Archive for February, 2010

What happens after the tax credits?

Many people are wondering: What will happen to the housing market and home prices after the homebuyer tax credit expires on April 30 (as a reminder this is the date by which the home must go under contract; buyers have until June 30 to close)? This weekend, The Washington Post’s real estate blog is running an unscientific poll asking its readers this very question.

As of about 9:20 a.m. on Saturday, February 27, the overwhelming majority seem to think we’re headed for a dip after the tax credit expires. After all, December 2009 saw a huge drop in transactions due at least in part to the fact that the previous version of the housing tax credit was set to expire in November 2009. The tax credit was extended and expanded in November 2009, but not before potential buyers decided to slow their search, thinking that the tax credit would be going away.

Take the poll and leave a comment on this post. What do you think will happen to the market and home prices after April 30?

YOUR VIRGINIA: Second edition covers the budget mess

The second edition of YOUR VIRGINIA, the Virginia Homeowners Alliance’s e-mail newsletter is on the street. In this edition, we analyze what the Commonwealth’s budget mess will mean for homeowners and bring you up to speed on the five bills affecting your home’s value and property owner rights that we’ve been tracking during the General Assembly session.

Didn’t get a copy? Check out the second edition now, and register at to make sure you get the next one.

A camera is one of the most important business purchases a Realtor® can make. With so many buyers starting their search online, poor-quality images just don’t cut it. Digital cameras have come way down in price and offer some pretty amazing features. But how do you decide which camera to buy? 

This new buyer’s guide from Realtor® Magazine is a good place to start. And check out the September/October issue of Commonwealth magazine, where Andrew Kantor dishes out some awesome photography tips.

Want even more? Watch former pro photographer turned Virginia Realtor Frank LLosa serve up several hours of video classes.

The Value of Facebook for Associations


Today’s Tools

Many Realtor Associations have been quick to grasp the concept and importance of using Social Media to engage it’s members.  NAR has released countless governing documents, hired staff to educate and create tools themselves.  Online communities are some of the most powerful influences in marketing and culture that can exist.  The important element here is community.

Purpose and Task of Facebook

Facebook has a variety of options to engage and build communities.  Chief among those options are Facebook Groups and Facebook Business Pages (aka Fan Pages).  Both of these are powerful tools in the right mindset and skillset.  The better of the two is up to the tasking by the Association.

  • Facebook Groups
    • Groups are just as they sound.  A place within Facebook to invite followers and be able to send messages, share photos, video, events.  It’s somewhat fixed and serves the purposes of most Association’s needs.
  • Facebook Business Pages
    • Business Pages, also known as Fan Pages allow a great deal of customization.  It’ll require more staff time to create and develop with the addition of FBML, similar to HTML, the right talent can make the Facebook page look just like a webpage.  The find-ability is much better and the additional pages and tools can create a far more dynamic environment.


There are some concerns for the Association.  Part of that anxiety is natural for a new tool or putting the ability for members to state their feelings out there. However, many have found that the ability to hear directly from members and to engage and correct misconceptions a value tool.

Essentially there are two concerns that some associations have had.  The first is concern over what may be said and how leadership will respond.  Internal policies should be adopted to establish who will respond and how a response should be given to membership comments and inquires.

One consideration is to limit the posting of comments, announcements and events only to Association Staff.  This helps limit liability, but the tradeoff is fewer members in your community.  Social Media engagement is built on bilateral communications and not unilateral.  People who understand the real value of social media will not stay part of a community that does not respect them or allow them to participate in the conversation.  Tara Hunt, in her book called The Whuffie Factor, makes reference to the consumer (in this case members) finding value in “turning the megaphone around”.  This concept is allowing the other guy to be heard.  Without the element of the member being able to give feedback, there is little value in the options above.

Dealing With Intruders

Frequently you’re going to get Loan Officers, Settlement Agents and Brokers announcing classes, services and other things.  That’s the price of building a community.  If you think about it, this isn’t much different than your traditional networking event.  So long as the Association is doing quality work and providing a superior service, there shouldn’t be much concern for competition on the Facebook page.

Typically speaking the Association is a group of the its members, so if the members are looking for a way to communicate one to another it should be encouraged.  If it’s found that someone is solely doing self promotion, a email or request that person to stop will end the conflict.  Removing the ability for people to engage the community will make the Facebook Page or Group little more than a traditional static webpage.  If the full power of engagement isn’t utilized, than it’s just a drain on staff resources.

Try It, You’ll Like It

Since this tool is free and easy to turn on or off if a problem arises there is really no reason not to try it.  There are a number of YouTube and Blogs out there to help you put together an awesome Facebook presence.  I encourage each Association to give it a try!

Realtor Legislative Agenda sees more progress after Crossover

As Realtors® from across the Commonwealth arrived in Richmond for Realtor Day on the Hill last week, your VAR lobbying team was putting the finishing touches on advancing the 2010 Legislative Agenda (one of the most ambitious ever for VAR).

Here’s where we stand on the bills:<!–break–>

Read the full Capitol Connections newsletter

Real Estate Signs – House Bill 553 / Senate Bill 64

HB 553 passed the House 94-4 and SB 64 passed the Senate 40 – 0.

Though the real estate sign bills have changed somewhat, we believe the problem Realtors® may be experiencing with local governments has been addressed.  If your local government has signed an agreement with VDOT to enforce signage provisions, then government volunteers will be held accountable if they take your signs….but only if the signs have been placed legally.  In addition, the sign bills clear up a misinterpretation concerning signs Realtors® put in the ground without the use of tools, digging, etc.  Under these two bills, if you do NOT use tools, and if you do NOT dig, you will not be required to call “Miss Utility.”

