Archive for September, 2013

Good news for a Monday: Gas prices down

There’s plenty of bad news in the world. Here’s something positive: Gasoline prices in the U.S. are down a whopping 35 cents a gallon from a year ago.

Regular gas is averaging $3.42 nationally, but Virginia is doing even better — $2.94 at Costco in Richmond, for example. (And remember, if your car isn’t designed to take plus or premium — and not many are — you’re just wasting your money buying anything but regular.)

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If Congress shuts the government tomorrow (i.e., tonight at midnight), how will that affect mortgages? With Fannie and Freddie backing 90+ percent of them, and FHA loans being so popular, it’s an important question.

CNN has the answers, but here’s the gist:

Fannie and Freddie will continue to operate. They aren’t funded by the government; they make their money via fees.

However, FHA, VA, and USDA loan applications won’t be processed.

The good news is that government shutdowns don’t tend to last very long. There have been 17 of them since 1976 — the longest lasted 21 days; the median was just 3 days.

PMCC_sm_featureI’d like to take a moment on this Friday afternoon to wax sentimental on one of my favorite annual events: The Virginia Property Management Coalition Conference. 2013 marks the 10 year anniversary of the Virginia PMCC. This conference has gone from 20 people in a conference room to a standing-room-only event in Charlottesville (October 23-25, 2013) packed with hundreds of property managers from across the state. When I first started at VAR, this event was the first event I planned for the VAR Property Management Council, and I was lucky to have the incredible support of our members and my mentor in the specialties area at VAR, Carole Umbel.

I was impressed with all the members and sponsors at this event because everyone just clearly loved what they do for a living. I enjoyed learning about what property managers do, and the incredible day-to-day goings on that they face with tenants, landlords, and the properties themselves. I mean, these folks deal with fires, floods, deaths, and…escrow accounts. It can be a quagmire, but these folks tackle it with utter gusto and professionalism.

So why has this conference done so well? It’s more than the fact that more of our REALTOR® members practice property management to some degree these days than ever before (though that’s certainly worth mentioning). It’s because every year this event offers property managers something they simply cannot get anywhere else: solid, in-depth property management education and the chance to rub elbows with colleagues from across the state to share war stories and best practices in a truly fun environment. I mean, where else can you earn CE credit (bonus: brokers, you can get 8 hours of broker CE at this event) learning about mold, gangs, drugs, dead bodies, evictions, legalities, insurance, and natural disasters all in one event? Even better, you can top it all off singing karaoke at a casino night event that gives to charity at the end of the night.

What a great event – I urge any of our members who even dabble in property management to consider attending. Even if you’re new to the game, this conference offers a Boot Camp session for new property managers, so it truly has something valuable to offer every attendee.

Click here to check out the full schedule and register for this event. I hope to see you in Charlottesville to celebrate 10 great years.

Note: The Property Management Coalition Conference is hosted by the Virginia Association of REALTORS® and sponsored by the Virginia Chapter of the National Association for Residential Property Management (NARPM), the Virginia Apartment Managers Association (VAMA), the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) Chapter 38, and the Community Associations Institute.

Pending home sales up for 28th (!) straight month

NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index (which measures contracts, but not closings) was up 5.8 percent in August from the year before, marking 28 months of annual increases. (It was down from July, but that’s typical — sales taper off after summer.

NAR also expects total existing-home sales to be up about 11 percent in 2013 compared to 2012.

Obamacare for Virginia Realtors: What you need to know

In a few days — on October 1 — the federal insurance exchange for Virginia will open, allowing Virginians who don’t have health insurance to begin researching the providers and plans available. (Remember, Gov. McDonnell opted out of having the state run the exchange itself, so the feds will do it for us.)

In short, if you need to buy insurance because of Obamacare, you can start the process then.

That said, what exactly is required under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare?

imageThe feature story in the October/November issue of Commonwealth spells it out for you: What (if anything) you can or must do as an individual or a business owner.

Because so many Realtors don’t have health coverage, the law is going to have a significant effect. But with so much incorrect and outdated information floating around, we sorted through it all to cut to the chase.

Even better, we’re publishing that article by itself — click here to read it online or download the (rather attractive) PDF for easy printing.

Not only that, we’ve convened a panel of experts at the Real Show who will also explain the law and what’s required, and more importantly will answer your questions.

