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Tropical Storm Lee Loans

Nov. 15, 2011
Categorized in: Sellers

While Virginia did not qualify for FEMA grants based on the damage from Tropical Storm Lee, we did just get approved for low interest SBA loans for damage from the storm.

There are a list of named counties and municipalities includes:

  • Fairfax
  • Prince William
  • Fauquier
  • Loudoun
  • Stafford
  • Arlington
  • Alexandria
  • Fairfax (City)
  • Falls Church
  • Manassas
  • Manassas Park

Individuals living in those locations are eligible for up to $40,000 in loans to replace or repair personal property and $200,000 in loans to repair damage to homes (for homeowners). Loans of up to $2,000,000 are available for homeowners and non-profits.

The SBA will be setting up disaster assistance centers soon. The SBA web page is not yet showing the information for Virginia, but I'd watch their web site for more information as well.

How Virginians Think About Virginia

Sep. 23, 2011
Categorized in: Miscellaneous

I still can't figure out where this study or the underlying data comes from so don't make any big lifestyle changes based on this, but here's some information on how we feel about ourselves.

This survey asked people how they felt about their state in six areas: Natural Beauty, Things to Do, State Economy, Environmental Friendliness, Education and Medical Care. Here are the grades for Virginia:

  • Natural Beauty                      B
  • Things To Do                        B
  • State Economy                      C
  • Environmental Friendliness   D
  • Education                              C
  • Medical Care                         C

Overall, people seemed fairly pessimistic. That's not surprising given the overall economic gloom and doom we're all living with at the moment.

I do think Virginians were a little hard on themselves regarding the State Economy. While it may not feel this way (especially if your house is under water) our economy in northern Virginia actually looks pretty good compared to most of the country.

How would you grade us?

P.S. My home state of Minnesota fared pretty well!

Rents Expensive in Virginia

Sep. 15, 2011
Categorized in: Workforce Housing

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has just come out with a report showing the affordability of rental housing by state. Virginia comes out looking pretty expensive.

In order for a single person to be able to afford rent and still stay within the guidelines advising total housing costs be less than 30% of income you'd have to make almost $20/hour. And keep in mind that that's the statewide average.

In Northern Virginia that means you need a lot of people helping to pay the rent. At minimum wage on average in Virginia you need 2.7 workers working full time to afford a 2 bedroom apartment. Imagine how many in the much pricier Northern Virginia suburbs.

If you think this issue doesn't impact you, you must not own a home or drive. Housing affordability drives people to commute longer distances to their jobs just to be able to afford a roof over their heads. The traffic that generates makes people who can afford it more and more inclined to live closer to their jobs. Guess what, most of their jobs aren't in Fauquier, Culpeper or Rappahannock counties. And, that, my friends, impacts the price of your home here.

Homeowners who want to sell some day should be very interested in solutions to both the affordability issues and the traffic problems in our area.

Emergency Homeowners Loan Program

Jul. 21, 2011
Categorized in: Foreclosures/Short Sales

IMPORTANT information about the Emergency Homeowners Loan Program.










HUD is administering $1 billion Emergency Homeowners Loan Program to provide assistance -- for up to 24 months-- to homeowners who have experienced a substantial reduction in income due to involuntary unemployment, underemployment, or a medical condition and are at risk of foreclosure.  The EHLP offers a forgivable, deferred payment "bridge loan" for up to $50,000 to assist eligible borrowers with their mortgage arrearages and payments on their for mortgage principal, interest, mortgage insurance premiums, taxes and hazard insurance for up to 24 months.



HUD has delegated key program administration functions to NeighborWorks America - an experienced and highly regarded national network of affiliated housing counseling agencies. Those functions include coordinating intake counseling, document preparation, and outreach.




West Virginia has $8,339,884 and Virginia has $46,627,889 to help struggling homeowners through EHLP.



Homeowners’ best course of action is to contact www.FINDEHLP.org or 855-FIND-EHLP (346-3345) to be connected with a local housing counseling agency assisting to administer the program. 


