Archive for January, 2013

Virginia ranks tops in green buildings

The U.S. Green Building Council ranked Virginia as tops in the nation in the number of green (i.e., LEED-certified) buildings certified in 2012.

image Under LEED (which is probably the largest environmental certification program in the world), structures are given up to 110 points for various factors in their construction, such as being build on a sustainable site, using water efficiently, using environmentally friendly building materials, and so on.

Buildings can simply be LEED “certified” by getting 40-49 points on the scale, or they can reach the more desirable silver, gold, or platinum levels. (The Virginia Beach Convention Center for example, site of VAR’s Real Show, received the rare LEED Gold certification.)

There are LEED standards for nine types of building such as “New Construction,” “Commercial Interiors,” “Schools,” and “Homes.”

Virginia had 170 projects that were at least LEED certified, totalling 29.7 million square feet of space, or 3.71 square feet per capita. No other state had that much space per person (Colorado was number two with 2.1 sq. ft.), although Washington, D.C., continues to lead the nation with nearly 37 sq. ft. per capita.

Reminder: New VREB forms for licensee applications

As we told you not too long ago, anyone looking to get a real estate license (or make changes to existing information on file with the Real Estate Board) needs to be using the new forms DPOR has released. (They’re at www.dpor.virginia.gov/Boards/Real-Estate.) 

After February 20, the old forms won’t be accepted.

The Board encourages you to always check the DPOR website before sending in any form that has been previous saved to ensure the saved version is the most recent. Board policy is that older versions of forms will not be accepted if received 30 or more days after the posting of a newer version on our website.

The change is because of a new computer system being installed by the board, which it hopes will allow potential agents to do more online.

As we all know, most of the time when an government agency makes a major change to its computers, nothing goes wrong. Just in case something does go awry, though, DPOR is warning that, while most applications will be processed in 10 to 15 business days, “while staff gets acclimated to the new computer system, application processing time will increase.”

Someday your children will ask…

image“What did you do during the 2013 Realtor Nationwide Open House Weekend?”

Will you be proud of your answer?

Yes, that’s right — once again, Realtors across the country will be holding open houses to kick off the spring selling season. Mark your calendars and tell your clients: Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21.

What’s in it for you? A chance to take advantage of the nationwide advertising campaign. Potential house-hunters will (hopefully) get on their feet and out their doors… and you should be waiting for them.

Imagine you make money when other people screw up. Then, suddenly, they get their acts together. Could be a problem.

That’s what some owners of commercial mortgage-backed securities are finding out.

It goes like this. Someone buys a commercial property and pays a mortgage on it. That mortgage is resold as a CMBS. Investors buy CMBSs because they make money either A) on the interest paid on the mortgage, or B) by selling that CMBS to someone else, just like you might buy and sell stock in a company.

At one point, commercial mortgages typically carried a high rate, so CMBSs were good investments and easy to sell — although the issue of delinquencies was certainly there. Still, investors snapped them up.

But now, mortgage holders — commercial-property owners — are refinancing at lower rates, just like so many other folks. In other cases they’re able to sell the property thanks to a recovering market.

Either way, it’s not good for the holders of those CMBSs. Either they’re making less money (thanks to a borrower who refinances), or they’re getting paid off (thanks to the property selling).

So what? you say, it’s not like they’re losing money — they just aren’t making as much as they used to.

That would be true if they planned to hold onto the CMBSs. But if they were hoping to sell them — just as you might sell a stock when it went up in value — well, that ain’t happening.

And that can affect commercial lenders, who like to package their loans into these CMBSs and sell them. Buyers are harder to come by. So maybe credit gets a little tighter… you get the picture.

Anyway, file that under “Hmm… interesting.” Or read the details from the Wall Street Journal article.

According to the Census Bureau, the homeownership rate in the U.S. dropped from 66.0 percent of households in the fourth quarter of 2011 to a mere 65.4 percent in Q4 2012. (It’s also down 0.1 percent from the third quarter.)

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Meanwhile, the vacancy rate for houses was 1.9 percent — about half a percent lower than last year. In comparison, about 8.7 percent of rentals were vacant.

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Rents have been rising steadily since 1995…

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… while prices appear to have returned from their bubble-induced high:

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What do women want in a home? Ready to be surprised?

