Why Can’t Tar-Jay Get With The Program?

May 18, 2009

spfldmallchgFrom the Washington Examiner:

Supervisors delay Springfield Mall redevelopment

Fairfax County supervisors on Monday [5/18/2009] delayed a vote on the long-awaited overhaul of Springfield Mall after an unresolved issue among landowners knocked the project off course. County officials and mall owners alike had hoped for a quick rezoning approval that would have allowed the ambitious redevelopment to move forward. The makeover would install new retail, hotel, office and living space on the site of the languishing mall, as well as trails, parks and other improvements.

The delay is rooted in a disagreement over details of the project among the four owners of the 80-acre mall property, officials said. County supervisors Monday agreed to delay the rezoning until July. [Kim note – ugh.]

“For me, this is a very difficult thing to have to do, because the community has embraced this project, and county staff has moved mountains” to keep it on schedule, said Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay. McKay said one of the landowners, Target, has not reached an agreement on proffers, which are contributions to roads, schools and other services a developer makes in exchange for a rezoning.

Overhauling Springfield Mall has been one of the county’s top revitalization priorities for years. Eclipsed by better-regarded shopping centers in Tysons Corner, the mall garnered an undesirable reputation as a symbol of suburban decay. Officials hope to use the revamp to reverse that image.

They’re not the only ones!

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!

New Appraisal Rules – A Problem, or A Solution?

May 18, 2009

appraisalSaturday’s Washington Post Real Estate section featured an article by Ken Harney entitled, “New Appraisal Rules Come With Costs,” in which he posits the following scenarios:

  • The real estate appraisal that used to cost you $325 now costs $450, even though the appraiser doing the work is getting only $175 or $200.
  • Your appraisal-related charges may now be subject to add-on feessuch as $50 to $100 extra in “no show” penalties if you get stuck in traffic and miss your appointment with the appraiser, or an extra $50 to $150 if the property is worth more than $500,000.
  • Your mortgage loan officer requires you to pay for the appraisal upfront with a credit or debit card, rather than including the fee with the usual lender origination costs at settlement. Your card may be charged more than the anticipated cost of the appraisalleaving debit-card holders in a potential overdraft situation.
  • The person conducting your appraisal may be new to the fieldwilling to work for a cut rateand may not be as familiar with local value trends and pricing adjustments as an appraiser with more experience.
  • If your mortgage application is denied by one lender, you could be forced to pay for a second full appraisal because the new lender may not accept the first one.

The “new appraisal rules,” which go by the name Home Valuation Code of Conduct, were imposed May 1 by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and are intended to improve the accuracy of appraisals by eliminating pressure on appraisers from loan officers. The code pushes most large lenders to use third-party “appraisal management companies” that contract with networks of independent appraisers around the country who thus are not in direct contact with retail loan officers or mortgage brokers. The Code came about as a result of an agreement made between the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the New York State Attorney General. The intent of the agreement was made to enhance the independence of appraisers. The most relevant part of the code seems to be the following:

The lender or any third party specifically authorized by the lender (including, but not limited to, appraisal companies, appraisal management companies, and correspondent lenders) shall be responsible for selecting, retaining, and providing for payment of all compensation to the appraiser. The lender will not accept any appraisal report completed by an appraiser selected, retained, or compensated in any manner by any other third party (including mortgage brokers and real estate agents)

It used to be that a mortgage professional – whether working for a specific lender or as a broker – might have a “stable” of appraisers he or she could call on to provide services. Most of them just wanted a reliably thorough and competent job. However, and this is the reason for the new rules, some only wanted appraisers who were willing to find the right “comps” to hit a specific valuation necessary for the loan to go through. Under pressure to produce that number or perish, many appraisers buckled.

But are the new rules helpful or harmful to the more ethical mortgage lenders and brokers out there? Are they seeing big increases in appraisal costs? How about appraisal quality, now that they can’t choose one of their go-to guys? I asked several of the mortgage professionals I work with every day in Northern Virginia to give me their impressions about whether they find the scenarios suggested in Harney’s article to be happening here:.

We’ve actually been working under these rules for many years . . . All appraisals have been ordered through a 3rd party management company, and while we did have some communication with the appraiser (although not encouraged), we cannot any longer . . .

This is actually a good thing that is happening. Too many times appraisers have been bullied by agents, mortgage lenders and borrowers for not having the same opinion. This will take that opportunity away. This does NOT mean that you can’t call the appraiser, still meet them at the home, etc . . . this is so that lenders cannot contact the appraisers directly – even for a status, as this is seen as undue pressure. These appraisers are professionally trained, educated and have to uphold ethical standards just like all of us; yet no one challenges our decisions like these people.