Housing counseling agencies funded through the Emergency Homeowners' Loan Program can provide information and assistance needed  to apply for the program. Pre-Applicant Screening Worksheets are due July 22, 2011.

















Who Ya Gonna Call?

Jul. 29, 2010
Categorized in: Foreclosures/Short Sales

We had a shock recently when a home in our neighborhood here in Amissville went up for sale as a foreclosure. It's not all that common around here and the price was jaw-droppingly low.

South Poes Road

Given that we have almost identically sized acreages I needed to know more. Was the number I carry around in my head on what our home is worth way off?

So, I went to take a look.

The moral of this story is, you should do the same thing. Clients worry that they're bothering their real estate agent if they ask to go see a house for sale in the neighborhood. Trust me, if your agent's worth a dime they're going to be happy to get that call. Some day you may want to sell your home and the more educated you are about the local market the easier those conversations are going to be for your agent.

I'd argue all of my clients ought to be calling me at least once a year to see something for sale in the neighborhood.

And, how did it work out for us? The house has no central air and needs lots of work. I don't think that number in my head is wildly crazy. And, apparently the market thinks that house was priced pretty competitively as well since there were multiple offers almost immediately.

I'm feeling a lot calmer now!

Virginia and Mortgage Fraud

Apr. 28, 2010
Categorized in: Mortgages

Although mortgage fraud is growing more slowly these days, it's still growing. And, that's definitely the case here in Virginia. We're number 10 on the list in terms of the most mortgage fraud in the country.

Be very careful who you choose to use for your mortgage.

There are lots of bad people out there doing bad things.

There's a reason I recommend using local, reputable lenders.

You can find your mortgage deal on the internet if you want. But don't forget if your lender commits mortgage fraud, the Feds are going to be looking at you too!

The only good news here is that Maryland beat us. It's one time you don't want to be number one!

Healthiest Virginia County?

Feb. 17, 2010
Categorized in: Miscellaneous

There's a new study out showing, by state, how each county ranks in terms of overall health. The factors included are:

Health Behaviors

Clinical Care

Social and Economic Factors

Physical Environment

I think I might disagree with the results. But wide open spaces improve my health more than immediate access to doctors. Apparently that's not a widely held belief!

Fairfax County came in at #1. Prince William county is #10. Fauquier is #21. Rappahannock County is #46 an Culpeper County is #56.

What do you think? Personally I think Rappahannock is a heck of a lot healthier than Prince William!

Disaster Declaration for Snowstorm

Feb. 16, 2010
Categorized in: Fauquier County

A large number of counties in Virginia (and some municipalities) have been declared federal disaster areas and now qualify for government assistance to help pay for the cost of the storm. Here's the declaration from FEMA's web page:


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), today announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the Commonwealth of Virginia to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas struck by severe winter storm and snowstorm during the period of December 18, 2009, to December 20, 2009.

Federal funding is available to the Commonwealth and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe winter storm and snowstorm in the counties of Albemarle, Allegheny, Amherst, Arlington, Augusta, Bath, Bedford, Botetourt, Buchanan, Caroline, Culpepper, Dickenson, Fairfax, Grayson, Greene, Hanover, Highland, Lee, Louisa, Madison, Montgomery, Nelson, Orange, Page, Prince William, Rockbridge, Russell, Scott, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Wise and the independent cities of Alexandria, Charlottesville, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park, Norton, Staunton, and Waynesboro.

In addition, assistance is available to the Commonwealth and eligible local governments on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures, including snow assistance, for a continuous 48-hour period during or proximate to the incident period.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures throughout the Commonwealth.  

The strange thing is that while Culpeper is eligible, Fauquier and Rappahannock Counties are noticably missing from this list. That means while Culpeper county citizens get help with the costs of clean up from the storm, county residents of Fauquier and Rappahannock will bear all the burden. It seems odd to say the least.

