Category Archives: Tips and Advice

Architecture & Real Estate – What Makes a House a Home?

I’m not going to get to the heart of this thought in such a brief article, but many people don’t initially grasp the subtle advantages they receive when asking themselves this question. The answer is likely to be different for everyone. Consulting a good design professional can help you to explore this subject, because it’s an important concept on both sides of the transaction. Design consultants have the ability for one to overcome perceived “objections” by turning them into “opportunities”.

In today’s real estate market, even with lower than normal inventory, it is still critically important to have properties which show at their best. There is no question that homes sell faster, for a higher price, when they look their finest. In addition to design professionals, Realtors are able to compile lists of helpful services and associates that can assist in staging a property, consult on finishes, color selections, materials, and correct any areas that are in need of attention.

A home is more than just a structure, no matter what the style. The essence of architecture is what makes a house so personal. There is a certain feeling that good design embodies. It’s the fundamental ingredient in what makes a house a home – the perceptible difference that you may wish to consider during your next real estate transaction!

architects as real estate agents

I recently came across a 2009 online article by Nigel F. Maynard asking, “Why should architects become real estate agents?” Maynard points out the opportunity for architects to gain access to properties they might not hear about otherwise, and furthermore, supposes that this exposure may lead to additional work as an architect. My experience as a licensed architect as well as a licensed Realtor and associate broker says otherwise; at least within the confines of a small scale business model.

I will confirm that being a licensed architect, with experience in construction going back 30 years, has been a material benefit to my real estate clients for the last fifteen years. There is without a doubt real value to the conversations about the opportunities available to buyers and sellers that I bring to the table wearing these two distinct but overlapping hats; especially when there are challenges surrounding a property. But when it comes to being an architect or a Realtor, a choice has to be made regarding the primary focus of the business – at least if you intend to be successful at one or the other.

I can tell you that both jobs are a full time proposition. There is little in-between that will allow you to succeed at performing the duties of each profession successfully, at least as a small business person. The time it takes to get involved in a building project, or to work with buyers and sellers, are both all encompassing. They each demand your complete attention. Perhaps if one has a business which supports a staff, where tasks and responsibilities may be delegated, it might be a more viable option to do both jobs at once. I don’t think it is realistic to do this within the confines of a small or single proprietor business model.

Early in my real estate career – as an independent single contractor, as most Realtors are – before I began to develop a team model, sometimes when my sales business slowed I would attempt to pick up a bit of design work to compensate for the down-time in RE sales. It seemed, just as I got into the depths of that project the phone would start ringing, and my attention needed to be redirected back to real estate. Since, at this stage in my career, real estate was my primary focus, the design work would become a nuisance rather than a benefit. I found it exceedingly difficult to give adequate attention to each discipline in order to satisfy the demands of both practices.

I have now found new ways to incorporate both real estate and architecture into our current business model, but this business is real estate driven. My point is this – in contrast to Maynard’s suggestion that being a licensed Realtor will support and benefit your real estate business, or vice versa, I think that if you plan on being a successful architect, then let that business speak for itself. I did a business plan for both approaches and decided to pursue real estate in lieu of architecture. Yes, my being an architect does support and benefit being a Realtor; however, it is the attention and detail that I put in to being a Realtor that ensures my success in this business.

It will be the same thing if you plan to hang your shingle as a licensed architect. Your eventual success in that field will build on itself – if you pardon the pun. You can then find a Realtor who you can get close to, who wants to support your business, and be the eyes and ears of your real estate pursuits. I do not believe that one should count on building an architectural career by becoming a licensed Realtor.

Discover Key Ingredients to a Happy, Healthy Marriage. Join us March 24!

Passion & Purpose For Marriage

What’s the most important word in a marriage? What is really going on in your wife’s head? What do you wish your husband knew about you? Discover key ingredients to a healthy and happy marriage at the Passion & Purpose for Marriage event. Take your relationship to a whole new level.

Regardless of any religious affiliation, we trust this event will speak to anyone in a married relationship, and hope you will join Ann and John at this event in March.


