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Investors helped the market — but may be hurting its future

Real estate investors have helped the market recover. But for the long-term health of the market, maybe they should stop now.

(To be clear: By “investors” I mean people and companies that buy single-family homes to turn them into rentals, not house-flippers.)

Here’s what’s worth watching: When all those foreclosures went on the market at deep discounts, investors began snapping them up. That was a good thing, because there was so much inventory out there that prices were staying low.

Once most of that distressed inventory was gone, though, conventional wisdom said that investors would ease off. Prices would go up and the great deals would be gone.

Happy Earthday!

solar side LHCEach year, EarthCraft Virginia presents awards in a variety of categories to builders, developers, and others throughout the region who demonstrate superior dedication to the advancement of sustainable housing.  The Single Family Project of the Year went to an efficient solar home in Alexandria, VA.  Patrick Fogarty, broker and co-owner of HomeFirst Realty was this year’s winner for building a new home with incredible energy saving qualities for about the same price as a typical new home.

Americans, especially young ones, are driving much less

Here’s an interesting stat: Since mid-2005, Americans are driving less — much less, especially younger folks. You know, the next generation of home buyers?

What’s notable is that — unlike the last time there was a drop in driving, back in the 1980-84 recession — this time the drop appears to be much longer lasting. It’s been 92 months already.

According to the Frontier Group, which did the study, the trend is most noticeable among young people.

Senators hope to expand rural loan program

We’ve told you before about the USDA’s rural-housing loan program, which provides no-down-payment loan for rural homes.

Now two U.S. senators hope to expand the program’s definition of “rural” even further, so more people can take advantage of the program.

Smokers’ homes don’t sell — or sell for less (and what you can do)

Smoking won’t just kill you — it can also kill a sale. So says a survey of Ontario real estate agents, who found that more than 80% of potential buyers would be either “unlikely” or entirely unwilling to buy a home where smokers had lived.

And when the house does sell? The study found that a house could see a 30 percent price drop (!) if it smelled of cigarettes.

All right, so what’s to be done if you’re trying to sell a smoker’s home? After reviewing far too many pages of tips, these seem to be your best bets for removing as much of the odor as possible.

“Boomerang buyers” in your region

Have you experienced the “boomerang buyer” yet?  This is a potential home buyer who was once foreclosed on for whatever reason, and is hoping to re-enter the real estate market and be a homeowner once again.  Many of them have waited the necessary 3-5 years since foreclosure before they can buy and have worked on increasing their credit scores.  Some will get financing and some will not.

If you are witnessing this type of home buyer in your market, we would love to hear from you.

Contact Stacey at and tell us about what you are seeing in your region.


Better to buy now, sell later — and more from a new Trulia survey

A new survey from Harris Interactive — on behalf of Trulia — found that people think.

A. It’ll be better to buy now than next year.

B. It’ll be better to sell next year than now.

“A” is probably true — more buyers are entering the market, and inventory is tight and getting tighter. Further, there’s no clear sign of that letting up. Still, there are foreclosures in the pipeline and plenty of REOs that might ease the inventory pressure.

“B” is harder to call. Now is a great time to sell, but if inventory stays low we could be headed into a full-fledged sellers’ market next year. so maybe it will be better. It’s going to depend on local conditions, though — what’s true for Fredericksburg won’t (necessarily) be true for Martinsville.

More people spending too much of their income to rent

“The rent is too damn high” — add that to the growing list of reasons we’re going to see a boatload of new buyers entering the market in the next few years. That’s a reasonable conclusion from new Census Bureau data.

When the housing market collapsed, a lot of folks had to leave homes they could no longer afford — often because of foreclosure or short sales. They became renters, in part simply because their credit ratings took a big hit.

Result: Rental vacancy rates are down. The new Census Bureau report says that those vacancy rates dropped from 8.4% to 7.4% in just two years (2009 to 2011) — homeownership obviously declined at the same time.

“How to buy a home” infographic

imageActually it’s more “How to pay for a home,” but it’s still both pretty and useful. It comes from Dan Green at the Mortgage Reports, and he even includes permission (and the code) to include it in your own website.

Inventory looks like the big issue for Virginia housing

Why is inventory becoming the big issue in Virginia real estate? Because there’s not enough of it. (If you’re in an area that does have plenty, be advised: It probably won’t last.)

Check out these statewide figures for February (the latest date we have solid numbers for):

  • Closed sales were up 13.8%, but.
  • Pending sales were down 31.6%, so.
  • Inventory was down 40.2%, and.
  • Months supply of inventory was down 45.3%

That’s huge. Meanwhile, days on market is down (-10.4%) and average closed prices are up (+9.7%) — in other words, the market is doing what it’s supposed to be doing: moving homes.