I know at the state level the governor has to request this declaration. I'm wondering if the same is true at the county level and Fauquier and Rappahannock simply didn't make that request? If anyone understands the "why" of this I'd be interested in hearing about it!

Ethics in Short Sales

Jan. 18, 2010
Categorized in: Foreclosures/Short Sales

Recently, five area REALTOR associations (Greater Piedmont Area Association, Dulles Area Assocation, Fredericksburg Area Assocation, Northern VA Association and Prince William Association) got together to try to find some common standards of ethics that could apply to short sales.

There are a number of areas in the short sale process where questions regarding the most ethical practice has been an issue. Some of these are how do you handle the earnest money deposit/escrow, what do we tell clients about the likely impact to their credit of a short sale vs. a foreclosure and how do we handle short sales in the Multiple Listing Service in light of our need to protect our clients' privacy.

The document the associations came up with is a good start. Short sales continue to evolve and advice you'd give a client 2 years ago is likely different than what you'd tell them today. Hopefully this document will continue to evolve as well.

Short Sale Approval Info

Nov. 4, 2009
Categorized in: Foreclosures/Short Sales

Been trying to get an answer from the banks for weeks or months on whether or not your short sale has been approved?

Are you a buyer trying to buy a short sale? Or a seller desperately waiting for that "yes" or "no" that will make all the difference?

Maybe you're an agent tearing your hair out over the hours you spend on hold with banks.

There's help at hand, finally! No matter where you live in Virginia, there's information here for you.


This site will get you the straight scoop on whether or not your short sale has been approved in seconds.


Another Opinion on VA Real Estate

Oct. 12, 2009
Categorized in: Buyers

You've heard what I think about the area's real estate market. Here's the view from 30,000 feet from a real estate investor.

He's definitely also optimistic, with some mid-term concerns about Northern Virginia.

Property Management Dilemna

Sep. 9, 2009
Categorized in: Property Management

I was talking to another agent about a potential property management opportunity this week. The potential client has seen an ad for another agency here in Virginia that guarantees to pay them rent, whether they actually rent out the property or not! What a deal! She wanted to talk about how I would compete against that kind of offer.

It's an interesting question both on a macro and a micro level.

First of all, I really thought that one of the lessons we've all learned over the last year or two of the markets melting down, is that things that seem too good to be true probably are. Seriously, if someone is giving you money without receiving anything in return, there's a problem!

Looking at this particular case, here is what I'd be concerned about.

First of all, trust me, there's some fine print here. You should read very carefully anything you sign. Specifically you should look at who decides what the rent will be. Can they cut the rent so they can get someone in there quickly and they can stop paying you without any income coming in? Who decides whether a tenant gets accepted, you or the property management company?

Think for a minute about the incentives that are now driving this property management company. When I help my clients find tenants it is definitely in my best interest to get them a tenant who will pay the rent every month and take good care of the property. Because if those things don't happen, they're going to be my headaches.

But if this company is paying out rent every month without a tenant paying anything, their biggest incentive is to get someone, anyone in there as quickly as possible. They need to stop the bleeding. No business survives with a negative cash flow for any length of time.

I believe it also shifts the property management company's focus off of their clients. It's hard to be focused on protecting your clients when you're bleeding red ink.

I don't like this business model and suspect it's not really in anyone's best interest. But they've created a nice, shiny, pretty package if you're a property owner looking to rent out your property.

Again, if it looks too good to be true, be very, very careful! A lot of people who have lost their homes to foreclosure in the last few years would echo that advice.

We're in The Money!

Sep. 1, 2009
Categorized in: Foreclosures/Short Sales

I wish I was writing to tell you all I won the Mega Millions this last week. No such luck! But Fauquier & Culpeper county are a little richer thanks to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Fauquier County was awarded $1.5 million. Culpeper got $1.2 million. The money will be used to buy, rehab and resell foreclosures in neighborhoods hard hit by the real estate downturn.