Top Influences in Selecting a HOME

Search_IDA Richmond, Virginia neighborhood can be every bit as important as the dwelling itself – at least according those of us polled.

The National Association of REALTORS ® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers Reported the results of a survey of consumers and real estate agents regarding top influential characteristics in selection a home.

Considered by 64% of individuals when deciding where to live, quality of neighborhood was one of the most cited factors.

Additional attributes that those surveyed deemed important are:

Convenience of Job:  50%

Overall affordability of Homes:  43%

Convenience to family and friends:  38%

Quality of the school district:  26%

Convenience to Shopping:  26%

Neighborhood Design:  23%

Convenience to Schools:  21%

When searching for the ideal neighborhood, your real estate agent can be a valuable guide. Your agent can help identify a community that you will enjoy being a part of by assessing your needs and matching them to the locations that seem to be best fit.

Please let us know if we can help with any of your Real Estate needs!

Full Exposure When Selling a Home is Preferable!


Fully exposing your client’s house to the marketplace is almost always in your seller’s best interest. Of course there are exceptions to the rule;

Office Exclusive listings [also known as “pocket listings”] are a way to accommodate the desires of sellers who wish to exclude the listing from the MLS; they are intended to accommodate unusual circumstances, not as a “standard operating procedure”.

There are certain circumstances when a seller, or a seller’s family, or other situation, may not be prepared to endure the process involved in preparing a home for sale. The rigors of getting a house market-ready may not be appropriate in these cases, but these are “unusual circumstances”, not usually involving individuals who wish to maximize their sales price. They are perhaps more interested in the “convenience” of a sale than the full financial outcome; as a result when this happens, they should clearly understand that money is likely to be left on the table.

It is not just my personal preference or opinion that full exposure is best for our sellers. Recently, on March 8, 2016, our local Realtor Association put out a memo to its members denouncing certain practices that do not allow a listing to be offered to the public in a manner that is consistent with standards of practice in the real estate profession. It was extremely well worded, and a strong reminder to all of us about the importance of following standards of practice when presenting properties for sale to the public.

As the seller’s representative, it is the responsibility of the listing agent to maximize the exposure of the listing and to treat all buyer agents and potential buyer clients and customers honestly. (Code of Ethics, Article 1) Obviously, entering the listing into MLS in a timely manner is the most efficient and effective way to gain maximum exposure for the listing.

As real estate professionals, it is our obligation to explain why greater exposure is generally better for our sellers. Doing anything less than educating our clients about the pros and cons of making certain decisions is, at a minimum, a disservice to the people we are suppose to be helping. It also negates the opportunity to offer a property to as many buyers as possible, and to assure the best sale at or above list price, depending on market conditions of course. It further brings into question a Realtor’s code of ethics, as well as possible violations of Fair Housing law.

If an agent limits showings to a specific group of buyers and/or agents, the agent can potentially run afoul of Fair Housing law, Agency law, and MLS Rules/Regulations.

It leads me to question a sales agent’s motivation and character when selling a home in this manner.

The Preamble to the Code of Ethics offers a succinct rule of thumb:  “The term REALTOR® has come to connote competency, fairness, and high integrity resulting from adherence to a lofty ideal of moral conduct in business relations. No inducement of profit and no instruction from clients ever can justify departure from this ideal.”  


Our team has adopted a formula for ensuring a property’s exposure to the public. By establishing in our timeline for marketing a property a date and time that purchase offers will be reviewed.

When you anticipate multiple offers due to a property’s location or price, you may want to suggest to your sellers that a specific date/time be established for contract review and communicate this through the MLS so all agents are aware of this timing.

The expectation is crystal clear for all parties interested in one of our listings, and we see more and more agents doing the same thing! This strategy ensures that everyone interested in the home will have the same opportunity to see it, it eliminates the need for hurried, rash decisions that often lead to regret, and almost always allows for the best purchase offer to be put forward. The result is typically the highest and best price in a timely manner, and the likelihood that the sale will end successfully, at settlement, to people who truly love and want the home.  This is a win-win for all parties involved in the transaction.

