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Robo Signings in Prince William

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

This article in the Washington Post talks about "hundreds" of robo signings in Prince William County over the past few years. The truth is, I'd be surprised if it were only in the hundreds given the number of foreclosures there. I suspect they've hit the tip of the iceberg.

I'm happy to see organizations like VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement) working on this problem. Wall Street has plenty of lobbyists. Who's speaking up for the homeowner caught in the middle of this mess?

BOA Writes It Down

Mar. 25, 2010
Categorized in: Foreclosures/Short Sales

The "IT" in this case is the principal amount you owe on your mortgage.

This is a very big deal, in one sense, because no bank has publicly announced they're willing to do this. And, Bank of America is the largest mortgage holder since they acquired Countrywide a couple of years ago.

So, here's how the program is supposed to work. If you owe the bank more than 20% more than what your home is actually worth, you may qualify. Keep in mind that this is a pilot program and will only initially be offered to 45,000 homeowners. For the homeowners chosen, up to 30% of the principal would simply be wiped out.

So, let's say that you owe BOA $300,000. But you could only sell your home for $220,000 in this market. Bank of American could, theoretically, reduce your loan balance by $100,000. Your mortgage payments would presumably be lowered to match this new lower loan amount.

Let's say, for the record, that I'm skeptical. Partly we'll blame that on having seen too many programs announced that did little or nothing to help most homeowners. Partly it's having had too many ugly dealings on short sales that involved Bank of America, an institution that has a well-deserved reputation for being among the worst to deal with.

But there's also some reason for optimism. If Bank of America is willing to take this step, we may see movement from other banks. And I honestly believe that reducing the principal on mortgages will mean more homeowners will get to keep their homes.

Let me also be clear as to why Bank of America is likely taking this step. An increasing number of borrowers have proven that they're willing to walk away from their homes and mortgages. This is a new phenomena and a very troubling trend if you're a lending insitution. The more this happens and the less stigma that surrounds those who take this action, the more other homeowners will see this as a viable option. That equates to a lot of red ink on the balance sheet!

I hope this is the beginning of a trend among banks. I hope this is the beginning of the end of the foreclosure crisis. And, I hope my skepticism is proven wrong!

Washington Post has a story with more details.

NPR's Morning Edition has an interesting analysis as well.


How Long To Get Your Equity Back

Jan. 30, 2010
Categorized in: Mortgages

There are a lot of homeowners locally who are deeply underwater on their mortgages. They owe more to the bank than what they could reasonably expect to sell their home for in this market. In my mind, this is the deep unresolved issue in our current housing market. I think this is a larger issue than foreclosures, long term.

The Washington Post did an article on the picture nationally. They're predicting that some markets may take a decade or more to regain the equity they had at the top of the market. And, they say some places may never see those values again.

I was particularly struck by this line in a paragraph about parts of Florida

There are going to be parts of Florida where homes shouldn't have been built [and]...that should have stayed farm land.

You could certainly say the same thing about parts of Culpeper and Fauquier county, not to mention places even further from DC and the Northern VA jobs.

Cash Wins Bidding Wars

Jan. 5, 2010
Categorized in: Buyers

Sunday's Washington Post had an article on how cash rich investors are the bane of first time home buyers.

The example they use is in Prince William County but it's happening throughout the region.

Cash is kind, there's very limited inventory and deals with mortgages often fall through.

If you were a seller, what would you do?

Videos and Reverse Sprawl

Aug. 17, 2008
Categorized in: Business of Real Estate

I'm tied up in class today but found a couple of interesting things to share with you.

This is the first in a series of stories by the Albany Times Union newspaper exploring the changes occurring in how people live both because of rising energy prices and the increasing numbers of senior baby boomers. While the towns and cities they refer to may be in NY, this is a story that's being repeated around the country.

Saturday's Washington Post's real estate section contained an interesting story about consumers finding real estate agents online through social media sites and things like blogs. How well do you feel you can get to know an agent (or anyone else) through a blog?

And, lastly, I've begun experimenting with the use of true video (as opposed to "virtual tours") on my listings. I've just posted the first one on YouTube and would welcome your feedback, not just on what you think of this video, but whether you see this as significantly better for buyers than a typical slide show.