In Fauquier that means the southern end of the county. In Culpeper think Lakeview for sure.

I got one thing wrong in my earlier blog about this. I thought it would be too late in the process for them to get the money. They met the deadline but given the money already awarded and the competition I really didn't think Fauquier & Culpeper would get any.

It's too soon to know if I was right about my other reservation. The foreclosures are getting fewer and fewer and almost always involve bidding wars these days. It'll be interesting to see what the counties are actually able to purchase with this money.  There are plenty of short sales, just not so many foreclosures these days.

Zero Down Payment

Jun. 10, 2009
Categorized in: Buyers

The on again, off again, opportunity to use the $8000 tax credit as a down payment is back on again. At least if you get a VHDA loan.

The guidelines for the program are here. The program utilizes a second mortgage to make this happen. That second mortgage requires no mortgage payments for the first year and has a 0% interest rate during that year. You have multiple options on how to deal with the second mortgage after that first year.

It's worth taking a look at this program if the only thing keeping you from owning a home is coming up with a down payment.

If you need help finding a VHDA lender, let me know. I'd be happy to help!

No Money for Us

Jun. 9, 2009
Categorized in: Real Estate Legislation

Governor Kaine announced the Virginia recipients of the Neighborhood Stabilization fund grants yesterday. Unfortunately, neither Fauquier or Culpeper made the cut. Incredibly, Prince William county doesn't appear to have gotten a dime!

This would have had a small impact, but every little bit helps.

There was a little money given to Shenandoah, Frederick and Warren counties, $2.5 million for all three combined.

I'm not sure you could argue they are harder hit than places like Culpeper. In fact, I'd make a pretty good argument against that.


It appears Prince William got funds as part of an earlier $7 million award, along with Fairfax county.

The original announcement said there was $20 million available for the Open Submission portion of the program and another $10 million available for the Competitive Program. Between the $17.5 announced yesterday and the earlier $7 million awards, there should be another roughly $5 million available. So there may yet be funds available for Fauquier and Culpeper.

Paying Buyers Agents

Mar. 23, 2009
Categorized in: Business of Real Estate

The compensation system in real estate is, in my opinion, broken. There are many reasons the way the system has worked for so long doesn't seem feasible any more. But I want to talk about just one aspect today.

Buyer's agents in Virginia (and every other state) get paid based on what is listed in the MLS as the "coop fee" or the fee to the cooperating broker. In most cases, that fee is half of what the listing agent has negotiated as the fee for listing the house.

There is endless debate in the online real estate community over whether or not the seller is, then, in effect, paying the buyer's agent. After all, the listing agent is asking the seller for the X percent and then splitting it. Nowhere does the buyer's agent get asked to come up with this money to pay their own agent. The other side of this debate is that the buyer is paying for the house and that out of those proceeds come the fee for the buyer's agent and so, in the end, they are paying for their agent. I won't come down on one side or the other of this argument. Suffice it to say I think the fact that it's unclear who's paying the buyer's agent is a bad thing!

I think it's a horrendous thing, however, that the buyers agent's compensation is based on the sales price. That means that by negotiating the best deal possible for my buyers, I essentially hurt my own earnings. This is a very basic conflict of interest. It makes no sense that in a huge financial transaction, most buyers are represented by someone who has a conflict of interest!

The origin of this system dates back to when all agents represented the interests of the seller. Back then, even if I never met the seller and if I spent all my time working with you the buyer to help you purchase this home, I was still legally representing the seller's interests. So, it made perfect sense to compensate me based on how much the seller got for his house.

They did finally create buyer agency, but compensation has never caught up with that change.

The argument from agents is often that the amount of compensation difference between getting my buyer that house for $300,000 or $295,000 is so small, typically less than a couple hundred dollars, that it in no way influences my behavior.

And, I agree that in many cases, perhaps even in most cases, that's true.

The problem is the appearance of impropriety. The problem is that the buyer shouldn't have to wonder whether or not you're influenced by that difference. The problem is that it tarnishes the reputation of good agents. And, finally, the problem is that it makes the whole industry look shady.