We have a duty, a responsibility, and a moral obligation to perform our tasks as Realtors in a certain manner. Full exposure of our listings is one of those obligations. Not only does it benefit our clients, but it most assuredly benefits us as a profession. If we wish to be taken seriously as competent and fair-minded professionals, with high ideals and impeccable moral conduct, then we should always put our clients’ needs and benefit first. Success will surely follow these actions!


All excerpts are from Laura Lafayette, CEO, Central Virginia Regional MLS, in a memo to CVR/MLS Member Realtors dated 8 March 2016.

John VanderSyde, RA, Realtor, Associate Broker
April 6, 2016




Have things really changed since I last bought or sold a home

Dice buy sell

The answer is, most likely, YES.  The average time a home owner stays in their current home ranges from 5-9 years according to the National Association of Realtors (up from 3-5 years during the years prior to 2008). If you have not been in the housing market recently you will experience notable differences with this process. Your Realtor can provide a complete guide to the process of buying or selling a home today.

You will also find market conditions are continually changing. There are certain areas where transactions are fast and furious. Yet there are other locations where housing seems to move more slowly, still catching up with the most recent marketplace nuances, or competing with new construction increases. The good news is that we are experiencing positive changes that will continue to support strong home sales.

Don’t forget, it is still important to have the property looking as good as you can in order to generate interest. Most buyers, not investors, are looking for a turn-key product; a home that doesn’t require a lot of work before of after the move. It is important to remain compelling with your price. Know the value of your house and price it near where you think it is going to sell. Buyers should feel like they will be missing an opportunity if they fail to act.

As always, to better understand changes in the real estate market, start with your most trusted advisor. Or call us for more detailed information regarding your personal housing needs.

What’s the buzz about the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule?


It has begun! In case you haven’t heard, the October third deadline for compliance with the TILA-RESPA (The Truth in Lending Act (TILA) of 1968; The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), a consumer protection statute first passed in 1974) Integrated Disclosure Rule implementation is underway. The Consumers Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has initiated mortgage initiatives designed to help you, the consumer of home ownership, understand your loan options better, give you time to review loan documents, and in essence protect you from costly surprises at the closing table.

Basically, the mortgage disclosure rule replaces four disclosure forms with two new ones; the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure. These disclosures are forms that you get when you work with a lender to get a mortgage. The new forms are designed to be easier to read, and to understand the terms of your mortgage before accepting them. The rule also requires that you get three business days to review your Closing Disclosure and ask questions before you close on a mortgage, or delays in the closing process will be triggered.

So, what does this mean for you the consumer? Perhaps nothing more than some additional time needed when securing certain loans in order to purchase a home – at least for the next several months while the process becomes the new routine. With tighter lending guidelines and new disclosures, it will be imperative for you to quickly meet the deadlines for those documents your financial institution requires to process a loan. Certain circumstance may trigger delays, so it is imperative to be organized and provided documentation early. It will also likely mean you will need a more communicative and streamline approach in selecting your real estate “team” – your real estate professional, your lender, and your closing attorney or settlement company – when purchasing a home.

As always, to better understand these most recent changes to your home-buying process, start with your most trusted real estate professional, or call us for more detailed information.

Excerpts From an Interview with Susan Carvell with Richmond Times Dispatch

Tracking Trends

The real estate market is ever-changing — keeping buyers, sellers and Realtors busy trying to keep up with the latest trends and forecasts. Since the start of a new season is always a good time to reflect on what’s happening in the market, we recently asked Ann and John VanderSyde, a husband and wife team with Virginia Properties, a Long & Foster Company, to share their thoughts  on what’s happening in Richmond.

Ann and John
Ann & John

As a team specializing in residential real estate, are you noticing any specific trends right now?

John: There are some specific areas – The Fan, the Museum District, the Near West End, Bellevue, and neighborhoods close-in – where we’re seeing an increase in quick contracts and multiple offers.

