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2/5/2015 "But That Website Said My House Was Worth More"

In real estate it's fairly common to work with people who have been misguided, either by accepting advice from the wrong people or relying on data that's just not accurate. Such is the case when a buyer or seller searches online for the value of a home in a particular neighborhood and finds what they believe to be the market price. Just as one should use caution with any other information posted online, it's advisable to take with a grain of salt the home values a website may declare.

Appearing last week on CBS This Morning, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff was asked about the accuracy of his company site's Zestimates. He replied that the automated property value estimates are "a good starting point" and also acknowledged they have a national "median error rate" of about 8 percent. However, at least two independent analyses by real estate agents have found much higher error rates in their local communities.

In the article citing that agent data, the writer suggests that anyone considering buying or selling a home in today's market should consider Zestimates "as no more than starting points in pricing discussions with the real authorities on local real estate values — experienced agents and appraisers."

The full CBS This Morning piece can be seen by clicking below.

screenshot CBS This Morning

1/22/2015 Downtown Bethesda: Apartments & Retail To Replace Parking Lot

A Northern Virginia developer plans to build a mixed-use apartment building including 248 dwelling units at market-rate, and 62 moderately-priced units, along with over 13,000 square feet of retail space and more than 350 private underground parking spaces.

As reported in the Gazette last week, Aksoylu Properties of Manassas is purchasing a parking lot on Woodmont Avenue. Montgomery County, which operates the lot, agreed to sell on the condition that the developer increase the percentage of the project's apartment units for Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDU) programth. The county-mandated minimum of units required to be set aside for MPDUs is 12.5 percent, and in this deal the developer agreed to reserve 20 percent of the units. The project still must be approved by the County's Planning Department, and even then likely will take a few years to be completed.

Woodmont Parking Lot

12/4/2014 You've Never Viewed A House In This Way!

As a real estate agent I've seen many unique homes over the years. I've also seen innovative ways in marketing real estate. Until today, however, I'd never seen a roller coaster used for making your way around the house. A Dutch company that specializes in real estate marketing decided to build a roller coaster in and around a home to take visitors through!

Roller Coaster in House

Image: screenshot from YouTube video

10/26/2014 Median Home Price Lower Year-Over-Year

Not long ago new home builders saw the low inventory of existing homes on the market as an opportunity to raise their asking prices. The thinking was that with fewer existing homes for potential buyers to choose from as competition, the builders could ask more for the new homes. While they could argue they needed the extra revenue to cover the costs of land, materials, and labor, the price move backfired for many firms. Now with the median sales price down 4% from this time last year, new homes will have to find ways to be more competitive.


10/19/2014 "The top ten flashlight apps...are all malware"

You might want to uninstall a flashlight app if you have one on your smartphone.

Cybersecurity expert Gary Miliefskyn tells Bret Baier that "the top ten flashlight apps...are all malware; they're malicious, they're spying, they're snooping, and they're stealing." Where does your data go? China, India, & Russia.

Cybersecurity FoxNews YouTube

8/31/2014 Builders Find Greater Opportunity In Renting

Real estate attorney and author Shari Olefson recently appeared on CNBC to discuss the various factors contributing to home ownership becoming less affordable for more and more Americans. She correctly pointed out there's more than rising house prices keeping people from otherwise purchasing a home. Rents also are up, which makes saving for a down payment that much more difficult. Additionally, while new housing building permits are up over last year, the largest segment of those are for multi-family units (apartments), which indicates the builders see more opportunity in that niche than in single-family properties.

The National Association of REALTORS® has pointed out that home ownership strengthens the nation's economy, and for every two homes sold a job is created. Further, U.S. Census Bureau data shows owners move less frequently than renters, therefore contributing the stability in the local community.

8/20/2014 New Condos Coming To Nationals Park

Two blocks from Nationals Park, a 14,000-square-foot parcel of land currently holds the Metro's chiller plant, which cools the air before it reaches the stations at the Navy Yard and Waterfront. Now Metro has announced a proposed development deal that would build 126 residential condominiums along with 6,000-square-feet of retail space. The plans would incorporate the chiller plant into the new building. This second residential for-sale real estate project follows on the heels of a proposal for 130 residential units at The Yards.

Navy Yard

(PHOTO: Chris German)

8/13/2014 Wal-Mart Backs Out Of Aspen Hill

Whether it was local residents' opposition, bureaucratic red tape, or some other cause, Wal-Mart has withdrawn its plans to build a 118,000 square foot supercenter on the site of the former BAE/Vitro office building in Aspen Hill. The Lee Development Group said Tuesday that Wal-Mart representatives cited "the uncertain length of the county's planning and regulatory processes." While some local business leaders expressed disappointment with the continued vacancy of the bulding, many area residents, who had formed a coaltion opposing Wal-Mart's plans, didn't want the inevitable increase in traffic at an already congested intersection.

More from WTOP.


7/24/2014 Residential Burglaries Highest In Summer

Last month the Bureau of Justice Statistics published a report that shows burglary is 11% more common in summer than winter months. While the trends in the mid-1970s indicated burglary was 23% more likely in summer, and the June 2014 report examining statistics from 1993-2010 show a drop to 11%, that still is the greatest seasonal variation of any type of crime.

Typically referred to as a crime of opportunity, burglary may be more common in summer for a number of reasons Obviously countless more people will take vacations during the summer (newspapers or mail piling up sends a clear signal that no one's home). Additionally, securing windows and doors tends to be overlooked by more people in these months.

Protect yourself with some of these tips:

1. Make your home a more difficult target with an alarm system, with a yard sign and window stickers showing that an alarm system is installed and active. Call me and I'll be happy to recommend an alarm installation/monitoring company.

2. Suspend delivery of your newspaper and mail (or have a trusted friend or neighbor collect them for you).

3. Connect at least one lamp or other interior light on a timer so a light will come on nightly for a period of time while you're away.

4. Similarly, exterior lighting on a motion detector also can be a great deterrent.

5. Consider high-tech options like installing a security camera (or multiple) or using a mobile security app for your smartphone to alert you if someone approaches your doorways while you're not home.

If you've found this information helpful, feel free to share this article with the people you care about.

Burglar Image courtesy of chanpipat /

(Image courtesy of chanpipat /

7/23/2014 Drones & Real Estate Photography

Typically the first sign that your neighbors are selling their home is when you notice the for sale panel go up in the yard. More recently, however, you may suspect one of your neighbors is about to sell if you spot an aerial drone briefly hovering over your community. Some real estate agents have begun using drones to take aerial photographs of the seller's home and surrounding areas, including nearby parks, playgrounds, lakes, golf courses, and shopping centers. Just last month the Federal Aviation Administration warned that agents using drones to take photographs for clients would not qualify as a hobby or recreational use of the flying objects, and therefore are considered "subject to all existing FAA regulations." While the FAA may be permitted to take action against commercial drone operators, it remains in dispute if it may levy any fines against them.

Inman News followed that announcement with a poll of their readers, and fewer than 25% of the respondents believe the FAA will strictly enforce the ruling, at least in the immediate future.

Since the FAA also stated that it may modify it's interpretation of "hobby or recreation" based on public comments, what are your thoughts about the use of drones by real estate agents to take photographs for home sellers? Does it make a difference if the drone is used only in the airspace above the real estate property being sold?


Drone - Don McCullough

(PHOTO: flickr/Don McCullough - Creative Commons license)


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