It's time to fix this. I've got some ideas on how compensation could change. And, there are plenty floating around on the internet. But I'd rather hear your input. How should compensation work for a buyer's agent? What model would allow for a sustainable business on the part of the agent and no conflict of interest?

I look forward to hearing your solutions!

Killing Dual Agency

Feb. 17, 2009
Categorized in: Buyers

My friend (and fellow VLA alumni), Jim Duncan, announced his move to Nest Realty Group this week. It's a new firm in Charlottesville that will NOT practice dual agency.

Jim's latest video blog talks about why he's making this move, how hard it is to kill this outdated practice and what he's hoping consumers will see.

I'm honored to know Jim and applaud him for having the courage of his convictions.

It's long past time to kill dual agency once and for all! The only ones benefiting from this practice are real estate agents. Consumers and the agents who get this will have to work together to end this practice!


Jan. 30, 2009
Categorized in: Business of Real Estate

It seems incredible that at a time when this profession gets more complex each day, the Virginia Senate thinks once you've been a broker for 15 years you no longer need to learn anything new.

But I've ranted about the lack of educational expectations in the industry before. I'll let my friend and colleague, Jim Duncan, in Charlottesville state the case this time around.

For the record, though, this is an idiotic idea. The only thing more idiotic is that it passed unanimously. Is there something in the water in Richmond?

Virginia Homeowners Alliance

Nov. 24, 2008
Categorized in: Real Estate Legislation

The Virginia Association of REALTORS has founded an organization dedicated to protecting the interests of Virginia homeowners. It's called the Virginia Homeowner's Alliance. Their web site provides a place to get information on how to improve the value of your home, lets you monitor what's going on in various government entities that may impact you as a homeowner, and will also provide you with an easy way to contact government about your concerns.

With the flood of paid lobbyists at all levels of government this seems like a terrific idea. Citizens come together to make their voices heard. It's one of the things the internet does best.

Once you go to the site and sign up you will not be flooded with a ton of spam! But you will have access to information that I think will be useful to you. In addition to giving you a voice in governement, it also provides useful information on neighborhoods and schools and practical information on things like lawn care. By the way, the site is relatively new. It will continue to grow and expand and your suggestions on how to do that are welcomed!

Now I have a favor to ask. If you do go to the site and register, it asks for the name of the REALTOR who referred you. I'd like to ask that you please enter my name. In the interests of full disclosure this enters me in a drawing for things like an iPOD or a Wii.

But I hope you do this for yourself! And I'll be interested to hear what you think of the site!

JK Moving & Storage

Nov. 18, 2008
Categorized in: Local Businesses

As you know by now, I like highlighting local Virginia businesses who are making a difference by their commitment to a greener, more sustainable way of operating.

JK Moving & Storage recently sent me their Commitment To Sustainability.

They're doing things like offering free used packing materials to their customers to reduce waste. They help with recycling your electronics. These visible efforts impacting their customers are great, but maybe more important are the things going on that you might never see.

They train staff on the importance of sustainability and how individuals can contribute at work and at home. Their vehicles use ultra low sulfur diesel to reduce emissions. They recycle batteries and anti-freeze. And, my favorite, they launched ReUse DC. It's a site where individuals and corporations can trade, sell and give away their unwanted furniture, household items and office equipment.

JK Moving & Storage had already turned me into a fan because of how they treat my customers. I'm an even bigger fan now!

If you'd like more information, check out their website or e-mail Clarke Mahek at cmahek@jkmoving.com or call him at 703-930-7275.

Piedmont Real Estate Blog

Blog by Julie Emery
Amissville, Virginia

An ongoing dialog on real estate news, opinion and trends in Northern Virginia and the greater Piedmont area. Julie is an Associate Broker at Frankly Real Estate Inc, 6304 Crossroads Circle, Ste 102, Falls Church, VA 22044


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