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Ask the Expert: I built equity in my house. Now how do I get rid of the PMI?



Private mortgage insurance, or PMI, is required when you buy a house using a conventional loan and make a downpayment that’s less than 20 percent of the home’s price.

Naturally, most homebuyers want to get rid of that extra amount on their monthly mortgage payments.

You have the right to remove PMI in two ways: you can get ‘automatic’ or ‘final’ PMI termination at certain home equity milestones, or you can request the removal when you reach 80 percent home equity.

* Automatic trigger: This occurs when your mortgage balance reaches 78 percent of the purchase price or at a set time period of halfway through your amortization schedule. Payments must be up to date.

* You can request removal of PMI when the loan balance reaches 80 percent of the original value. Some homeowners hasten the process by making extra payments toward their principal. You make the PMI cancellation request in writing to the lender.

* You might be able to refinance out of PMI, which tends to apply when mortgage rates are low and values are on the rise. It usually takes two years before you can refinance.

* Get the home reappraised. Calculate the cost of an appraisal against your savings, but if your home’s value has risen appreciably, this could be a good strategy.

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Virginia’s September home sales surge 35% over 2019



According to the September 2020 Home Sales Report released by Virginia REALTORS®, statewide, September home sales saw a staggering rise of 35% over September 2019.

Sales were up strongly across the Commonwealth, with the Eastern Region seeing a surge of nearly 80% over last year’s sales, the Northern Region seeing a 37% rise, and the Hampton Roads Region seeing an increase of 33%. In the Central Region, sales rose by more than 24%.

While home sales typically slow down after the summer, once school begins and families return from summer vacations, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this fall an a-typical season. “As a result of the pandemic upending the typical market patterns, the strong summer housing market surged ahead into September,” says Virginia REALTORS® Chief Economist Lisa Sturtevant, PhD. “Strong demand and low mortgage rates continue to fuel robust housing market activity.”

This strong demand has had a significant impact on home prices. In September, the median home sales price statewide was $329,900, nearly 13% higher than in September 2019. Homes are also selling much faster. Homes sold in an average of 37 days in September 2020, down from 48 days a year ago.

While demand for homes continues to be high, the lack of available inventory remains the biggest constraint on the performance of Virginia’s housing market. At the end of September, there were over 40% fewer listings than the same time last year.

The Virginia Home Sales Report is published by Virginia REALTORS®. Click here to view the full September 2020 Home Sales Report. Current and past reports are available to members, media, and real estate-related industries through the organization’s website.

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Real Estate

A guide to virtual tours



The need to implement social distancing measures has driven many businesses to find new ways to serve their clients. Realtors are no different. Here’s what you should know about virtual property tours.

Different types of tours
The term “virtual tour” can refer to either a tour of a property done via video chat or one conducted using 3D-modeling software. In a best-case scenario, these two techniques will be used in tandem to provide homebuyers with the most complete experience possible.

Tips for buyers

Virtual tours are more flexible than in-person visits, especially because they’re easier to plan and less intrusive for homeowners. The most important thing to remember is that, in some ways, virtual tours offer more than traditional visits. Make the most of them by trying out various layouts and color schemes.

Tips for sellers
Sellers should get their property mapped out in 3D if possible. The popularity of virtual tours is sure to keep climbing, even after the pandemic.

Video chat visits are fairly similar to in-person ones, with the important caveat that any staging will need to take the technology into account. Kick up the lighting a notch and make an extra effort to declutter. Image quality can vary between visits, and any busy or messy areas will look worse on camera.

In addition to virtual tours, some realtors are offering virtual closing as well, adding another level of safety and convenience.

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Always ask these things before hiring a real estate agent



To find the right realtor, you need to look into your options. Before you make a decision, interview a few different agents and be sure to ask the following questions.

How many homes did you sell last year?
While they may simply lack experience, realtors with few sales should be avoided. Otherwise, you may run the risk of your property staying on the market for a long time. If they work for a brokerage, make sure they report their own sales and not those of the entire company.

How long does it typically take you to sell a home?

Perhaps more important than how many homes a realtor sells is how long it takes to sell them. Check with the agent for an average so you can get an idea of how fast your house will likely sell.

How will you market my home?
Good realtors know that marketing is key. Your agent should have a solid strategy in place to sell your home, one that takes into account the local market conditions and any trends in your area. If their plan seems too generic or unclear, you may want to look elsewhere.

How easily will I be able to reach you?
You’ll undoubtedly have questions about how the sale is going, and it’s reasonable to expect your realtor to provide you with answers. In addition to what they tell you about staying in touch, verify whether they have an administrative assistant. If they have someone helping them manage their priorities, it’s likely they can focus more on your needs.

Lastly, make sure to investigate the realtor’s credentials. Always look up the agent you’re thinking about hiring and get at least three recent references from them.

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Real Estate

Tips for planning a major renovation



Do you want to remodel your home so it better suits the needs of your growing family? Or maybe you hope that a major upgrade will appeal to potential buyers? Regardless of your goals, here are a few things you should do to ensure your large-scale renovation is a success.

