Archive for November, 2009

Today’s Va Homeowners Alliance posts November 30, 2009

  • Loudoun Drivers Still Struggle with New Roundabouts

    Some drivers in Loudoun are still struggling to correctly navigate four new traffic circles, according to the Washington Post.

    The new traffic cirlces are designed to slow traffic, but to keep it moving. Unlike traffic lights, traffic moves at a steady pace instead of backing up.

    VDOT will install new, and larger yield signs to help drivers correctly, and safely use the traffic circles.

    “Two months after four roundabouts opened to traffic, some drivers still don’t understand how to maneuver through the new traffic pattern at routes 50 and 15 at Gilberts Corner, the latest attempt to ease worsening congestion on Washington’s periphery.

    ‘Even though we have two signs at every entrance and the big, six-foot-tall word ‘YIELD’ hanging on the pavement, people sometimes still fail to yield,’ said Kenny Robinson, who managed the project for the Virginia Department of Transportation. ‘So we’re going to put in bigger yield signs.’

    Still, he says, it’s only a matter of time before people learn. So ubiquitous are roundabouts in Europe, supporters say, that some don’t need yield signs at all.

    So while many locals adopt a wait-and-see approach to the new traffic-calming measures, VDOT has begun touting the $15.8 million project as a cost-effective solution for a major choke point in southern Loudoun County and a possible model for future projects, saying the circles mitigate long backups that have been the norm during rush hour.

    Officials will make these points at a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for Monday at the historic Mount Zion Church in Aldie.

    Federal earmarks helped pay for the project, on the idea that it could serve as a pilot for how roundabouts work in rural-turned-exurban areas. Many residents, who have sought solutions for the mess on Route 50 since the mid-1990s, opposed large bypasses or flyovers, saying that they would detract from the area’s rural charm. Environmentalists and smart-growth advocates assisted them.

    The idea is that traffic operates on a wave theory. A stoplight backs up traffic; roundabouts eliminate left turns and improve sightlines. Cars move more slowly, but the overall pace quickens.”

    Read the full story.


  • VA Restaurants Brace for Smoking Ban

    The new anti-smoking law goes into effect tomorrow in Virginia restaurants, according to the Washington Times.

    Restaurants across the state are responding in various ways. Some opted to ban smoking earlier this year, and others have smokers enjoy a private room closed-off from the rest of the restaurant.

    This is a concern for all homeowners who dine out because it will change your dining experience. But, also, it is important to see how this ban affects restaurants and their revenue because they are contributors to the local tax base, affect the local economy and play a major factor in tourism.

    “The bluish haze that has hung over the Third Street Diner’s bar and booths for decades finally lifts Tuesday as a new anti-smoking law takes hold in Virginia, a huge shift for a state whose tobacco habit dates to the Jamestown settlement almost 400 years ago.

    Virginia will join dozens of other states that ban smoking in restaurants. Restaurants in Virginia will be allowed to have a smoking area only if they segregate smokers into rooms with ventilation systems separate from those that heat and cool nonsmoking patrons.

    For most of its history dating to Colonial times, tobacco was Virginia’s premier crop and economic staple. Frescoes of the golden-brown leaf adorn the ceiling of the Capitol rotunda, a short cab ride from the massive factory that supplies the world with Marlboros.

    Yet this year, strict new curbs on lighting up where food and drink are sold were enacted by lawmakers in Richmond and in Raleigh, N.C. – major tobacco states where cigarette giants Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have been accustomed to getting their way.

    North Carolina’s law takes effect Jan. 2 and will allow smoking on outdoor patios and in private membership clubs, as does Virginia’s law. Unlike Virginia, North Carolina law will not allow any smoking in restaurants.

    Virginia restaurant industry lobbyist Tom Lisk expects only about 10 percent of the state’s restaurants to retain smoking areas.

    ‘A number of them, because of that requirement in the law to create or construct a separate room, don’t have the wherewithal to do it, so they’re just banning smoking altogether,’ said Mr. Lisk, who last winter opposed the bill.

    Some, like Williamsburg blues and jazz nightspot owner Randall Plaxa, decided to go smoke-free well ahead of the deadline.

