Category Archives: Tips and Advice

Who are the Real Estate Experts?

These days with the unique nature of our housing market it sometimes feels presumptuous to proclaim to be an expert in anything related to real estate. Our business of buying and selling homes is so kinetic, with a fluidity that is constantly changing and evolving, that it requires vigilant, almost daily monitoring in order to truly be called REALTOR®.

Many people don’t realize that every licensed real estate agent cannot legally use the term “Realtor” in order to identify themselves. Over the years that term has often been universally used to refer to any person selling real property. And while all licensees are required to take continuing education classes mandated by their state licensing board, Realtors are generally required to have additional training that extends to conduct, ethics and consumer protection, and who are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

But the idea of being a real estate professional implies so much more than being educated and trained to transact property. There are certain traditions that are universal to people in sales, but in real estate, perhaps more than in most other sales positions, it is also the ability to communicate and maintain relationships that determines who the real experts are. Probably because of the very personal nature of our homes, real estate agents often become entrenched with the people they are entrusted to help find their next place to live, and grow, and love.

The true real estate experts are the ones you as the consumer trusts; the one who will listen to you, will put your needs first, is experienced and knowledgeable in your market, and who conducts themselves in an ethical manner. Don’t stop searching until you find the expert meeting your strict criteria.

Meeting Client Needs

Ann & John VanderSyde – Virginia Properties 2009 Sales Team of the Year. (804) 282-7300

Home Trends; Quality over Quantity:

    As the nation continues to recover from the effects of a troubled economy, home sizes have trended downward for the first time in three decades. More Americans seem to have also adopted a longer-term perspective, as homes that are smaller in scale are generally more affordable to maintain over time and have less impact on the environment. However, they are not necessarily less expensive to purchase. Many are situated in prime locations and include more high-end features.

    Findings of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Home Design Trends Survey suggests that home buyers as well as renovating homeowners are choosing more efficient floor plans with less square footage. This allows them to indulge their tastes for quality details, and upgraded features with a higher degree of personalization. This key consumer survey also captured the following trends in the home market place in vivid detail.

    New priorities trump old rules:  The prevalence of non-traditional, open layouts with spacious kitchen and family room areas continues. Today’s homeowners are looking for ways to maximize the square foot area of the homes, so larger, more gathering-friendly casual spaces are often replacing rarely-used formal living and dining rooms.

    Options create opportunities:  Many builders have incorporated flexible spaces that give buyers the option to dedicate a room to meet their specific needs and preferences or to serve multiple purposes. For example, a formal dining room calls for a chandelier and open access, where as double doors and built-ins can easily create a private home office or library in the same space. It is now also more common for the owners of older homes to alter their floor plans to work better with the way they live.

    Focus on accessibility, practicality, and storage:  A growing number of again baby boomers drive the preference for one-level or two-story designs with a master bedroom downstairs. Storage features such as large closets and rooms with built-ins maximize the use of space in a smaller footprint.

    Sketch – Floor Plan Can you believe the average size home in 1950 was 983 square feet?  In 1970 it grew to 1500 square feet; in 1990 it went to 2050 square feet, to a high of 2479 in 2007. It has been decreasing each year since to 2422 square feet in 2009, the most significant drop ever recorded.

Top Influences in Selecting a HOME

   A Richmond, Virginia neighborhood can be every bit as important as the dwelling itself – at least according those of us polled. The 2009 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.

A First Impression is Often Your Best


A strong presence is critical

Ann & John VanderSyde

First Impressions – Your House & Your Yard
   From My BLOG:

In real estate, like most things in life, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Remember that first date in high school? Or perhaps like me you’d just as soon forget about it! Well, trust me; a lot of folks out there feel the same way about YOUR house the moment they drive up to it. Unlike that first date, however, they will simply turn around and get the heck out of there as quickly as possible. If that happens, there will be NO second date!

It may be true if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still just a pig. But I believe a house is a little different – for the most part anyway. It seems to me (as my managing broker likes to say) that “for every doghouse there is a dog”, but some lipstick goes a long way toward getting them to sniff around it, especially if you want to sell quickly for the highest and best price.

I constantly tell sellers that, according to statistics, the greatest “bang for your buck” is in landscaping and the yard. Every year, house trends show the money you put into your yard has the greatest dollar for dollar return on your investment. The first thing you need to do is get the purchaser inside. If they see a manicured yard and a well maintained exterior, they have a tendency to be more forgiving with the interior space that may not meet all their needs.

So, start by getting someone involved in sprucing up the yard. There are a ton of eager landscapers and yard-upkeep companies that can come in and bang out some improvements in no time at all. Have a plan and commit to making it shine; really make a difference. Get a couple of bids, and you’ll be surprised how reasonable it is. Not to mention the fact that you don’t have to lift a finger.

I know men & women who like to putter in the yard, but this in not the time. Get professional assistance that will make a quick and immediate difference in your home’s curb appeal. You won’t regret coming home after a day at the office to find a finished product. Your house will look markedly different, and will appeal more to purchasers looking at other homes that haven’t been touched.

You’ve heard it a million times, but this is the first step to making a strong “first impression” about your property. Otherwise, forget about a second date!

