Archive for April, 2013

Timothy Shamblin wins $100

Timothy Shamblin of Coldwell Banker Premier Proper in Winchester is the second winner of a $100 Amex gift card — all for taking our online survey about Commonwealth magazine.

Congrats, Timothy!

Artist's conception

Artist’s conception.

    Bill would remove roadblock for mobile-home loans

    A bill being introduced in Congress by Reps. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Stephen Fincher (R-TN), and Gary Miller (R-CA) is trying to fix what the legislators feel is an unintended consequence of new rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that cover "predatory" or "high-cost" loans.

    Here’s the deal: Mobile or manufactured homes typically cost a lot less than a typical suburban property. Basic math means that the cost of originating and servicing loans for those properties might be the same in terms of dollars, but are much higher, percentage-wise, in a small loan.

    Result: Someone trying to get a loan to buy a manufactured home might find that the loan exceeds the cost guidelines of the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act. That would make it — officially, anyway — a high-cost or predatory loan.

    Good luck getting a lender to offer one of those.

    Thus the "Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Finance Act." It would change the Truth in Lending Act to modify the definition of "high-cost mortgage" so lenders would be able to make them more easily (among other things).

    The Manufactured Housing Institute is, naturally, very much in favor of the bill; click here to read its explanation.

    New app adds local school info, boundaries

    2013_04_29_09.34.44Move, the company that runs, has added some interesting features to its Android app. It now gives information about school districts.

    If you zoom into an area far enough, icons of local schools will appear. You can click one to see its GreatSchools rating, and then have the map show the school district it covers — great for figuring whether a particular house is in that district (or the reverse: whether any homes are for sale in that region).

    Taking advantage of your phone’s GPS, you can also ask the app to show you which schools cover your current location.

    Find out more over at the Google Play store.


    Support a statewide YPN network! It only takes a minute: click the YPN logo above to “sign the petition.”

    What is YPN? Let’s start with a short history lesson:

    YPN (Young Professionals Network) was launched by NAR in 2006. The goal was to give younger Realtors® the opportunity to connect with each other and build a stronger link to the industry. As NAR hosted these first YPN events, they saw a strong desire among the attendees for more interaction and information. In 2009, YPN expanded its network to local and state Realtor® associations. In 2010, NAR’s Board of Directors approved the formation of the YPN Advisory Subcommittee. In addition, NAR has authorized YPN Representatives be placed on numerous NAR committees. Over the past few years, YPN networks have sprouted across the Commonwealth.

    YPN Mission Statement:

    YPN helps young real estate professionals excel in their careers by giving them the tools and encouragement to become involved in four core areas:

    • REALTOR® associations. Attend REALTOR® conferences and pursue leadership roles with their local, state, and national associations.
    • Real estate industry. Take an active role in policy discussions and advocacy issues; be informed about the latest industry news and trends.
    • Peers. Network and learn from one another by attending events, participating in online communication, and seeking out mentoring opportunities.
    • Community. Become exceptional members of their community by demonstrating a high level of REALTOR® professionalism and volunteering for causes they feel passionate about.

    At present, there are 8 Networks in Virginia. These are all affiliated with local Realtor® associations. In a few weeks, we will be asking VAR’s Board of Directors to support a state YPN. The goal of the VAR YPN is to form a unified community for the existing and future local networks in the Commonwealth.

    While some Realtors® may feel that YPN is about a bunch of young people having a party, please allow me to dispel this myth:

    • There isn’t an age restriction to join YPN. All Realtors® are welcome. In fact, you can join NAR’s YPN right now by going here.
    • YPN Chairs have been invited to Chicago to participate in NAR’s Leadership Summit for the past 3 years.
    • YPN launched it’s own annual RPAC week in 2011, encouraging members to take an active role in RPAC.
    • Many networks have launched mentor programs. These programs aim to “bridge the gap” between new and seasoned Realtors®.

    And yes, YPN members have a lot of fun too! You will find most YPN’ers to be passionate about the real estate industry and that they strive to be students of their trade.

    As co-chairs of VAR’s YPN formation, Drew Fristoe and I would greatly appreciate your support of a state-wide YPN. Please take the time to click this link and help us take YPN to the next level in Virginia!

    Accessible Tech: What and where to disclose online

    This appeared in the April/May issue of Commonwealth magazine.

    With more and more electronic communication being done in public — the “social” part of social media — you’ll find that you can never really remove your Realtor hat. That means you need to be extra careful when you’re writing an e-mail, crafting a blog post, or replying to a tweet.