    Others, like the Third Street Diner and the Beatles-themed Penny Lane Pub two blocks away in downtown Richmond, will move their puffing patrons into upstairs quarters that already comply with the law.”

    Read the full story.

And the Blog Brawl 4 Round 1 winners are…

The following blogs have made it to Round 2 — that means these folks have the Thanksgiving holiday to submit their entries for the next round, “1000 Words.”

To refresh: They need to…

Publish a photoblog post. (It can have some words, of course, but the photo has to be the focus.) The photo must have been taken no earlier than November 19, 2009. Send us the URL for the post.

Submission deadline: 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, December 1.

Then what: Our panel of photographer judges will rate those photos and pick the four best to go on to Round 4. (Oh noes! It’s not a popularity contest!) We’ll announce those picks on Friday, December 4. And yes, everyone will get to see all the entries.

And now, the winners:

  • Arlington Real Estate News
  • The Phoenix Real Estate Guy
  • The Arlington Dirt
  • Sarah Stelmok
  • The Realtor’s Toolbox
  • The Real Estate Zebra
  • Wolkia
  • Modern Homes Portland

Congrats to you folks, and lemme say this: It was pretty close, especially considering almost 800 votes were cast. So those who didn’t make it, you still impressed a lot of readers!

You eight: Get snapping!

Blog Brawl 4: Vote Deadline

We said we’ll announce the eight top vote-getters before we leave for Thanksgiving break today. Rumor has it that the office will be closing at 2 p.m., so that means voting ends at 12:59 p.m. EST today, November 25.

Blog Brawl 4: Round 1 VOTING

It’s time! Time to vote! In the Blog Brawl!

The qualifying contestants are in — now it’s up to you to pick the best.

Click the link below and choose up to eight of your favorites — the eight getting the most votes will move on to Round 2. (Click here if you need a refresher on how it’s all going down.)

Voting has ended.

(And cross yer fingers that our new polling system works properly.)

UPDATE: Here are links to all the contestants

Blog Brawl 4 Contestants (in no particular order)

Today’s Va Homeowners Alliance posts November 23, 2009

  • Partners Plan 80 Apartments in Former Lynchburg Mill

    Turning the one of the oldest commercial buildings in Lynchburg into apartments is the goal of two developers, according to the Lynchburg News & Advance.

    This could be great for downtown homeowners by encouraging more people to live downtown, and making the area more marketable to residents.

    “Larry Cluff thinks that the people who once worked at Piedmont Mills had great views from the tall windows that let light into the otherwise-dark building.

    Within two years, he wants loft apartment residents enjoying those same views.

    ‘It’s got beautiful potential,’ he said, pointing out a view of the Craddock-Terry Hotel from the second story of Piedmont Mills. Other windows in the building, which was built in the late 19th-century and is one of the city’s oldest commercial buildings, reveal views of surrounding historic buildings and the James River.

    Cluff and his business partner Chris Chadwick are piecing together their plans to renovate the building, simultaneously saving it from demolition.

    They plan to create more than 80 apartments in the brick structure on Jefferson Street and the tall white silos behind it.

    They are currently taking bids from roofing contractors, Chadwick said. In coming months they want to begin putting up a new roof and stabilizing the building, which has been in such a state of disrepair that it’s on the fire department’s ‘no entry’ list.

    The pair has secured long-term financing for the project, and now is looking for a construction loan.

    They expect construction to start in the spring and finish within a year and half.”

    Read the full story.

  • Hampton Boasts Low Taxes, Has High Admin Costs

    Hampton residents enjoy one of the lowest tax burdens in the area, according to the Daily Press, but spends more on administration that area localities.

    The numbers were released as the city prepares for one of the worst budget years in recent history. After already making some cuts within the budget, the city will need to make more because it will be receiving less state funds.

    “Hampton puts on its residents one of the lowest tax burdens of Hampton Roads’ cities, but spends more on administration than those neighboring authorities, according to a new report.

    The statistics were presented at last Wednesday’s Hampton City Council work session by Assistant City Manager John Eagle. The Comparative Cost Report was drawn up as Hampton anticipates one of the toughest budgets in recent years.

    ‘It’s well understood that this year’s budget will be very, very difficult for the council, city staff and ultimately for the community,’ interim City Manager Jim Oliver told council members.