Ann: We’ve been in situations where sellers have had 5-10 contracts to look at when they’re making their decision.

Is this something you’ve just begun seeing?

John: Just recently, since spring, I’d say.

Ann: What’s happening is that there’s not a lot of inventory in these areas and there are a lot of buyers who have been waiting and wanting to buy. So there is just far more demand than there is supply at the moment. I think that in those particular areas, the trend in general is that many people are looking for walkable neighborhoods. People don’t want to have to get in their car to get groceries, or go get coffee or walk to a destination. They want the lifestyle that comes along with being relatively close to where they live their lives.

John: The combination of an urban atmosphere and walkability is very appealing to a younger crowd, or for people who are looking to down-size their home and want to be closer into town for convenience.

Ann: And we’ve had a lot of relocation work, people coming in from out of town. Typically they’re not buying their first house and they may be coming in with one of the larger companies. They’re also looking for walkability. They really want that urban feel.

So would you say that walkability is a new trend?

Ann: I think it’s been growing, especially since the economy started improving. During the real estate bubble people were looking for bigger homes – they wanted space, they were gravitating to that. I think as a result of where the economy has been, people are now a little more conservative. They’d rather be closer to where they live and work without adding in a commute.

John: I don’t think it’s a new trend; I think it’s a more pronounced trend. It’s happening with more frequency.

Ann: I think it goes along with people being a little more careful with their money. They’d rather have a house closer-in, even if it’s a little smaller, one that they can make nicer improvements on a smaller scale.

John: And the interesting thing I picked up on is that the prices of the houses in these areas aren’t skyrocketing. The prices are improving, but in order to generate the interest that develops into multiple offers, sellers are still pricing their homes compellingly and letting the purchaser chase the price and bid the house up.

Ann: It’s exciting to see the activity picking up. A lot of sellers feel more confident about getting their house sold now. So I think there are people putting their house on the market now that for the last couple years have really held off. They just didn’t feel like it was in their best interest. The inventory has not caught up with the demand but I think sellers are gaining some confidence.

Several years ago people were looking for luxury amenities. Has that changed at all? Have people scaled back a little on what they’re looking for in the house itself?

John: Well there are people out there who will compromise a little bit if they’re looking to do some work themselves; in general, purchasers still are looking for a “diamond.”

Ann: Many are looking for what I’d call a “jewel box,” they don’t need all of the expansive space but they still want the home to be updated.

John: Most people are not looking for a project, but they’re willing to compromise on space in order to get a little nicer finish.

Do you find that the houses in the hot selling areas fall into that category?

John: In many instances, yes. We’re seeing homes sell that wouldn’t have sold a year or two ago because they needed work – the sellers couldn’t get the price then because they knew people were not compromising on condition. Now I think there are people out there who are willing to do some work in order to get into a location that they want.

Ann: I think that the prices are going up and some people can’t afford to buy in an area they want to be in – with a finished house that might be their ideal. So they’ll purchase a house and take on the projects.

John: Although buyers will still not jump into just anything. It’s got to be the right house.

Is there a trend in amenities right now?

John: We just had an open house in Chesterfield and I would say that 90 percent of the people who came thorough were drawn to it because it had a basement.

Ann: I think that people still notice the kitchen. People still want a nice master suite and they want it to be nicely done. People are split on whether they want just the tub or the shower, but a nice master suite is a plus. Especially in some of the smaller homes in the Fan and the Museum District, where oftentimes the home only has one bathroom upstairs – houses with two bathrooms are huge. It doesn’t mean that people won’t take a one-bath house.  But we always tell people that having two baths, where one is part of a suite, is a good investment. It will make their house much easier to sell.

I also think people like to entertain and they don’t like to be limited. They like having an additional room, somewhere where people can gather – an area that can be a family room and a living room.

John: If there is a basement, especially with enough ceiling height that it could be finished, they’re looking for that as additional family space – potentially easily expandable living space. That’s another little trend I think.

Is there any staging advice you’re giving now that people are responding to?

