Welcome! This blog tracks the real estate market in the Central Shenandoah Valley, featuring market data and analysis, an exploration of common buying and selling questions, and candid commentary on all things real estate.
If you are interested in discussing any of the topics on this blog, or the details of your specific real estate situation, call or e-mail me!
If a buyer is buying over $400K, or even over $300K, the layout of the home becomes very important to them. That is not to say that it is unimportant for a $200K buyer -- but someone buying a more expensive home oftentimes plans to stay in it for a longer time frame.
If not the #1 feedback, the #2 feedback I receive from showings of homes priced over $400K is that the layout just didn't work for the buyers. They wanted another bedroom here, instead of there. They wanted a more open floor plan. They wanted a more formal dining room. They wanted a more spacious basement.
Challengingly, the layout is something that is hard (nearly impossible) for a seller to change in order to appeal to a wider segment of buyers. Thus, if your home has a layout that continues to not work for buyer after buyer, you must either wait (and potentially wait and wait and wait) for the buyer who loves that layout -- or adjust the list price to make the house (even with its layout) more appealing to more buyers.
Buyers were at it again in March 2017 -- with a 10% increase in buyer activity in the first 26 days of March as compared to the same timeframe a year ago.
Look for a strong month of closings in April based on these strong March contract figures!
Sellers are certainly enjoying themselves these days. Perhaps because it wasn't too many years ago that sellers were having a difficult time selling their homes. My oh my how the tables have turned.
PRICES ARE UP - this is good for sellers, as they are likely to sell their home for more than they would have a year or so ago.
INVENTORY IS DOWN - this is good for sellers, as they have fewer homes to compete against in the current market.
DEMAND IS UP - this is good for sellers, as there are more buyers potentially interested in buying their home as compared to a year ago.
TIME ON MARKET IS DOWN - this is good for sellers, as they are likely to sell their home more quickly than they would have a year ago.
If you will be selling your home to buy another, there are a lot of numbers floating around....
Above you will see a spreadsheet I put together to help you think about some of these numbers as you are evaluating if and when you will make a move to a new house.
In yellow, are all of the inputs you will need to provide, or that you and I can determine together, such as your current payment, your home's current value, your mortgage payoff, whether you will be putting any additional money into the transaction, etc.
In green, I have identified your potential future mortgage payment and the net change in your monthly payment.
All of the numbers without a background color will automatically calculate for you.
The R-2 zoning classification was amended on December 15, 1998 to only allow up to two unrelated people in an R-2 zoned property. Prior to that time, up to four unrelated people could have lived in the property. All that said, if an R-2 zoned property was being inhabited by four unrelated people prior to that zoning change (12/15/1998) and has been ever since that time, without a 24 month gap, then it can continue to be used in that way.
Otherwise, if you own an R-2 zoned property, even if it has four bedrooms, even if it is close to the JMU campus, even if everybody else on the street rents their house out to four unrelated students, you cannot per the zoning ordinances.
Below is an excerpt of an article from the Daily News Record that discusses one property owner's request to the City to allow him to use an R-2 zoned property as a rental property for more than two unrelated people. I think his request was reasonable, in some ways, based on the use of neighboring properties, but read on to discover what the City thought and what they decided.
Council Kills Special-Use Permit Request
Click here to read the entire article.
As a buyer, when you are walking through a home, keep in mind that the seller might be listening. These days, there are plenty of ways that a seller could be monitoring their home, with a security camera, or other recording device that could allow them to hear every word you are saying while you are in their house.
1. Don't insult their house. It won't help during negotiations.By the way, sellers, it may not be legal for you to record conversations in your home while you are gone. You should likely either NOT record conversations, or disclose that it is taking place.
P.S. I am not an attorney. Consult one if you want an actual legal opinion. Ask me if you need a recommendation.
What follows is an astute comment from Bob after my recent post on home inspections....
Scott, sometimes the impression is left (by the agents in some cases, but more likely just by the sellers hearing anecdotes) that the seller is somehow obligated to repair any deficiencies found by the home inspector. My mother was told she would HAVE to repair this, that, or the other thing, as if it were some kind of law that the house you sell has to be in "like new" condition. If the agent who is representing the seller lets someone put language in the contract obligating the seller to anything other than another potential round of negotiations after the inspection, then they have failed their fiduciary responsibility to their client. Likewise, they should be educating their clients that the contract is not completed until the buyer has the information to make a wise decision about the purchase, and when the amendments come in for the seller to fix stuff, they have a powerful, one-word tool they can use to protect themselves. The word "no".Bob is, indeed, correct -- the standard home inspection contingencies used in this area (I can't speak for other areas) do not place any obligations on the seller to make any repairs.
A buyer makes a decision to buy a home based on the information available to them at the time that they make the offer. They then will often conduct a home inspection to learn more about the condition of the property. If they discover material defects, they can (reasonably) ask the seller to address those detects --- BUT --- the seller does not have to agree!
