9 percent rise over the first quarter of 2015. 2016 had the highest first quarter median price since 2008. Compared to the first quarter of last year, 2016 first quarter home sales increased in nearly all price bands, with the most significant increases in sales in the price ranges between $200K to $300K and $400 to $500K. Rising sales across broad price categories suggest higher consumer confidence as buyers enter the market at varied price points, supporting overall market improvement.

“The first quarter of 2016 illustrates continued growth in the residential real estate market,” said 2016 VAR President Bill White. “As the housing market improves, so does the impact on Virginia’s economy. Growing home sales boost revenue for the state and spending in our communities.”

Click here to view the First Quarter 2016 Home Sales Report.

For Q1 Blog


NRVAR hosts legislator forum to discuss state and local issues

NRVAR Forum 4

On Friday, the New River Valley Association of REALTORS® hosted a town hall meeting at their Christiansburg office for members to hear a recap of the recent Virginia General Assembly Session and to discuss issues of state and regional importance with the policymakers.

NRVAR Forum 2About 60 REALTOR® and affiliate members participated in the event, hearing from state Delegates Nick Rush (7th District), Greg Habeeb (8th District), and Joseph Yost (12th District).

“I thought the event was a great way for our REALTOR® and Affiliate members to connect with our elected officials,” said Donna Travis, chair of NRVAR’s Governmental Affairs Committee.

“We are so grateful to Delegates Rush, Habeeb, and Yost for answering our questions.  I think it’s also equally important for our Delegates to see that as REALTORS® we are passionate— especially when it comes to subjects that affect our clients.”

Major topics discussed included the possibility of passenger rail in the New River Valley and ways of achieving greater accessibility to reliable broadband internet in the region.

If your local association plans to or would like to host an event with state legislators, please contact VAR Chief of Policy & Advocacy Martin Johnson at to find out about resources VAR can offer to make the event a success.

NRVAR Forum 3


Spring Broker Day 2016 – a great success!

ced2ae95Spring Broker Day 2016 in Charlottesville, VA on Wednesday, April 20th was a great success!
With three informative (and fun!) education sessions by our renowned keynote speakers, Brokers received management training, E&O insurance information, and tips for handling those broker pitfalls.

“Such a great event! Enjoyed the program!!” said Claire Forcier-Rowe, 2016 President-Elect, VAR.

The day started out with Rick Cockrill, 
Spring Broker Day Workgroup Chair, thanking his committee and their staff liaison for making the event possible.

Karel Murray then began her seminar, ‘Straight Talk for the Managing Broker’. Karel covered everything from managing people to managing the books. “People arb75mqw8e your most valuable resource; they are a direct reflection of you.” She left us with an impactful video showing the importance of always having your teammate’s back.

After lunch, Jeff Swanson shared ‘Knowing your Risks: Social Media, Errors & Omissions Insurance’. He stressed the importance of knowing if you have the right coverage; “1.1 million real estate agents in the USA and most are 1099 contractors.” Making sure you understand the elements of the right E&O policy is crucial.

To wrap-up the day, VAR Deputy General Counsel, Laura Farley shared her expertise on ‘Broker Pitfalls’ and resources for improving them. As far as management goes, Laura mentioned how crucial it is for every office to have an employee policy manual, no excuses!

Already excited for Fall Broker Day 2016? So are we! Fall Broker Day is on October 20, 2016. Learn more here.

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Celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day – April 22nd – is an annual reminder to be conscious of the environment and to learn about simple opportunities to create greater sustainability for the planet. Springtime offers natural reminders to consider a home’s energy efficiency, along with other seasonal considerations like refreshing landscaping and investing in exterior projects. In addition to aesthetic appeal, thoughtful plant and lawn care can contribute to better drainage and ground maintenance, and even reduce the energy costs of a home by acting as buffers to wind and sun. Many seasonal improvements and home features enhance the value and comfort of a specific property, but also benefit the environment at large.

Along with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Green Designation, Virginia REALTORS® champion the practices and industry partners that support a sustainable environment. Richmond-based Viridiant, formerly called EarthCraft Virginia, uses proven science and practical application to offer REALTORS® and homebuilders a clear view of how sustainable building benefits both the wallet and the planet.