Interpleader Bill – House Bill 231

HB 231 passed the House unanimously and has passed the Senate Courts of Justice Civil Subcommittee unanimously.

HB 231 changes the process that allows brokers to file an interpleader in General District Court.  The effect of HB 231 is that it will take less time and money for brokers to have a judge to determine the appropriate party in a deposit dispute.

Appraisal Management Companies Bill – HB 408

HB 408 passed the House unanimously and now awaits action in the Senate.

HB 408 reforms the way appraisers work with Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs).  This bill contains 13 specific prohibitions that will ensure better compliance with the law and will allow for more consumer protections.

1031 Exchange Agents – HB 417

HB 417 passed the House unanimously and now awaits action in the Senate.

HB 417 creates protections for consumers who participate in 1031 real estate exchanges by clarifying requirements and prohibitions for 1031 exchange facilitators.

VRLTA reform – HB 407

HB 407 passed the House unanimously and now awaits action in the Senate.

HB 407 makes numerous changes to the VRLTA, including:

  1. Provides that courts will allow electronic uploads of unlawful detainers;
  2. Clarifies that Rational Utility Billing is covered under the VRLTA as rent;
  3. Specifies when property managers can go to court without a lawyer;
  4. Clarifies that landlords can charge administrative fees to cover damage and renters insurance programs;
  5. Authorizes landlords to withhold security deposits until water and sewer bills have been paid to the locality.

Amnesty for Honesty / Out-of-State Licensees — House Bill 963 / Senate Bill 457

HB 963 passed the House 99-0 and Senate Bill 457 passed the Senate 40-0. 

These bills specify that brokers who self-report violations of VREB regulations, or who report their agents’ violations of the regulations, will be protected from sanctions, as long as the broker was not willfully or grossly negligent.

In addition, these bills require out-of-state licensees to take the state portion of the licensing exam before they are granted a license through reciprocity.

VAR Board of Directors takes action at Get Active conference

At last week’s Get Active Legislative & Education Conference, the VAR Board of Directors took action on several items, two of which we thought you might be interested in knowing about right away:

  • APPROVED: A $13,814.79 legal action request from the Northern Virginia Asssociation of Realtors (NVAR) request to help fund a lawsuit filed against the City of Fairfax in response to the enactment of a rental inspection ordinance which exceeds the authority granted to the City by the Virginia General Assembly. This ordinance places additional and unnecessary requirements and fees on the owners and agents of residential rental properties.
  • APPROVED: A whitepaper creating a multi-faceted plan to move the Board of Directors to a more strategic focus.   Plan highlights include a communication plan that keeps directors consistently informed of VAR operations through written reports while also highlighting any exceptions or issues that may need their attention.  The plan calls for Board of Directors meetings that are more issues-based, that engage the Board of Directors in future-oriented thinking and debate, allowing them to bring their experience and expertise to the table on the strategic issues facing the association and its members.  Finally, an ongoing Board assessment process will be created to allow directors to evaluate their performance and effectiveness.

VAR Board of DirectorsThe board also heard from VAR members Tara Christensen, Heather Elias, Jennifer Klaussen and Daniel Odio (pictured at the head table here, except for Odio, who had to leave early) who shared in a panel discussion (moderated by VAR Marketing Director, Jovan Hackley) on how they use technology to be more efficient and earn more business.

Full minutes from the Board of Directors meeting will be posted to the MyVAR Board of Directors group by next week.

VAR participating in Nationwide Open House Weekend: April 10-11

Open House Logo

Write it down: April 10-11. Nationwide Open House weekend.

Buyers agents, grab your clients — it’s too convenient an event to miss. (“No, no — you don’t have to buy anything. Let’s just take a look, because there are so many open houses around here. I’ll pick you up at 10, OK? Who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with something.”)

Brokers, man your listings! Make sure as many homes as possible are open and inviting. Schedule your Realtors to be there with smiles on their faces and warm cookies on the table.

State and local Realtor® Associations across the country are going to be promoting the heck out of this. You can’t buy the kind of publicity this will generate. Ride the buzz, and use the event to remind your clients of all the reasons there are to buy today: Tax advantages, first-time and existing homeowner credits, low mortgage rates, and more.

Finally, don’t forget to brush up beforehand with NAR’s Field Guide to Open Houses.

Richmond Association of REALTORS CEO profiled in Times-Dispatch

Virginia is blessed to have a fine group of association executives leading its local Realtor associations.

Today, the Richmond Times-Dispatch features one of them: Laura Lafayette, who recently ascended to CEO of the Richmond Association.

Congratulations, Laura!  You make us proud.

Changes coming to and VARbuzz

You don’t have to do anything. Just be aware…

As of 12 a.m. on Tuesday, February 16, (that’s about 10 hours from now) will have a new design and back-end content management system. A screenshot of the pretty and much-more-functional is included here (see it bigger).

Posts to VARbuzz may be temporarily affected as we transition to the new (we’re changing our workflow for how posts appear here at VARbuzz).

Your e-mail digest or RSS feed will remain unchanged, but you may notice a hiccup or two as the transition is being made (i.e. a flood of posts appearing all at once).

For your understanding, we express our appreciation in advance.

Va Homeowners Alliance posts for February 14, 2010

  • Column: Good real estate news: Home equity is rising again
    Published: February 13, 2010


    With all the bad news about underwater homeowners and strategic walkaways, you might think that American…

    Click headline to read the full story.