Now, of course, if there are some major issues revealed during the home inspection, and the buyer requests that the seller address them, and the seller uses Bob's powerful one-word tool of saying "no" -- then the buyer, of course, can decide not to proceed with the purchase. But the point here is that nothing in the home inspection process requires a seller to make any repairs.
Low, low, super low!
I talk with some regularity about how low inventory levels are right now This is not just a seasonal thing. Inventory levels don't get this low every year at this time and then rise again in the Spring and Summer.
In fact, as shown above, for the past there years at this time there have always been between 539 and 550 homes for sale -- that is a pretty consistent track record. This year, however, there are only 405 homes for sale -- marking a 25% decline in the number of homes for sale.
it gets worse by price range, by the way. There are 44% fewer homes on the market in the "under $200K" price range right now as compared to a year ago.
Will you print your next home? I suppose it might depend on where you live and how large of a house you decide to buy or build.
A Russian company constructed (printed) a 409 SF home in December 2016 in a 24 hour timeframe, apparently at a cost of only around $10K.
The home was built with a mobile 3D printer which started by printing the walls and then was removed to allow manual workers to come in to finish the home.
Read more here or watch a video here.
The spring market is coming -- and it is coming fast! New listings are start to pile onto the market, and we are likely to see contracts and closings accumulating as well.
If you are going to participate in the Spring market as a buyer or seller, here are some quick tips of items you should be considering....
1. Have you finished preparing and staging your home to sell?
2. Are you familiar with the market context for your home so that you are ready to price your home well for the current market?
3. Have we talked about the best timing for getting your house on the market?
1. Have you talked to a lender so that you are pre-approved and ready to make an offer?
2. Have you started viewing properties to build a context for market value?
3. Are you signed up for new listing alerts to be the first to know about new listings for sale?
The beautiful home on the cover of my market report is 135 York Place - check it out here!
Yes, yes, I know. Within mere hours of sending this market report that mentions are area's unseasonably warm temperatures of late -- it will be snowing -- but I am not going to believe it is really happening until I see the snowflakes myself.
If it does snow, feel free to take a break from clearing the driveway to sit by the fire, drinking hot cocoa, reading my full monthly market report.
Now, on with the news of our local housing market....
As you'd guess from the header image above, I have published my monthly market report, which you can download as a PDF, or read online. For the abridged version of the most important things for you to know, read on....
First -- for those that would rather hear me talk about this -- tune in to my monthly video overview of our local housing market....
Next, some basic stats that we keep up with on a monthly basis....
OK -- a few things to note here, based on the data table above....
First, so far, it is looking like one of my 2017 predictions might be wildly incorrect. I have had some concerns about whether there would be enough housing inventory to support the same sales levels as we experienced last year. So far, it has not been a problem. Even though there are now 25% fewer homes on the market as compared to a year ago, we have actually seen a net gain (small as it may be) of two more sales (137) in the first two months of 2017 as compared to (135) last year.
Also referencing the data table above, when looking at the rolling 12-month median sales price, we are still seeing a 3-ish percent increase in median sales price as compared to a year ago. Finally, homes have been selling 9% faster in the past 12 months as compared to the previous 12 months.
Looking at the graph above, you might note the extraordinarily high home sales seen last year in the months of March through June, as well August and September. The mystery this year is whether our local housing market can stay on pace with that aggressive pace of home sales. So far, so good! This January and February both barely edged out the same month last year -- so we are seeing a year-to-date increase in the number of homes sold in this local market.
Next, looking at the graph above we note that February 2017 saw 87 buyers signing contracts to buy homes -- as compared to only 84 last February. This small jump is reassuring after having seen a decline from 74 contracts to 67 contracts when comparing the past to months of January. All-in-all, the annual increase in contract activity (from 1156 to 1327) make sense in the light of the 15% increase in the pace of home sales that we have seem over the past year.
So -- how about those inventory levels? We have seen a 25% year-over-year decline in our market's overall inventory levels. Buyers today only have 402 homes to choose from as compared to 539 a year ago -- though that masks the super-limited choices buyers ACTUALLY have once they introduce their overlays of price, location, size, age, etc. All that said, we are finally starting to see the normal, seasonal increases in listing inventory we'd expect to see at this time of year. Inventory has climbed from 368 homes to 402 homes over the past month.
OK -- I'm going to pause there for now and go try to find my snow boots. I'll look further at trends in our local housing market in coming days on my blog. Until then, feel free to read my full online market report, or download the PDF, or click here to sign up to receive my real estate blog by email.
And -- as is always my encouragement -- if you will be buying or selling a home in the near future, start learning about our local housing market sooner rather than later! Being informed will allow you to make better real estate decisions.
Sometimes a seller is stating this as soon as they list a property:
All inspections are for informational purposes only.
But sometimes a seller will introduce this amidst negotiations. This can certainly trigger some warning signals for a buyer......but should it?
Here are the top three innocent reasons why a seller would want a home inspection to be for informational purposes only....