[The fees and time requirements] are the same, for now. I bet the appraisal costs will go up, and they should. The appraisers can’t live on a “cut” and they have been required to do so many more compliance checks etc . . [Turnaround times] are longer due to volume.

This won’t change the quality . . . if anything the quality will improve because the lenders and agents are now separated from any undue influence.

Jennifer Duplessis, Prosperity Mortgage

Interesting article and I am happy to say we have not had the issues mentioned. [Local] appraisers have only added $25.00 to their fees due to some additional addendums that required extra research. Appraisal fees have ranged from $350 to $375 and now are $375.00 to $400.00 for under $1 million sale price, and they have always charged more for above $1 million – that is not new. Yes, loan officers are no longer allowed to directly pick the appraiser – it is an automated random selection of a pool of known appraisers in our local area.

I think the worst [problem] is the extreme pressure the appraisers are [receiving from the lenders] to include the foreclosures and short sales when determining values. During the recession In the early 90’s foreclosures and short sales were considered distress sales and discarded as [comparable to a] homeowner selling their property. In my opinion, this change in [guideline] has escalated the erosion of home prices. They should have allowed for an adjustment upward on the distress sale, but they did not, they are requiring the appraisers to use them thus providing for lower and lower values – how unfair to the normal seller is that?

Shirley Jones, First Savings Mortgage

I haven't experienced any true horror stories yet, but the new system will definitely change things. I think the appraisers will feel empowered to bring in property values at whatever they feel the value is, regardless of what it may mean for the transaction. The old system had a conflict of interest where (I believe) appraisers didn't want to ruin too many deals with a low appraisals since they were hurting their referral sources (potentially their future income) by bringing in the low appraisal. This new system will potentially change that, which ultimately will be a good thing, but could be painful. I think that will be the biggest change. I believe we will see more low appraisals (meaning appraisal comes in below contract price).

In the past we could choose appraisers and go with ones that we felt were "good appraisers." We now have less of a say. It also adds a layer to the process which usually means more time. I do agree with what the article said about the costs of the appraisals being higher. Mortgage brokers definitely kept costs down with the old system. Appraisals have gone up by about $100 over the past year I believe. I haven't noticed a big difference in the quality of appraisal, but it is still early in the process.

Overall I don't love the new system but the old system definitely had it's flaws also. I'm not sure I would want to go back to the old system even if we could.

Kevin Haddon, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

So on balance, it seems, in the Northern Virginia area the new rules are seen in an overall positive light by people who I believe to be in a position to know. Yes, costs my have increased slightly, and there may be a somewhat longer turnaround – especially as the system gets established – but I think the horror story scenarios drawn by critics are not reflected in the actuality. I do agree with Shirley's view about separating the distress sales from the normal sales – it's unreasonable, but it's not a part of the new rules, just a lender-imposed requirement. Appraisers should be able to reflect adjustments for condition, given the lousy condition of most foreclosures, but it's unlikely to fill the gaps.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

It's Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia - including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna - contact Kim today.

4 - 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service -- Cash Back to My Buyers!

Warranty Robocalls To Be Prosecuted?

May 15, 2009

robocallsSource: Fairfax County Times
FRIDAY, MAY 15 2009

Those who have been annoyed by “robocalls” selling second car warranties may soon have some relief, thanks in part to Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D).

Warner and New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D) announced May 12 that the Federal Trade Commission is pursuing criminal charges in relation to the calls, which both senators said they have personally received. More than 300,000 people have filed complaints about the practice.

“We’ve heard of Virginians receiving these calls when they do not even own a car, and others who are understandably upset that the automated calls tie up their phone lines, costing them time and money,” Warner said in a release. “We appreciate this prompt action by the FTC to help consumers through a swift investigation and prosecution of these con artists.”


Now – when will political robocalls stop? And how about the credit card robocalls? And “Congratulations! Your family has been selected to win a free vacation!” robocalls?

April 2009 Northern Virginia Sales Info

May 15, 2009

April 2009 home sales activity for Fairfax and Arlington counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna:

  • A total of 1,544 homes sold in April 2009, an increase of 6% over April 2008, and the ninth consecutive month of higher year-over-year sales. Terrific, but look at this – pending home sales, based on signed contracts, are 2,692, up 25% from last year! Pending sales have been up double-digits year-over-year for 13 consecutive months.
  • Active listings – homes on the market – decreased by 23% from last year, with 8,234 active listings at end-April. Fewer homes on the market usually means prices are poised to start rising. The supply of homes remains in the less-than-six-months “seller’s market” range.
  • Another sign of strong activity – the average days on market (DOM) for homes in April 2009 decreased by 15% to 85 days, compared with 100 days in April 2008.
  • Sales prices continue to remain lower than those realized last year. The average sales price in April fell 16% percent from April 2008 to $405,514, while the median price was $356,750, a decline of 14%. The average and median sale prices are again both higher than last month, however.
  • Agents continue to see a lot of multiple-offer situations on attractive well-priced homes in good condition, particularly in price ranges under $475,000. If you are looking for such a home, be prepared to act decisively.


Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service — Cash Back to My Buyers!

One Last Graduation . . .

May 11, 2009

Vicky HannemannMy youngest child Victoria . . . no more a “child,” to be sure . . . graduated from James Madison University on Saturday, with her older already-anointed brothers looking on with pride. It’s hard to believe this was the angsty teen who four years ago  in her first dorm room was putting her stuff back into the boxes as fast as her Mom was taking it out, insisting she wanted to go home.

Somehow we all survived that first month and she made the Dean’s List. Fourteen months later she was off to London on her own for a semester of history, literature, theater and pub crawling. Then it was the rigors of two years of regimented nursing school curriculum, and now she’s a BSN – or Bitchin’ Sexy Nurse, as I like to say. And a good one, apparently, because INOVA Alexandria wants her on the Labor & Delivery floor badly enough to drop an open RN2 position to pick her up as a fresh grad. She must have impressed them when she interned there last summer, and did her student nursing there afterwards. She impresses me, that’s for sure.

But I might be just a little biased, perhaps. A father’s prerogative.

Supervisors Vote On Springfield Mall May 18

May 7, 2009

midtownspringfieldFrom the Springfield Connection:

At its May 18 meeting, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a rezoning proposal and finally sign off on the transformation of the Springfield Mall into a commercial and residential town center.

The mall’s owner, Vornado Realty Trust, plans to redevelop the 80-acre suburban retail shopping center into an area where people will be able to live, work, dine and entertain themselves — all without getting into a car.

According to the Web site, http://www.springfieldtowncenter.com, the new town center would include high-quality retailers, a state of-the-art movie theater, “Class-A” office space, upscale hotels and “premier” residential homes.

Vornado’s plans also include parks and plazas with pathways that make travel between residential and commercial space easy. According to the Web site, parking would be offered throughout the development.

“This is the single most important project for Springfield obviously, but I think it is also the most important project for the entire county. I can’t think of another regional shopping center that is in such dire need,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee), who represents the area where the Springfield Mall is located.

The Springfield Mall has many amenities some of the county’s higher performing shopping centers, including Tysons Corner, Fairfax Corner and Reston Town Center, lack. The mall is at the crossroads of Northern Virginia’s two major thoroughfares, the Capital Beltway and Interstate 95, and is in close proximity to a Metro station.

McKay said the mall has not lived in up to its potential, primarily because of poor and irresponsible ownership in the past. With Vornado at the helm of the redevelopment project, he expected the site to flourish.

“Springfield Mall had everything that Tysons Corner craved, except a good owner. There is no reason why that mall can’t exceed Tysons Corner in quality when it has everything going for it that it has,” said McKay.

McKay and other supervisors have been frustrated with recent delays in getting the Springfield development underway.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved the site’s rezoning application in February and the supervisors were supposed to vote on the plans in late March. But negotiations between the Target store and Vornado held up the supervisors’ final approval.

“It is unfortunate that Target and Vornado had not talked earlier in the process than they did on some of these last-minute details,” said Stuart Mendelsohn, Target’s lawyer and former Dranesville supervisor.

Target, one of the mall’s current retail anchors, owns the land on which its store sits and has more control over what happens to its property than most of the mall’s other retail outlets.

The mall redevelopment plans called for the current Target to grow from a one-floor store to a two-floor store; however, the company did not want to be locked into any specific expansion plans.

“Ultimately, I think [the expansion] is what they would like to do but, at this point, they were not prepared to move forward on that,” said Mendelsohn.

Target was also displeased with the configuration of the parking garage that is planned for outside the store’s entrance, said Mendelsohn and McKay.

But ultimately, Target is excited about the Springfield Mall redevelopment and wants the project to move forward.midtownspringfield

“Target is absolutely supportive of all the changes coming to the mall,” said Mendelsohn.

Special Education Teachers in Demand

May 7, 2009

bethSpecial Education Teachers in Demand – washingtonpost.com.

I bask in the reflected glory of my friend and neighbor Beth Curtis. She truly is “a natural.”