John: The first and foremost thing that we cannot emphasize enough is paint. If people would just spend a couple hundred to a thousand dollars in paint – it pays for itself.

Home Couple in our-new-homeAnn: We always use the expression, $30 in the can, $3,000 on the walls. It does a tremendous amount to make a house feel fresh and clean and gives the buyer the feeling that they don’t have to touch every room.

John: And it doesn’t have to be white on white.

Ann: I recommend soft neutrals, earthtones are nice, and people particularly like grey tones now. The other big staging emphasis is decluttering. Pack up what you’re going to be moving anyway; go ahead and put things in boxes and get a POD or storage unit. Houses show better with something as opposed to a vacant house.

John: Usually we can work with the furniture that they have for the staging. We may ask a seller to take out some things or we’ll just rearrange what they have. These are pretty simple things that don’t cost a lot.

Ann: We try to do as much preparation as we can up front. As a seller you get one chance with the buyer. If they’re not impressed or emotionally engaged with your house the first time, they won’t be back. So you really want to make the best first impression. It’s important to make the entry attractive. Give it some curb appeal– clean up the yard, the beds, put down mulch. Add simple things like a new doormat or a new mailbox. We give our sellers a checklist so that they can at least hit the most important things.


Anything else you’d like to note for our readers?

Ann: A lot of buyers will get started on their own just looking around and getting familiar with different areas through what’s online.  But I feel  that when someone gets serious about purchasing a home that they find a buyer’s agent and they get representation – somebody’s who’s looking out for their best interests. The buying process had gotten so much more complicated and there are new changes coming out in August with closing statements, and new requirements that the attorneys and the lenders will have to follow; it’s only going to get more complicated. It’s to the consumers’ benefit to have somebody representing their interests and guiding them through the process. That’s really my advice on both sides, because even as a seller,  with the market getting better and houses selling – having someone who’s going to market your house and get more potential buyers in there is going to benefit you in the long run.

I would think that advice would be especially important for first-time buyers.

Ann: Absolutely. They’re really focused on what they can get with for money. They start out with the hope of being in a particular area, but then when they look there and they realize what’s available they might compromise – or decide they might go to a different area to get more of what they’re looking for. We try to keep that wide open for them so that they really do have options. Richmond has so many wonderful neighborhoods – there are so many good options.

John: There’s definitely something for everybody. You can find generally what you’re looking for in a couple of different locations.


Competitive Markets and Multiple Offers are on the Rise!

News Paper - RealEstate

Have you heard about, or better yet, been faced with stiff competition in certain housing markets around Richmond, VA that are leading to multiple bid situations? Some areas seem to barely receive a notice, while others are overcome with such frenzied activity that it is leading to numerous offers and extremely competitive contracts that go well above asking price. Certain locations are so thin with little or no inventory that when a property hits the market, buyers begin to line up, quite literally, in the street.


Buyer-anxiety and the pace of movement around these homes is so extreme that it seems reminiscent of housing boom conditions from just a few short years ago. It’s almost impossible to believe situations like this can exist today – with one exception – it is not across the board in all locations! In most instances low inventory is leading to very strong home sales, but the price of these homes is not skyrocketing. In fact, price increases have been, on average, quite modest. Yet there are pockets which appear to be progressively heated.


In all instances, sellers need to be prepared for these conditions by remaining realistic about sales prices; keep a calm head and price your home compellingly. Perceived value is the key to generating interest. The market is working in your favor, let purchasers pursue the price. Preparation also remains important. Don’t underestimate the need to have the property looking its best in order to attract more traffic.


Purchasers need to be prepared to act quickly. They should have their finances squared away with a reputable lender. If they have more cash to put as a down payment they will be perceived as a more desirable prospect. Cash is still King! Minimize your contingencies in order to be more appealing, but be intelligent about choosing what to do or what to omit from an offer.  Put your best foot forward immediately in order to be a front-runner and to generate a response. You will also want to be available to your Realtor in order to respond quickly to anything that may arise.


To increase your chances of success, choose an experienced REALTOR to be your advocate. Call on us if we can help you!