For more insight, information and any questions on this and other important issues, please contact your most valued real estate professional, we are here to serve you! 

Sources:  John VanderSyde, Architect & Associate Broker, Virginia Properties, A Long & Foster Company

Your Representation

Representation: Full Service vs. Limited Service – In Virginia
Excerpt from my BLOG;

I am a full service REALTOR® so I believe you should always seek Full Service representation when selling or purchasing a home. The benefits far out weigh the risks, and the security of having a true real estate professional’s guidance is worth the cost of this service. Why would you wish anything less for your most valued asset?

It used to be that “Discount” Brokers seemed to offer Sellers the same level of service that Full Service Brokers provide, but for less cost to you; now, in accordance with Virginia law, they must call themselves “Limited Service Representatives”. They must disclose what services you are or are not receiving, at whatever cost you agree to do business with them. Surprising to some, there is no guarantee a Seller will be saving money through a lack of representation. In fact, statistics show, in most cases they are leaving money on the table!

Limited service disclosure was legislated into effect on July 1st, 2007. Law makers felt it was necessary to eliminate any confusion that existed as to exactly what services one should expect to be provided in real estate by a limited service agent as defined in Virginia agency law. This law of “disclosure” requires limited service representatives to tell sellers they are contracting with exactly what services they will and will not provide to you.

A Limited Service Brokerage Agreement must include: a) a list of duties NOT provided; b) a list of duties TO BE Provided. They are also required to furnish sellers all required disclosure forms along with disclosure of all rights and obligations with regard to: 1) The Virginia Residential Property Disclosure; 2) Condominium Resale Certificates; 3) Property Owners’ Associations Act. Beyond these requirements, the Limited Service Representative may or may not submit property information to the area Multiple Listing Service, and a Seller should not expect to receive any representation with regard to the home they have on the market. One can pay more to get more from their menu of services, but you are otherwise on your own!

While this article is targeted at Sellers, the same applies for Purchasers believing a better deal is available without using a Realtor. This is most often not the case. It is customary for the commission to be negotiated with the Seller prior to a home being put on the market. Further more, without representation most purchasers don’t know what to look for, what questions to ask, how to review and negotiate a contract, or what the actual value of a property is under current market conditions.

In contrast, the security of knowing you have a Full Service Real Estate Professional helping you is priceless. We are working on the job to serve you continuously from start to finish, and we know market trends. A Full Service provider will have a comprehensive plan of representation available to you along with their marketing plan for both Sellers and Purchasers.

For more insight, information and any questions on this and other important issues, please contact your most valued real estate professional, we are here to serve you!

Sources: Virginia Legislation (HB 316) Chapter 627 of the Code of Virginia; Central Virginia Regional MLS Limited Service Representation, CVRMLS_LSLA form REV. 6/07

John VanderSyde, Associate Broker, Virginia Properties, A Long & Foster Company

Do-it-Yourself is Overrated

I am a home project, died in the wool, do-it-yourself fanatic, so I believe anyone can take on whatever house improvement task they set their mind to – if they are committed.  What people need to realize is that when I take on a project it’s usually because I want to; when a home owner dec

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ides to make an improvement it’s usually because they have to fix something as they’re getting ready to sell their house. In this case it’s no longer an enjoyable hobby, and the task can quickly feel like a burden rather than an escape.

Many sellers are fine taking on a few things as they think about getting their house “match-fit” to sell. At least until they get half way into the work and realize that it’s more than they bargained for when they signed up for it. I love the idea of painting – only the idea of it – but many sellers feel that this is something they can save a few bucks on if they do it themselves. Nevertheless, once they get a couple of brush strokes into it they suddenly realize it’s a bit more of a pain than a pleasure. At best, it’s more work than they had imagined. At worst they will seek therapy after getting through all of it.  

Only this week we had a client email us as they are getting ready to put their house up for sale. There are a number of small painting projects that seemed manageable. They had committed to hire a professional painter to handle the big stuff, so a few little areas seemed reasonable. Half way into the five-foot square bathroom they were ready to jump out of the window. I believe they did finish, but needless to say the professional will be getting the rest of the house.

Home owners rarely have the experience, tools, time, and of course the patience to take on the apparently “do-it-yourself” project, especially when they are under the gun.  A contractor or handy man comes to the job prepared; they usually don’t have to run out to the store every five minutes because they didn’t plan properly. They also have the experience to do the job in about one third the time it takes for the average home owner to do it. They look at the work as a job, and while you’re at the office doing yours, they’re at your home doing theirs. When you get back in the evening the job is completed professionally, usually without the throwing of objects or the loosing of tempers. If it’s not done correctly it’s not your responsibility to fix it.

I love to take on projects, but I’m the first to admit that when you are getting your house ready to sell, leave it to the professionals. Take a step back and let someone that does this type of work ALL THE TIME do it for you. Save your energy for the new residence, because that’s where you want to be anyway. If you’re not sure who to get for the job then call your Realtor. They are a wealth of information with lists of contractor contacts and recommendations.

John VanderSyde is an Associate Broker with Virginia Properties, A Long & Foster Company, and is also a Licensed Architect. He and his wife Ann are business partners who believe that HOME is a lifestyle choice. You can learn more about Ann & John by visiting or by calling (804) 282-7300