Green Building and Remodeling Chat

Apr. 24, 2008
Categorized in: Green Building

The Washington Post, in honor of Earth Day, is doing a series of online chats this week related to living "green".

Earlier this week they had a chat about green building and remodeling. It's worth taking a look at, especially if you're thinking about doing any remodeling or are looking for ways to save energy around the house.

Prince William Foreclosures

Mar. 23, 2008
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

Saturday's Washington Post carried a story about foreclosure activity that primarily looked at Prince William county. As the story makes clear, things are pretty bad in Prince William County. The number quoted in the article is that 5.5% of the homes in the county are in some phase of foreclosure.

I took a look at RealtyTrac, a web site that specializes in providing foreclosure listings. It shows 3204 homes in Prince William County in foreclosure out of 5573 homes currently listed for sale. It says an additional 881 homes are in pre-foreclosure. And 1932 homes are up for auction. Some of those auctioned homes are likely to be foreclosures, although certainly not all of them.

To give you a feel for the rest of the area, Culpeper County has 137 properties in foreclosure, 20 pre-foreclosure and 97 up for auction. That's out of 819 listings.

Fauquier County has 111 foreclosures, 2 pre-foreclosures and 93 properties up for auction out of 730 listings.

Rappahannock County has 4 foreclosures, 0 pre-foreclosures and 6 properties to be auctioned.

Warren County has 0 foreclosures according to RealtyTrac, although I seriously doubt their data on this county. There are 4 in pre-foreclosure and 73 listings to be auctioned.



It's All Out There

Jan. 29, 2008
Categorized in: Sellers

This was in the Washington Post as part of a Q&A with one of the local REALTOR associations.

We are listing our Cascades townhouse next month and were wondering about pricing. We have lived there nine years and paid under $200K in 1999. This information is available to anyone accessing the Loudoun County Appraisal District Web site. Should we expect buyers to know this information and, if they do, should we also expect to get "low-balled" more than someone who doesn't have as much equity? Will we have to adjust our price/expectations accordingly?

I don't believe you need to be concerned with the public records and how much you purchased your home for nine years ago. The biggest issue is how big your mortgage is, and no one knows that but you and your bank. Contact a Realtor and have them do a comparative market analysis and take their advice on pricing your home to match your home type and area.

This was part of a longer article and many of the answers weren't particularly good. But this one in particular seemed worth commenting on.

First of all, you should always assume that buyers will have all publicly available information in their possession. Even if the buyers haven't thought to search out this information for themselves any decent real estate agent will be pulling the tax records and showing that information to their client. Sellers who assume they can hide some information from potential buyers are always asking for trouble. In the age of the internet, everybody knows or, at least, can know, everything!

Secondly, the buyers should not base their offer on what a seller bought the house for. Regardless of what you paid for this house, in a falling market, you are likely to get a low ball offer. The buyers know, and certainly their agent knows, that a year from now there's a good chance that the value of that home is less than it is now. It might not be worth a lot less. It's certainly possible we're near a bottom. But with that kind of uncertainty all buyers will lowball an offer and all sellers should expect to have to deal with that.

The other point I'd make here is that REALTOR associations should not have non-REALTORs answering these questions!

In Sunday's Washington Post

Jan. 21, 2008
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

The real estate market was front page on the Washington Post again yesterday. And, there are a couple of interesting lines that say a lot about our local market here.

"The distance between a neighborhood thriving or struggling through the current market can often be measured in a few miles and in proximity to good schools and public transportation, real estate agents say. Communities closer to the District with fewer new houses continue to fetch higher prices, they said."

There it is, the prescription for a strong local real estate market. Excellent schools, proximity to public transportation and a small amount of new construction.

I hope politicians are paying attention. Short term fixes are not the way to go. Let's use this opportunity to build a healthy long term economy and real estate will do just fine. (Long term!)

First of all, excellent schools are not only of benefit to those with children attending school. I generally think that's self-evident because who wants a community full of poorly educated adults? But it also matters in terms of the value of your home. Every local resident has a stake in making sure our schools are first rate. There are debates raging on school funding in pretty much every local jurisdiction. This should be factored into that discussion.

And, let's be smarter in the future about the amount of development. Development is not, per se, bad. But it can certainly be done badly. Let's attract the jobs that will support the new homes.

That's my two cents! Feel free to add yours!

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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