December Sales – A Sellers’ Market????

January 13, 2009

Here’s an update on December real estate sales in Fairfax and Arlington Counties; Falls Church, Fairfax and Alexandria Cities.


The number of home sales (year over year) rose for the fifth consecutive month in December, while the number of homes on the market declined for the fifth month in a row. Pending sales (homes going under contract) rose for the ninth month in a row. We currently have an absorption rate (current inventory/monthly sales) of only 5 months.

Six months is the traditional supply figure for a “balanced” market, so that means . . . a seller’s market??!!

I guess the question is, what’s going to happen now? The winter is usually pretty slow in Northern Virginia real estate, but mortgage rates have been falling (around 5 % right now). The government has been buying mortgage-backed securities, trying to make sure rates stay down – and smart buyers are coming off the fence while sellers are still giving price and other concessions.

Median home sale prices in the area have fallen on the order of 20-25% since last year, to $340,000 – the same level as December 2003!

My own seat-of-the-pants view is that the next few months will be extraordinarily active. Sellers may soon realize that, also. I’ve seen several multiple-offer situations on attractive, well-priced properties.

Mortgage Scam

January 9, 2009

From Loudoun County agent Danilo Bogdanovic :

If you’re a homeowner who has an existing mortgage, beware. A mortgage scam going around the country has made it to Virginia.

The scam involves receiving a “hello” letter in the mail saying something like,

Dear (insert your full name here),

Your mortgage has been sold to (insert name of a reputable lender here). Beginning (the first of next month), please remit payment to the following address:

(insert name of reputable lender here), P.O. Box (XXX), (city, state and zip code)

The letter may seem valid and very real with further language such as,

Your terms and rate will not change whatsoever. The only thing that will change is the address where you sent your payment. If you have any questions, feel free to call (insert phone number here).

What may actually be happening is that you’re sending your mortgage payment to a scam artist that collects your check, cashes it and runs off with your money. Often times, the P.O. Box is forwarded to an overseas “boiler room” address that’s controlled by scam artists. You will not only lose your money, but your existing mortgage company will come after you for non-payment.

Your mortgage being sold to another lender or servicing company is not uncommon. But you should receive a “goodbye” letter from your existing lender before you receive a “hello” letter from the new lender/servicing company.

If you have not received a “goodbye” letter from your existing lender prior to receiving a “hello” letter, contact your existing lender to confirm that your loan has been sold before you send any payments to the new lender. You will need your loan number to confirm the change so have that ready before you call.

And don’t worry…you have up to 60 days after your loan has been sold to send payments to the original lender before having to send it to the new lender. That gives you plenty of time to contact your existing lender to confirm the change while continuing to pay your mortgage payment on time to your existing lender.

Note: Even if you have received a “goodbye” letter, it may be a good idea to verify your loan has been sold prior to sending a payment to the new lender/address.

And if you do find out that you’ve received a bogus letter that’s actually a scam, let your lender know immediately.

Book ’em, Danno.

Big Johnson Winners!

January 9, 2009

Kim’s Big Johnson College Bowl Mania is over and a winner has been declared!bigjohnson

If you peek at the final standings to see how you did, the PCT in the last column represents your position amongst the hordes who competed on ESPN. For instance, our winner did better than 98% of all contestants. Sad to say, our median score was in the lower half. In other words, as a group, we sucked. The only way to redeem ourselves is to resolve to do better next year!

Winning Maniac:  Fred Heggi (iPod Nano)

Second Place:  Dave Gerstner (Mrs. Hanes Cookies)

Also Beat Kim:  Jacob Beckland, Chris Hannemann, Erin Hayes, Eric Torrey, Chris Gruber, Pat Hayes, Donny Samson, Lon Pribble, and Ron Frazier (some kinda chocolate)

Other Notable Achievements

Most Winners:  Erin Hayes (23)

Most Efficient (most points per winner):  Scott Breunig

Least Efficient (fewest points per winner):  Christy Cunnington

Last Place:  Vicky Hannemann (who let Dad choose her point values randomly, and will never make that mistake again)

Once again, my sincere thanks to you for participating in this event. I hope you enjoyed the competition. Start planning for the Big Johnson College Basketball Spectacular, coming in March! It’s gonna be the biggest Big Johnson ever!

I hope you will recommend me me to your friends, neighbors, and colleagues when they need some advice from a good real estate consultant. I am much better at real estate than at predicting football games.


Were You A Thunderbolt Kid?

January 5, 2009

thunderboltI was. That is, a child of the Fabulous Fifties. I just finished Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, given to me at Christmas by my wife (after I had given it, unread, to our younger son last year) and it’s pretty much a reflection to which I can bear witness, when not choking on laughs:

Under the sink, my mother kept an enormous collection of jars, including one known as the toity jar. “Toity” in our house was the term for a pee, and throughout my early years the toity jar was called into service whenever a need to leave the house inconveniently coincided with a sudden need by someone – and when I say “someone,” I mean of course the youngest child: me – to pee.

“Oh, you’ll just have to go in the toity jar then,” my mother would say with just a hint of exasperation and a worried glance at the kitchen clock. It took me a long time to realize that the toity jar was not always – or even often – the same jar twice. Insofar as I thought about it at all, I suppose I guessed that the toity jar was routinely discarded and replaced with a fresh jar – we had hundreds after all.

So you can imagine my consternation, succeeded by varying degrees if dismay, when I went to the fridge one evening for a second helping of halved peaches and realized that we were all eating from a jar that had, only days before, held my urine. I recognized the jar at once because it had a Z-shaped strip of label adhering to it that uncannily resembled the mark of Zorro – a fact that I had cheerfully remarked upon as I had filled the jar with my precious bodily nectars, not that anyone had listened of course. Now here it was holding our dessert peaches. I couldn’t have been more surprised if I had just been handed a packet of photos showing my mother in flagrante with, let’s say, the guys at the gas station..

“Mom,” I said, coming to the dining room doorway and holding up my find, “this is the toity jar.”

“No honey,” she replied smoothily without looking up . The toity jar is a special jar.”

“What’s the toity jar?” asked my father with an amused air, spooning peach into his mouth. 

“It’s the jar I toity in,” I explained. “And this is it.”

“Billy toities in a jar?” said my father, with very slight difficulty, as he was no longer eating the peach half he had just taken in, but resting it on his tongue pending receipt of further information concerning its recent history.

“Just occasionally,” my mother said.

My father”s mystification was now nearly total, but his mouth was so full of unswallowed peach juice that he could not meaningfully speak. He asked, I believe, why I didn’t just go upstairs to the bathroom like a normal person. It was a fair question under the circumstances.

“Well, sometimes we are in a hurry,” my mother went on a touch uncomfortably. “So I keep a jar under the sink – a special jar.”

I reappeared from the fridge, cradling more jars – as many as I could carry. “I”m pretty sure I”ve used all these too,” I announced.

“That can”t be right,” my mother said, but there was a kind of question mark hanging off the edge of it. Then she added, perhaps a touch self-destructively, “Anyway, I always rinse all jars thoroughly before reuse.”

My father rose and walked to the kitchen, inclined over the waste bin and allowed the peach half to fall into it. “Perhaps a toity jar’s not such a good idea,” he suggested.

Our circumstances were a bit less upscale than the Brysons – my mom did not pull in a salary – but many of our memories are pretty close. Not surprising since we were both born in 1951.

Enjoy it.

Ten Mistakes Sellers Make

January 2, 2009

. . . or, ten ways to improve your chances to sell your home. A funny but oh-so-true description of steps all home sellers should take to ensure the fastest, most profitable sale.

Vodpod videos no longer available.