As I sit in Greenberry's working way on my laptop, conversations are floating through the air around me. Curiously, one is between two folks who are talking about the real estate business -- with one individual having recently considered becoming a Realtor. One curious snippet (it's hard not to eavesdrop sometimes) was related to being a full time agent versus a part time agent. This individual commented that it is hard for it to be a profitable endeavor, and thus even worthwhile to do, if you are being a Realtor on a part time basis.
I would agree with this assessment, and I always encourage potential Realtors to consider whether they can do so on a full time basis. This greater amount of commitment and dedication can make them more successful in the short and long term.
Anyhow -- if you (like this gentleman in Greenberry's) are wondering whether you out to become a Realtor, let me know if you'd like to get together to discuss the topic.
I love my career, and would be happy to chat with you about what it is like to work as a Realtor in this area. Coffee (at Greenberry's or otherwise) is on me -- just email me at scott@HarrisonburgHousingToday.com.
PS. If you don't conclude that real estate is the career for you, it might be worthwhile chatting with Kyle at CPL Coaching for further career guidance.
Are you a Twitter user? If so, you can keep up with new residential real estate listings in the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County area by following @NewListHburg.
So, yes, per many of your requests, there are now LOTS of ways to keep track of new listings in this area....
1. NewListingsInHarrisonburg.com - this is a mobile friendly website, and you can add a shortcut to your home screen on your phone.
2. New Listings by Email - every time there is a new listing, you'll get an alert by email.
3. New Listings via RSS - for those RSS feed readers among you.
4. New Listings via Twitter - tweet, tweet.
I expect this to be a fast moving Spring and Summer real estate market -- so now (with the options above) there is no excuse for not keeping up with new listings for sale if you are in the market to buy this year.
If you have further recommendations (carrier pigeon?) for ways to keep up with new listings, just let me know.
Would it surprise you if I told you an architect thinks you should build a custom designed home? Probably not. Sorry, Charles. :)
In discussion with Charles (ok, virtual discussion, on Facebook) Charles Hendricks, an architect in Harrisonburg, raised the following perspective....
You will pay more per square foot for a custom home. However, if you design a home with only the square footage you need, right sized room, and limited hallways you reduce the premium. If you add energy-efficiency into the equation you further reduce the difference. If you add in maintenance of systems you further reduce the difference. I argue, as you might expect, the best value is custom design.
So, yes, I admit -- I agree with Charles, and here's the basic concept....
House 1 - a 4000 SF home for $550K. Some rooms that you might not end up using much or using well. Some rooms that are too large. Some rooms that are too large. You paid $137.50 / square foot.
House 2 - a 3400 SF home for $550K. Every room and space in the home is one that you need and will use well. No rooms are too small. No rooms are too large. You paid $161.76 / square foot.
So, yes, with House #2, you are getting less "value" in the conventional sense of the price that you paid per square foot of home that you purchased. But many would quickly understand that House #2 might actually have much more value in that it would (nearly?) perfectly fit your life, lifestyle and needs.
An interesting perspective Charles, thanks!
Most buyers looking to spend over $400K (or certainly those looking over $500K) will also be considering building a new home.
Typically, the tension between buying vs building is one of:
If you build, you can get the house you want, but you'll pay more for it and it will take a lot of time and attention.
1. Goals = Win
2. Money = Lose
3. Timing = Lose
If you buy an existing home, you won't get exactly what you want, but you will pay less for the house and the process will not be a drain on your time.
1. Goals = Lose
2. Money = Win
3. Timing = Win
Don't let my oversimplification of this issue fool you -- this is something that buyers can get stuck debating for months, or even years, often while looking at resale homes to try to convince themselves to buy instead building.
If you are stuck in this quagmire, I'd be happy to meet with you to talk through some of the pros and cons and try to help you come to a decision you'll be pleased with in the short and long term.
According to Wikipedia, a stick-built structure is "one constructed entirely or largely on-site," as opposed to a modular home that is "divided into multiple modules or sections which are manufactured in a remote facility and then delivered to their intended site of use."
My experience in chatting with buyers over the past 14 years has been that there are mixed opinions on modular homes. For example, some would suggest that . . .
Overall, my experience indicates that modular homes sell at slightly lower prices as compared to stick built homes -- and some of that is solely as a result of some buyers being hesitant to purchase a modular home.
Do you read the news via an RSS feed? You can now keep track of new listings in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County via an RSS feed.
Check out (and subscribe to) the RSS feed here.
And a bit of background on RSS, from WhatIsRSS.com....
What is RSS?
RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, weblogs and other online publishers syndicate their content as an RSS Feed to whoever wants it.
RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually.
Licensed in the
Commonwealth of Virginia
Receive notifications of new content on this blog, via e-mail or RSS reader.
Mobile Real Estate Apps
Housing Market Report
Walk Through This Home
The Glen at Cross Keys
The Townes at Bluestone
Cottages @ Stone Spring
Harrisonburg New Homes
Best Deals In Harrisonburg
Bank Owned Properties
Potential Short Sales
Recent Price Changes
Secret MRIS Listings
Secret GAAR Listing
Broadway VA Homes