    And I don’t just mean “always be professional.” I mean that there are disclosure rules from both the Virginia Real Estate Board and the Realtor Code of Ethics that apply online whenever you engage in “advertising.”

    And believe me, the definition of “advertising” is pretty broad.

    But first, the basics. VREB regulations and the Code require that you disclose the following in any communication that could be construed as advertising:

    • Your name
    • Your firm name and where it’s located (either the main office or the office you work out of)
    • What states or regions you’re licensed in

    But that doesn’t mean you have to put all that information in every message.

    The one-click-away rule: Those disclosures must be made either in the message itself or on a Web site that’s one click away from the message. (Twitter is an exception; more on that in a moment.)

    As we’ll see, that makes meeting your disclosure requirements very simple.


    This is the easiest one of all: Simply add a signature line to all your e-mails that includes the disclosure information. (We’re not talking paragraphs of legalese. Your non-business contacts will understand.)

    Jane Doe, Realtor®
    Schlobotnik Realty, Blacksburg
    *Licensed in Virginia and North Carolina. *

    If even that’s more than you’d like to stick on the end, just include a link to a Web page that contains it:

    Learn more about how Schlobotnik Realty and I can help you at

    That meets the Code’s requirement of having your firm name included, and it takes advantage of one-click-away to keep the whole disclosure thing down to one line.

    Blog posts (including Tumblr)

    Another easy one.

    Whether you use Tumblr, have a blog on your company site, or run your own,the simplest way to meet your disclosure requirements is to make sure they appear on every page of your blog or site — in the sidebar, perhaps. Presto — your disclosures are taken care of.

    A slightly less simple way: Have your blog software automatically add your disclosures — or a link to them — on every one of your posts. (How you do this depends on your site. Ask whoever manages it for you; it should be a simple process.)

    If worst comes to worst, you can manually add the disclosures link to each post — just be sure to include your firm name. (See the e-mail example above.)

    If you’re posting a message or reply to a public message board — on Reddit, for example, or a local news site’s forum, or someone else’s blog — you’ll need to manually add a disclosure link to the bottom of anything you write that could possibly be construed as real estate related. (You may want to create a simple text file with the information — “disclosures.txt” — so you can cut and paste it as needed.) Remember to include your firm name with the link.


    Twitter presents a unique problem in that posts — tweets — are limited to 140 characters; adding a link to your disclosure page is pretty much impossible without severely limiting your tweeting ability.

    That’s why the Code makes a specific (and simple) exemption for Twitter in the Code: Your individual tweets don’t need a link to your disclosure statement, but your Twitter *profile *page must have it.

    Unlike Facebook, Twitter does allow you to include whatever you want on that profile page (well, up to 160 characters), so it’s easy to put the entire disclosure text right there.


    Facebook makes things a little more difficult because there’s no “About Me” section on your main page. Therefore, unlike with Twitter, your disclosures will be more than one click away, as visitors will have to go to your “About” page.

    That means — in order to meet your disclosure requirement, you need to put your firm name and a link to your disclosure page on every Facebook post that could be considered advertising. It might seem odd at first, but after a while your “friends” will expect it.

    Pinterest, Flickr, and other image-oriented sites

    If you use a photo- or video-sharing site, you’ll find that, like Facebook, they don’t always have a space on your profile page for your disclosures. (Flickr is a good example.)

    That means visitors will have to click a separate link — e.g., “About Me” — to get there, which violates the one-click-away rule.

    In those cases you’ll need to do what you do with Facebook: Include your firm name and a link to your disclosures in the caption of every photo or video. Annoying, yes. But that’s the rule.

    Beside yourself

    Here a best practice: No matter what kind of online site you use — blog, Facebook, Flickr, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter — create separate business and personal accounts. Then, in the name of all that’s holy, keep them separate.

    If your bestest friend in the world posts to your personal Facebook page about something even vaguely related to real estate, don’t respond there. Move the discussion to your professional page and put in your disclosures.

    If that’s too much, then treat everything as if it’s business-related, and put your disclosure everywhere. Better safe than in front of an ethics panel.

    What is advertising?

    Imagine you’re the world’s pickiest person, or the state’s slimiest lawyer — what would you consider advertising? Sometimes it’s obvious, such as if you post a new listing.

    Other times, not so much. For example, if you tweeted this:

    Rams make the Final Four — now I really want that new 50″ HDTV! Send me some business, peeps!

    That would be advertising. Ditto for a blog/Facebook post like this:

    I’m tired of hearing how hard it is to get a mortgage. Just helped a young couple with so-so credit buy their first home. Sure, it took a little extra work with the lender, but I got to see the looks on their faces when we closed. It’s just not that bad!

