Archive for August, 2008

Hurricane Gustav Information Central update

Update: With the hurricane season proving to be a busy one, the website address has been changed to:
Hurricane Info 08. Please check it to find out how you can help.

There is an amazing group of volunteers compiling & organizing information about Hurricane Gustav, please visit:

Gustav Information Center Alerts and Information Regarding Hurricane Gustav

“An online community for coordinating volunteer knowledge-sharing related to Hurricane Gustav.”
Photos, Videos, up to date information from folks on site, call of volunteers, etc all in one place.

Gustav Wiki

“This is the wiki for information relating to Hurricane Gustav and its approach to the northern Gulf coast. It’s intended to be centralized site for links to information everywhere else on the web; please publicize it far and wee. Information will be moved here as time progresses from the similar wiki built during and after Hurricane Katrina’s landfall 3 years ago. Please be polite and patient in working with the wiki and the community it attracts, to the extent that you can, and hopefully, everyone will get through this one in one piece.”

Visit Gustav Information Center

note: please cross post

What are Virginia REALTORS® reading? Top clicks from August 2008 Commonwealth Online

co-aug  August’s Commonwealth Online e-newsletter was among our most popular. Topping the list of most-clicked links was, well, here —, but close behind was our podcast feed at

Readers were also, thankfully, interested in the Code of Ethics training provided by NAR, at, and they checked out our list of member discounts, too. 

Also among the most-clicked links were our webcasts, our list of broker services, and registration for the Roanoke-area Broker/Manager Road Show on Sept. 4.

And that, folks, is why we send ‘em out!

NVAR vs. 747 — care to place a bet?

The silly dedicated folks from NVAR’s government affairs staff found an… unusual way to raise money for the Special Olympics: They’re going to have a tug-of-war with a 150,000 pound Boeing 747.

It’s part of an event called the Dulles Plane Pull, and the NVAR team (the Capitol Flyers) of 20 that includes some lobbyists and legislators — Chuck Caputo and David Poisson from the House of Delegates, and Mark Herring from the state senate. (Good to see them doing something to save fuel.)

Oh, and to give you an idea what they’re up against, here’s an old Boeing publicity shot of flight attendants next to a 747:


You can cheer the Flyers on at Dulles Airport on Saturday, Sept. 6 — they’ll be pulling between 11:30 and 12:30. More importantly, you can donate to the cause quickly and easily through They’re at about 75 percent of their goal of a mere $1500, so help ‘em out.

No interior photos? No need to visit that house!

No interior photos?
No need to visit that house!

Some sellers find it absurd that a buyer would have this mentality as they decide which homes to visit — they assume that if a buyer is serious, they’ll come see the house for themselves even if there aren’t any (or very many) interior photos.

But buyers are smart, and make reasonable generalizations: most homes without interior photos are hiding something.  Perhaps it is the awful condition of the home, or the hideous decor, or the tiny rooms.  In most cases where only one photo exists for a house for sale, there is something that the seller doesn’t want to have highlighted for the world to see.

And thus, as busy buyers pare down their list of homes to view, they will often assume the worst of houses that do not have interior photos.

I don’t believe that sellers need to go overboard with how many interior photos are posted to the MLS or other web sites, but it is essential to include some interior photos so that prospective buyers can have at least some idea of what to expect.

Wednesday smile

If the Simpsons’ house was real…


You mean that stuff I learned in high school economics was right?

Demand goes up, and prices go up with it. But eventually prices go too high and demand slakes off. (Then the media comes in to announce the "crisis.")

But then — and this is that cycle thing at work — prices drop and demand increases again.

And what do you know:

More Americans waded into the housing market last month, lured by falling prices that helped send sales to their highest level since February.

At least a third of properties bought in July involved foreclosed homes snapped up at bargain-basement prices or homes sold at a loss by owners who had no alternative, according to the private National Association of Realtors.

(From The New York Times)


An apology

Several folks’ comments weren’t approved until today. I thought I got e-mail notifications of any that needed authorization, but apparently not. (And I don’t log in to the VARbuzz dashboard all that often.)

So please accept my apologies. I’m gonna make sure I get those e-mails so it doesn’t happen again.

Update: I was set to receive updates. Don’t know why it’s not working.

New poll up — do you or don’t you?

Today I’m stealing an idea from Cindy Jones at VA Real Estate Talk, who brings up an interesting question. (To see what it is, you have to go to the poll — I say this for the benefit of those who get these updates by e-mail.)

This one rides the line between a legal question and and ethical one; it’s a bit of both. Let’s have your input.

On blogging and software and Web sites

I have been remiss by not writing more here. So here’s some more. Between the CREST surveys, the looming-in-the-distance remake of the VAR Web site, the potential remake of VARbuzz, and the request by my son’s school for me to help with its Web site — well, I spent a lot of time thinking about content management this weekend.

I love the term "content management" because it sounds so… serious. "I handle content management for VAR" sounds intimidating. Of course, all content management means (in this sense) is "Making sure that the things people write appear in the proper place(s) on the Web site."

Blogging back-end software, such as WordPress, is a content-management system or CMS. A lot has to happen with a blog, although you don’t think about it. This post will appear on the front page until it gets pushed off by a certain number of other posts. But you can also view it as a standalone entry long after it’s gone from the home page.

The system also knows that it belongs to the "August 2008" group and to the "Andrew" group, so if you decide to browse by either of those methods you’ll also see it. Ditto if you search the site for, say, the word "calliope" which appears in this post.

So that’s content management — making sure that what you write ends up where you want it.

WordPress is a CMS that was originally designed for blogging, but is not a lot more powerful. It can easily act as the back end for a major Web site. Also in the running for acting as the back end are Joomla and Drupal. They’re both more powerful than WordPress (i.e., they have more features out of the box), but have a steeper learning curve. And I don’t know which sites will require which features, so they could be overkill.

The cool thing, though, is that all three of these world-class CMSs are free. Free as in speech, and free as in beer. That’s incredible. They’re also tiny — WordPress and Drupal could fit on a floppy disk. (Joomla is the largest of the bunch; it’s a 4 MB download.)

So getting, installing, and playing with any of these systems is cheap and easy. I already know WordPress, but I feel the need to dive into Joomla and Drupal to learn all they can do. Well, most of what they can do. Because, as I commented to Ben the other day, they’re like the 1,000-piece toolsets at Sears: You can do anything with them, but that can be a bit intimidating.

Washington Post: Judge REALTORs by their blogs

More and more people are looking to REALTORs’ blogs to decide who to hire, according to a story in the Post (which was also picked up at Consumerist).

No longer must potential home buyers and sellers actually speak to real estate professionals to meet them. Instead, consumers are accessing agents’ ever-more-common blogs, social network pages or viral video campaigns — all of the burgeoning options that have been called Web 2.0 — to tap their expertise and get a sense of their personalities. Some meet agents who quickly feel like buddies; others go with discount brokers and don’t have any direct contact with their agent until they’re ready to put a bid on a house.

"In this type of environment the cream rises to the top," said Jonathan Washburn, chief executive of ActiveRain, a popular real estate blogging site that boasts membership of more than 100,000 real estate professionals. Traditional advertising provides limited information, he said, but online, agents "get a chance to demonstrate their actual expertise by writing about things that are relevant to the consumer."

Kinda makes you want to look at yours with a critical eye, don’t it?