    ‘Everybody is going to have to look a little harder this year.’

    Hampton’s report compares the city with five other Hampton Roads cities — Norfolk, Newport News, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach. The report is based on 2008 statistics and comes from information held by Virginia’s Auditor of Public Accounts.

    Eagle said Hampton’s tax burden on local residents — equating to $2,022.36 per person — is one of the lowest in the area. Newport News’ tax burden is $2,164.95 per resident.

    But the report pointed to a rise in the cost of Hampton’s administration in 2008, when City Hall spent $22.2 million, or the equivalent of $154.22 per resident, compared to $20.7 million in Newport News, or $114.6 per person.

    Eagle said the government administration figure was ‘a little troubling,’ and even ‘counterintuitive’ because Hampton had made great strides to become more efficient.”

    Read the full story.

Facts & Myths on Cap & Trade

VAR has received numerous forwarded e-mails concerning information on the Internet that H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (often called the "Cap and Trade Bill"), will require homeowners to comply with government-mandated energy and water efficiency standards before they can sell their properties.

The most common message in circulation also says, in part, that H.R. 2454 will prevent owners from selling homes without the permission from the Environmental Protection Agency, and obtaining this permission will first require retrofitting to meet standards set by the bill.

We want to assure VAR members and your clients that these allegations are inaccurate and misleading. They are based on an earlier version of the bill before NAR prevailed in having possibly detrimental provisions deleted from H.R. 2454 before the House of Representatives voted on it.

The real estate provisions in H.R. 2454 comprise about 50 pages of the entire 1,428-page bill. Focusing its efforts on these 50 pages, NAR successfully advocated for significant improvements. As it passed the House on June 26, there are no federal energy audit or retrofit requirements at point of sale.

The bill is now before the U.S. Senate. At this time, we do not know when it may be acted upon there.

For further information, please right-click this link to download the NAR Information Pack containing several documents, including a legislative analysis and a "Myths and Facts" sheet about the bill. We hope this will help put to rest unfounded concerns resulting from any misunderstanding of the current provisions of H.R. 2454.

The NAR staff in Washington has been, and will continue to be, active in every aspect of this legislation in order to protect the best interests of Realtors and homeowners.

Existing-home sales jump in October

Higher than expectations. The highest level in two and a half years. Almost 24% over October 2008. W00t.

(More at MSNBC and here on VARbuzz, once we put it all together. But we wanted to share the good news.)

New VARbuzz feature: Daily Virginia Homeowners Alliance digests

Virginia Homeowners AllianceJust a quick head’s up to let you know about a new feature here at VARbuzz. Every night at 11:45, we’ll post a daily digest of all posts made to the Virginia Homeowners Alliance Web site. If no posts are made during the day, there will be no digest (ordinarily we post 3-5 articles per weekday on the Virginia Homeowners Alliance Web site).

If you aren’t familiar with, you should click on over and have a look. There’s real estate news for every city and county in Virginia, as well as statewide real estate news. Sign up today, and feel free to re-use the stories in your newsletters, on your blog, or where ever you’d like. The Virginia Homeowners Alliance Web site was built for homeowners and Realtors, so be sure to make use of it.

Blog Brawl CHANGE

It’s like this, see: I want more entries in the Brawl.

I just didn’t give Realtors across the country enough time to find out about it.

However, we had a plan for just this scenario. We’re cutting out Round 2 and extending the deadline for submissions until 11:59 p.m., Monday, November 23.

Remember, to enter yourself — or someone else — you need to send us the URL of your single best blog post. It doesn’t matter when it was published.

The rest of the Brawl — rounds 3, 4, 5 — will continue as planned:



How good is your blog? Time to find out — it’s our 2009 National Real Estate Blog Brawl!

And this time it’s different. Way different.

As usual, we’ve got some sweet prizes, thanks to our sponsors, Inman News and The Center for REALTOR® Technology. (And the good folks at Inman will be offering a pretty hefty discount to Real Estate Connect NYC 2010 just for VAR members. Stay tuned for details.)

Let’s start with the good stuff — prizes.