    And here’s an example from a Realtor’s Pinterest profile page:

    Follow me into the lifestyle we enjoy in Virginia: four seasons of beauty. Message me for listings and updates!

    “Message me for listings and updates.” Yep, that’s advertising… and it requires a disclosure.

    Cheat sheet (click to enlarge):

    Company claims it can predict who in a market will sell

    You may have heard the now-pretty-famous story of how, by analyzing customers’ buying habits, Target is able to predict when a family is going to have a baby before the parents tell anyone.

    Big Data (capitalize both words, please) is a big thing. See, "data mining" is old hat — that’s the science of finding unexpected connections between things, like "People who have more than one bumper sticker are more likely to be in a road-rage incident."

    But when you have a lot of data, you can really go to town.

    Target is doing that quite well.

    Lots of people buy lotion, but one of [Target researcher Andrew] Pole’s colleagues noticed that women on the baby registry were buying larger quantities of unscented lotion around the beginning of their second trimester. Another analyst noted that sometime in the first 20 weeks, pregnant women loaded up on supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc.

    Many shoppers purchase soap and cotton balls, but when someone suddenly starts buying lots of scent-free soap and extra-big bags of cotton balls, in addition to hand sanitizers and washcloths, it signals they could be getting close to their delivery date.

    Now there’s a company that’s claiming to do that for real estate — to be able to take data about a market and determine who there is most likely to become a seller.

    SmartZip says it can figure out "which homeowners in your farm were considering to sell in the next 6-12 months" and help you market to them.

    Let’s be clear here: VAR is not recommending it or saying you should avoid it. It could be an incredible tool or it could be snake oil. All I’m saying is "Gee, that’s interesting" especially in light of what Target (and Google, and Facebook) can do.

    imageCheck it out: Chase now lets you "Find and finance your new home" — the bank has an Android/iPhone app that lets you search for a home and then (of course) see about working with Chase for your mortgage.

    Chase is apparently getting its listings via ListHub, which works with brokers and MLSs to syndicate listings (legally!).

    Not surprisingly, seeing Chase doing the real estate thing gave rise to some interesting discussion — see at least some of it in comments on the 1000watt blog.

    I’m not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing — I get enough hate mail already. But it’s certainly a reminder to brokers that, if and when you authorize your listings to be sent out into the wide, wide world (via IDX) that you keep track of where they’re actually going.

    The first quarter 2013 Virginia Home Sales Report has been released and year-over-year state wide indicators show that the housing market in Virginia continues to experience steady improvement.

    • Sales increased 3.35 YOY in the first quarter and are keeping pace with the rest of the US.
    • Median sales price increased 8.2% YOY in the first quarter and is increasing slightly faster in Virginia than in the rest of the country.
    • The volume of real estate sold in the first quarter increased by 11.3% YOY.

    blogimage042013The graph above illustrates the dollar value of real estate sold (in millions) during each quarter over the past three years.  The volume of real estate sold in the first quarter 2013 ($5.4B) was a strong 11.3% increase from the first quarter of 2012 ($4.8B).  This measurement is an important indicator of continued market recovery.

    Read more inside the full report:


    Immigrants key to housing (and economic) recovery

    Interesting story in the Financial Times about how immigrants to the U.S. have not only been key to the housing recovery, they will remain key to the market. It’s based in part on a report from Housing America and the Mortgage Bankers Association.

    Some key points:

    • While home ownership has been falling for native-born Americans over the last several years, it’s been increasing for immigrants.
    • From 2010 to 2020 more than a third of your buyer clients will likely be immigrants — nationwide, they’re expected to account for 35.7 percent of new homeowners.
    • That growth in foreign-born homeowner demand "is projected to remain strong in the nation and increase in all but two states, California and New York."
    • If current non-citizens gain that citizenship, economists project it will result in  $100 billion being spent on housing.

    The FT explains the attraction — it’s more than just latching on to the American Dream.

    Property is also an attractive investment for non-English speakers. “Your investment opportunities are much more limited,” says [Leung Hon, a real estate agent in New York]. “You can’t play the stock market or buy bonds. A house is easy to understand and is seen as a form of savings.”

    Master bedroom? Oh, no

    It’s not small, it’s “cozy.” It’s not in the middle of nowhere; it’s “private.” It’s not poorly insulated and falling apart; it’s “rustic.” And now, as Cindy Jones over at Virginia Real Estate Talk points out, for some developers you apparently don’t have a master bedroom — you have an “owner’s suite.” No word on what that means for rentals. Hopefully your landlord doesn’t snore.