KC Bleile, executive director of Viridiant, explains that green buildings are more affordable, more livable, and more durable. “Green-certified homes demonstrate lowered energy costs, translating to monthly utility savings for residents while also lessening the home’s impact on the environment.”

2016 VAR President Bill White adds, “Especially at this time of year, with the recognition of Earth Day and spring flowers blooming as home sales increase, Virginia REALTORS® are mindful that what’s good for our clients is also good for the place we all call home.”

Celebrate Earth Day this year by participating in Viridiant’s Race Without a Trace 5K along the Virginia Capital Trail. Click here for more information.

Green logo


Commuting cost matter to homeowners

traffic congestion

Even with lower gas prices, the cost of commuting to and from the office can be pricey (as well as stressful!). But how much does that commute play into the homebuying process? According to research from the National Association of REALTORS®, commuting costs definitely come into play in searching for and purchasing that dream home; in fact, 30 percent of homebuyers purchased homes last year to cut down on commuting costs—a factor they cited as “very important.”

Additionally, 64 percent of buyers bought their home in part because it was convenient to their job; this was so important that 23 percent of those buyers said they compromised on the price of their home to be physically closer to work, making more time for the other important things in their life, such as spending time with friends and family.

Virginia’s average commute time to work in 2014 was 28.1 minutes, a modest increase over 2013 and the seventh highest in the nation. While considerably higher than North Carolina (23.9 minutes) and Tennessee (24.5 minutes), this average is lower than Maryland’s 32.3 minutes. The national average rose slightly to 26.0 minutes. Leading state South Dakota actually saw a drop in its commute length, with an average commute time of 16.7 minutes.

Sources: National Association of REALTORS® and Virginia Performs

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New VAR Legal Hotline video: Earnest Money Deposits

VAR’s Blake Hegeman talks about one of the hottest topics on the legal hotline, earnest money deposits.

  • Just because a party to a purchase contract has a clear termination right, does not entitle a real estate licensee escrow agent to release the escrow funds to him/her.
  • Generally speaking, the real estate licensee escrow agent needs the mutual consent of the parties in writing or a court order to disburse escrow funds in the event the contract does not close.
  • An exception is if the property is foreclosed upon while the purchase contract is pending. Foreclosure is considered a termination of the contract by the seller and, absent any default by the buyer, the escrow shall be disbursed to the buyer.

Click here to watch the video.

As deputy general counsel for the Virginia Association of REALTORS®, Blake counsels association staff and volunteers on legal best practices. Additionally, he teaches more than 60 educational sessions each year, writes the “Legal Lines” section for Commonwealth Magazine and answers the VAR Legal Hotline.

Bought to you by the VAR Legal and Marketing Teams


On Wednesday, delegates and senators will “Reconvene” at the Capitol in Richmond to consider legislative actions taken by Governor Terry McAuliffe since the General Assembly adjourned on March 11th.

During the period between a bill passing the legislature and the Reconvene Session, Virginia’s Governor reviews and acts on the state budget and legislation. The Governor has four options to deal with legislation:

  • The Governor can approve and sign the bill into law. Unless otherwise stated in the legislation, laws become effective July 1st of the year in which they passed.
  • The Governor can make amendments to the bill and send it back to the legislature for approval. It requires a majority vote in each the House and Senate to approve amendments made by the Governor.
  • The Governor can veto the legislation.  It takes a two-thirds majority in each the House and Senate to override the Governor’s veto.  If the legislature does not override the Governor’s veto, then the legislation is effectively “killed” for the year.
  • The final option for the Governor is to take no action on the legislation. Without the Governor’s signature, amendments, or veto, the bill still becomes law.  Historically, this is a rarely used tactic.

This year, Governor McAuliffe has signed approximately 700 pieces of legislation into law, made amendments to about 60 other bills (excluding about 30 changes to the state budget), and vetoed 32 bills.

Later this week, we will update members on any changes to the VAR Legislative Agenda bills or any other legislation that is important to VAR’s mission of promoting homeownership and protecting private property rights in Virginia.