In a piece titled, “When Venus shops for a house,” MSN Real Estate purportedly explains just what women want in a home — at least according to a bunch of experts and surveys.

The MSN list is in the format of an annoying slide show, so here are the basic. Ladies and gentlemen, what women want:

11. A smart layout (“Women are critical of home plans that don’t allow life to flow smoothly”)

10. A great kitchen

9. A two-car garage

8. Separate master-bath shower and tub (“Women care deeply about the master bathroom”)

7. Low maintenance

6. A dedicated laundry room

5. A great place for socializing (“A party space is nice, but an even bigger priority, … is a comfortable environment for sitting around and sharing”)

Yep, more important than a laundry room 4. Security

3. Location (“[D]oesn’t everyone care about location? Sure. But for women it’s an even higher priority”)

2. Jetted bathtubs (yep, beating out security and a great kitchen — who knew?)

And the number one thing women want in a home?

1. Big closets

VAR leaders meet with Sen. Warner to talk housing

VAR CEO Scott Brunner and 2012 president Mary Dykstra of Roanoke (center of photo, in brown blouse) met with Virginia senator Mark Warner in his Capitol Hill office. The agenda: housing, housing, housing.

imageBrunner and Dykstra were part of a group organized by the Virginia Mortgage Lenders Association that also included executives from the Virginia Bankers Association. Why the crowd? To show the influential senator that, when it comes to housing issues, Realtors and lenders are in virtual lock-step.

The group discussed a number of their common concerns, especially those stemming from new regulations affecting housing and the economy as a whole: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s newly released qualified mortgage rule, the as-yet-to-be-defined qualified residential mortgage definition, the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the protection of the mortgage interest deduction, for example.

Warner sits on the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs, which among other things deals with housing, transportation, and community development.

Click here for Senator Warner’s positions on financial reform, and here for his work on helping homeowners.

The National Association of Home Builders and Fannie Mae both forecast a strong market for multifamily housing in 2013. That’s not surprising, considering that 2012 was a “banner year” (in the words of NAHB chief economist David Crowe).

“The trend of positive rent growth and low vacancy levels seen last year is expected to continue throughout 2013,” reported Fannie Mae. Vacancy rates were at about 5.5 percent — the lowest they’ve been since at least 2005, while rents were rising — about 3.25 percent in 2012.

And going forward? Fannie Mae sees rising property values driving new construction, which it sees as raising the possibility for an over-supply in the next couple of years — at least “in a limited number of localized areas.”

In general, though, expect rents to rise 2.0 to 2.5 percent this year, while vacancies increase slightly as more construction is completed.

BLOCK_CTA_TRANSPORTATIONVirginia Realtors®, we need your help. It’s time for the General Assembly to act and fix our transportation crisis.

We all know that transportation is critical for Virginia’s economy. We need roads, bridges, tunnels, buses, and trains to get to school, to get to work, and for goods and customers to move.

For decades, though,  we have faced a transportation funding crisis as the General Assembly has postponed action. It’s time for that to end. We need a sound and reliable transportation infrastructure to continue to attract businesses — and jobs — to Virginia.

Several solid, reasonable plans have been introduced to fund Virginia’s transportation projects — Governor McDonnell’s (supported by Speaker Bill Howell, Delegate Tim Hugo, and Senator Steve Newman), and proposals from senators Dick Saslaw and John Watkins, and from Delegate Dave Albo.

There are clearly options and ideas on the table, so we must make our message to our representatives just as clear: The time is now to pass adequate, sustainable funding for Virginia’s transportation. Find a way to do it.

Contact your state senator and delegate today to encourage them to take action.

TAKE ACTION TODAY.

Fun Virginia demographics maps

Where are the sick? Where are the poor? Where have the people been moving? Where are the Whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians? Find out these and more at a cool site from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at UVa.

There’s a county-by-county map of Virginia, with a simple menu for the various stats you can look at — for example, population growth:

Population growth

You can hover your mouse over each county to get the details, too. In this case, how it ranks (from 1-131) for healthiness (sorry, Petersburg):

Health rankings

The Cooper Center also has a lot more info, including trends — who’s moving where, how populations are changing, and so on. Good stuff for someone who may be looking to sell homes or commercial space in the next decade.

Click here to check it out!