Archive for November, 2008

Top Clicks: Commonwealth Online November 2008

November’s Commonwealth Online newsletter was the widest read and best-clicked newsletter of the year! That Presidential election had a little something to do with it. Here are the top five most-clicked articles:

  1. REALTOR® Magazine’s pre-election Q&A with Obama
  2. Sign up for a new VAR member benefit: FREE e-newsletter service, ClientDirect
  3. NAR analysis and commentary on what Obama means for real estate
  4. HUD’s new appraiser rules
  5. GMU analyzes VAR’s 3rd quarter home sales stats

Here are some clicks you may have missed:

  1. Get your NAR code of ethics training and make it count towards your Virginia CE requirements.
  2. FREE resources from VAR and the Virginia Homeowners Alliance to help you position yourself as a trusted real estate adviser.
  3. Vote in the Virginia Real Estate Blog Brawl!
  4. Tools for brokers, managers, and those who aspire to be.
  5. Get a FREE BlackBerry Bold when you sign up for a new wireless plan. More deals at

Don’t Feel Sorry For Me… I Just Closed My Biggest Sale

“You are in real estate. I feel sorry for you these days.”

I’ve lost count of how many times someone has said something along these lines to me in the past few weeks and months. Have you heard the same thing lately?

What with the daily news of the economy, devastating media reports about the real estate market, foreclosures, prices taking nosedives, etc. — what should people be thinking?

“You must have a lot of time on your hands these days.”

“Have you thought about a back-up plan or a part-time job?”

Is the real estate market really that bad? The market presents challenges, for sure, but there are also opportunities. It is not a bad market, but a changed one here in Northern Virginia and D.C.

After my $970,000 settlement on a luxury townhouse in Arlington on November 7th, I’ve had a new answer to this barrage of questioning for the last 10 days:

“Actually I just closed my biggest sale about a week ago — almost $1 million.”

Jaws drop. Bewilderment ensues. Misperceptions are shattered. Maybe the market really ain’t that bad.

Or maybe this guy Brian Block is doing something right.

While some other REALTORS spend their last days hanging on in the business complaining about the market around the water cooler waiting for their phone to ring, the strong agents and brokers are surviving, even thriving.

Action and attitude win out every day over media hype and complaining whining.

And while I continue to enjoy the afterglow of a big sale, I’m not bragging about it around a water cooler… I’m too busy this week with 3 new buyers.

This Thanksgiving I’m thankful that I never got that part-time job…

LandAmerica files Chapter 11

Henrico, Va.-based title insurance company LandAmerica has declared bankruptcy; some of the company’s assets — Lawyers Title Insurance Corporation, and Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company, and United Capital Title Insurance Company — are being acquired by Fidelity.

More on the story here. And here.

It’s stock price is down more than 78 percent today; it’s now at $.20.

Hey! Voting is open! Both of our contestants are getting a free registration to Inman’s Real Estate Connect NY. So, what’s at stake in the finals? How about one thousand dollars and the overall number one seed in the national Real Estate Blog Brawl (March 2009)?

Remember, don’t be a turkey: One vote per IP address. Get your friends, family, neighbors and complete strangers to vote for your favorite finalist and send them to the Big Apple with a big wad of cash.

Vote. NOW!

Offensive or on target? Speaking with St. Joseph

What follows is a story that was submitted for Commonwealth magazine. Most of me loves it, especially because of the point it makes. On the other hand, I know that these days people are particularly sensitive and easily offended. Will they ignore the underlying message (“work hard”)? Or will they take it in the spirit in which, I assume, it was submitted?

Let me know.

(Note: I’m not giving the author’s name, but it was written by a non-VAR employee. The piece was mildly edited, and I added the intro. Otherwise it’s intact.)


A conversation with Saint Joseph

It’s a common real estate superstition: Bury a statue of St. Joseph on a property you want to sell, and it’ll sell faster. There are disagreements about the details — Upside-down or right-side-up? Front or back yard? By the door? — but the basic idea remains the same.

So — at the risk of offending those whose sense of humor doesn’t extend to the ecclesiastical — we imagined how a conversation with St. Joseph might go. What would one of the most revered saints in Christendom think of the plastic statues available in “Home Sales Kits” from

* * *

Tell me, Joseph, how is it that you’re speaking in colloquial English?

That’s not what I’m speaking. That’s what you’re hearing. It’s a common problem.

I can believe that. So, here’s my question: You know things are tough in the real estate market—

Tough? Like, Darfur tough?

All right, times are relatively tough.

Perspective. Use it or lose it.

Well, my question is, does it really help to bury a statue of you in front of a house? Will that make it sell faster?

Think about it, really. I’m Jesus’ father…


Stepfather, whatever. The point is, do you really think that, with all that’s going on in the world, I’m spending a lot of time nudging people to a page in the MLS? I’m the patron saint of 10 countries and a dozen cities, of carpenters, pregnant women, and engineers.

Continue reading Offensive or on target? Speaking with St. Joseph

Blog Brawl Round 3 Results!

While I waited for Ben to get back, I was able to narrow down the, um, let’s call it a “statistical anomaly.” So I’m confident we have a clean result.

What is the result? Watch and see. (And this was edited in a rush — apologies for any weirdness.)

Blog Brawl results are in, but…

abacus  …I can’t release them till Ben gets back later this afternoon.

Almost 1200 people voted votes were cast, which has to be some sort of record. I ran a couple of statistical analyses on them, and found that yeah, there was something funky going on. But there’s only so much time I’m willing to devote to figuring out whether and how anyone cheated.

Next time, though, we’ll have a different voting system to avoid any questions.

In the meantime, I’ve got my video editor fired up while I wait for Ben and Jovan (“the talent”) to arrive.

Stay tuned — I think at least a few people are going to be surprised by the results.

Time is running out to vote!

DC-area residents can profit from Presidential inauguration

Something to tell your clients about, maybe?

Homeowners and renters in the DC metro area can cash in on the estimated three million people who will descend on the downtown mall for the Obama inauguration by offering their homes or apartments for rent. The Georgetown (DC) firm of Fortune Marban Real Estate Services has set up a clearinghouse website for residents to offer their abodes for rent and for renters to find available locations for rent. A one-week rental could more than cover one monthly mortgage payment. Cha-ching!

There must be other sites like this. Links anyone?

Get More Facts: Virginia Home Sales

If you like the 10 Things or 5 Facts cards we’ve done on Virginia home sales this year, there’s a new Q3 edition available to help you with your client counseling from now until January (when we release another 10 Things). This update of our Virginia Home Sales Postcards is out (and up online). Visit to check out this and other practical tools for understanding and communicating info on today’s real estate markets.

This tool is only a snapshot, for more on Virginia home sales check out the full report at