The major facets of Obamacare will take effect on January 1, so use these next few months to review plans, make decisions, and be ready ahead of time. And, of course, stay healthy.

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Forbes ranks Virginia #1 for business

With all the prep for the Real Show, I’ve been letting the updates slip. Time to catch up.

The big news is that Forbes has ranked Virginia the number-one state for business. We had been #2 since 2009.

This contrasts (or contradicts) the CNBC ranking from earlier this year that had us slip to #5.

Here’s part of what Forbes had to say:

Virginia ranks first among the states in the regulatory category because of its business-friendly government policies and strong incentive offerings. The tort system is one of the best in the country for businesses [...]Virginia is also one of 24 right-to-work states, which explains why only 4.4% of its workers are in unions – fifth lowest in the U.S.

Flood insurance: Help! We need your stories

I’m working on a story about flood insurance — what’s going on and what you need to know. I need your stories.

You folks were terrific about providing stories about cell phones and driving — can you come through again? Are you seeing any issues about flood insurance? People suddenly in flood zones? Buyers backing out because of insurance costs? Good news or bad.

Comment here or send me a note — and thanks!

FBI crime stats look good for Virginia

The latest statistics from the FBI show that Virginia was the fourth-safest state in the nation in 2012 — that is, we had the fourth-lowest rate of violent crime.

Virginia reported 190.1 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 inhabitants (a standard measure of crime). Only Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire had lower rates.

"Violent crime" means murder, rape, robber, and assault; we were ranked #21 in murder, #4 in rape,  #13 in robbery, and #5 in assault. So… good on us! (Except for the murder thing. We should try to do better there.)

How about non-violent "property" crime? More good news. Virginia was ranked ninth in the nation overall (Puerto Rico was ranked best), and #7 in vehicle theft (Vermont was #1).

In fact, get this: Only Virginia and Idaho were in the top ten for (lack of) both violent crime and property crime.

Oh, and our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.? It had the worst record for violent crime and the worst record on property crime — beating out the 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Housing demand prevails over seasonal decline

Sales numbers can look bleak as the market begins to experience its seasonal decline, but the market it still looking strong in Virginia. Sales are holding steady compared to previous years. In fact, Virginia has seen more sales this summer than it has since 2007. Last year, Virginia sales fell in July and rose in August only to dip further in September. Summer and fall of 2012 mirrored the previous two years: 2011 and 2010. This summer we are charting a new, stronger trajectory. Barring a dramatic decrease in September, the summer quarter will have been a great success. Still, we can’t help but think the recovery is still underway. Undeniably there are some economic factors holding back some potential buyers: unemployment and access to credit, for instance. In addition, some Virginia regions are struggling with a restricted supply. Construction of new homes has picked up nationally, but days on the market in Virginia remain historically low. Are buyers snapping up homes because there isn’t much shopping to be done? If sellers, builders, and banks continue to respond to high demand the fall season may not be as low as we have come to expect.

blog1Analysis and commentary by Ted Koebel, Senior Research Associate, & Mel Jones, Research Associate, of the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech

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NAR introduces new Military Relocation Pro certification

Members of the military have some different issues than the rest of us when it comes to moving. Now NAR is offering a certification for Realtors who are specially trained to help servicemen and -women (and their families) relocate.

In Virginia especially, this sounds like not only important information to have, but — let’s be honest here — a solid way to market yourself as well.

How does one (that is, you) get certified as an MRP? Glad you asked; it’s not hard.

0. Be a Realtor.

1. Pay $195 (discounted to $149 through the end of 2013)

2. Read a 15-page document that provides information about military culture and acronyms. (You’ll certainly want to know what PCS and BAH mean.)

3. Take the one-day core course. Right now, it’s being offered by the Alpha College of Real Estate in Hampton Roads, but other schools are likely to provide it as well. (There are a couple in North Carolina as well.)

4. Complete two one-hour webinars — one on financing for disabled military members and vets, and one on the VA Compromise Sale.?

That’s it. Even better, the core course is also an approved elective for the ABR designation.

Once you’re an official MRP, you’ll be able to download your official certificate and purchase a lapel pin — and have your designation appear on all your marketing materials.

Check out NAR’s militaryrelocationpro.org for details.