First place:

Second place:

Third and fourth place:

  • Flip Mino HD camcorders
Who can enter

The Blog Brawl is open to any Realtor® (yes, we’ll be checking), and the blog must be focused on real estate. Simple as that.

How it’s gonna work

There are five rounds of the Brawl. The first one is open everyone. (Well, not really. See above.) But out of those entries, only 16 will make the cut to move on to Round 2.

From there, each round cuts the contestants in half. Er, the number of contestants in half. Round 2 will whittle us down to eight contestants, Round 3 will give us four, and Round 4 will give us the finalists.

What’s different? It ain’t a simple popularity contest this time. The whole judging thing’s been rejiggered and reconfigured. Some rounds use voting; some rounds use judges. And that voting isn’t ye olde “pick one” anymore. You’ll see.

A few more rules

image We expect you to ask for votes. That’s the nature of the beast. Go for it — beg and plead to your heart’s content. But don’t pay for them (other than the typical “buy you a beer” offers we see); don’t use any method of automated voting; or any system, tool, method, or whatever that a reasonable person would consider not cricket. You know what we mean.

There are probably ways to cheat that we can’t catch, but we hope we can count on your integrity. Still, we reserve the right to disqualify any blog/blogger for any reason or for no reason. (Translation: Stay above reproach. Period.)

On to the Brawl!

All that said, let’s get started! Are you a Realtor® with a real estate blog? Submit it for Round 1!

  • All times are Eastern Standard.
  • To be eligible, submitted blog posts must be real estate related.
  • Send e-mails to

Here’s the schedule of rounds and how each will work.

(If you think you’re good enough, you may want to look ahead to rounds 4 and 5. Just sayin’.)

Round 1 — “All in”

Submit the URL of the best single entry on your blog (preferably something recent, but there’s no limit). It must have been written, shot, or taped by you.

Submission deadline: 11:59 p.m., Monday, November 23.

Then what: Voting! We’ll take all the qualifying submissions and put them on a voting page. Visitors will vote for their favorite posts. That’s right — POSTS. They aren’t limited to just one vote. On Wednesday, November 25, before we leave for Thanksgiving, we’ll announce the top eight vote-getters, who will move on to the next round.

Round 2 — “1,000 Words”

image Publish a photoblog post. (It can have some words, of course, but the photo has to be the focus.) The photo must have been taken no earlier than November 19, 2009. Send us the URL for the post.

Submission deadline: 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, December 1.

Then what: Our panel of photographer judges will rate those photos and pick the four best to go on to Round 4. (Oh noes! It’s not a popularity contest!) We’ll announce those picks on Friday, December 4. And yes, everyone will get to see all the entries.

Round 3 — “Artist’s Conception”

Contest: On the morning of Tuesday, December 8, we’ll visit your blog and take a screenshot. Then we’ll show it to our team of designers, who will rate it for its graphic design. If you’re looking for an excuse to redesign your blog, this is it! You can do it yourself, hire a designer, use a template — whatever. Just make it look good. And yes, everyone will get to see all the entries.

On December 10, we’ll announce the judges’ findings, and the two finalists.

Round 4, the final round — “Ready for Your Close-Up”

image Publish a video blog post — no text other than the title and typical blog metadata (tags, categories, etc.). Length can be anywhere from 10 seconds to 10 minutes.

Submission deadline: 11:59 p.m., Monday, December 14

Then what: It’s voting time again! We’ll open the contest to everyone, just like Round 1. But this time we’ll ask people to rate your video on a scale from 1 to 10. We’ll average the scores for each to determine the winner.

And we’ll announce that big winner on December 18!

So… why are you still reading this and not submitting your entry?

Get a 10% discount on CE from the CE Shop

Are you in need of some CE hours before the end of the year? Would you like the chance to win FREE online CE for one entire renewal cycle?

CE Shop, VAR’s online CE partner is offering a 10% discount on any online CE course. As an added bonus you will be automatically registered for a chance to win FREE CE for one year!

Here’s how:

  • Visit CE Shop’s course catalog
  • Choose your course(s)
  • At checkout, enter the promotional code: TURKEY
  • Receive a 10% discount and be automatically registered to win FREE CE!

It’s easy, but it won’t last long! This promotion expires November 30, 2009.