• Determine your needs and establish a list of priorities such as creating an open-concept living space or adding a second floor

• Settle on a maximum budget and reserve a portion of the amount for unexpected expenses

• Do some research to find out whether you qualify for any home renovation rebate programs

• Obtain all the necessary permits from your municipality before you begin any work

• Consult with and hire all needed professionals such as an architect, interior designer, general contractor, and electrician

• Set a realistic timeframe in which to complete the work

• If needed, make arrangements for your family to live elsewhere during the renovations

Remember, when properly planned and completed by experienced professionals, most major home renovations offer a great return on investment.

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Virginia REALTORS celebrates 100-Year Anniversary



Virginia REALTORS® is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this month. One of the largest trade associations in the Commonwealth, Virginia REALTORS® currently represents 35,000 members engaged in the residential and commercial real estate business. Virginia REALTORS® is comprised of 28 local REALTOR® associations, representing all regions of the Commonwealth.

Founded at a meeting in Richmond on October 22, 1920, Virginia REALTORS®—then the Virginia Real Estate Association—was established to standardize the real estate business, cultivate and enforce fair dealing, and encourage the business of owning, buying, selling, renting, and managing real estate in the Commonwealth. At that initial meeting, Paul T. Collins of Norfolk was elected to be the first President.

Over the past century, Virginia REALTORS® has provided industry advocacy, training, and professional resources to real estate agents, brokers, and property managers. The association aims to protect the private property rights of Virginians, advocating for the rights of real estate professionals as well as homebuyers, sellers, and renters. An ardent advocate of Fair Housing legislation, Virginia REALTORS® strives to create housing opportunities for all Virginians.

“Over the past one-hundred years, the REALTORS® of Virginia have become one of the greatest contributors to the state economy while also striving to help ensure that the American dream of homeownership and housing opportunities are available to all Virginians,” says Virginia REALTORS® 2020 President Kemper Funkhouser of Harrisonburg. “The fact that wars, depressions, recessions, and now even a global pandemic have not stopped the progress of our association is a testament to the strong foundation we have established.”

Three Past Presidents of Virginia REALTORS® have gone on to serve as President of the National Association of REALTORS®, including Dorcas Helfant-Browning who, in 1992, became the national association’s first female President.

For the health and safety of its members and staff, Virginia REALTORS® has postponed its centennial convention until the fall of 2021, when the membership will gather in Richmond, the site of the association’s founding.

About Virginia REALTORS®

For more information, visit or follow Virginia REALTORS® on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

NOTE: The term REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.

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Real Estate

3 things to do before listing



If you’ve recently decided to sell your home, here are three things you should do before putting it on the market.

1. Clean up
Start by removing clutter from your home. Give away things you don’t need and find out if there are recycling companies nearby that can take bulky items.

Then, clean the house from top to bottom. Areas to pay special attention to include the kitchen, bathrooms, and places that tend to show dirt, such as the windows and both very light and dark surfaces.

Finally, organize your closets and cabinets, as potential buyers will want to know how much storage space is available.

2. Make repairs
Taking care of small, inexpensive repairs will help you make the right impression. This includes replacing burnt out light bulbs, fixing leaky faucets, and repainting dingy or outdated rooms neutral colors. Refreshing your windows is also a good idea, particularly replacing cracked glass, reapplying grout and caulking, and mending damaged screens. Making these repairs will help you emphasize your home’s best features.

3. Increase curb appeal
Freshen up your landscaping by trimming bushes, repairing cracks in concrete features, and spreading new mulch or gravel. Repaint as needed, fix broken gutters and remove stains from the driveway. However, you should avoid installing elaborate new features. Prospective buyers want to see the potential of the property, and injecting too much of your own taste could make the house less inviting.

Keep in mind that virtual visits are increasingly popular, so you’ll want to make sure your home looks as great on video as it does in real life.

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Front Royal
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Upcoming Events

all-day WCHS Band Annual Fruit Sale @ ONLINE STORE
WCHS Band Annual Fruit Sale @ ONLINE STORE
Oct 19 – Nov 12 all-day
WCHS Band Annual Fruit Sale @ ONLINE STORE
Please show your support by purchasing fresh fruit for you, your family and friends to enjoy over the holidays! To place your order online, simply click here. Navel, Grapefruit, Juice Oranges — Whole Box $40, Half[...]
6:00 pm Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Oct 30 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
7:00 pm Love Revival – FREE Monthly Comm... @ Love Revival Ministry Center
Love Revival – FREE Monthly Comm... @ Love Revival Ministry Center
Oct 30 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Love Revival - FREE Monthly Community Dinner @ Love Revival Ministry Center
Free Community Dinner for everyone! Come enjoy a hot meal on the last Friday of every month at Love Revival Ministry Center.
10:00 am Halloween on Main Street @ White Picket Fence
Halloween on Main Street @ White Picket Fence
Oct 31 @ 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Halloween on Main Street @ White Picket Fence
10-11 am: Dog Costume Parade and judging 1-2 pm: Wedding on the Gazebo 4 pm: Children’s Costume Parade with judging and prizes 5 pm: Trick or Treat on Main Street. Merchants and County Businesses will[...]
10:00 am Skyline Middle School Food Drive @ C&C Frozen Treats
Skyline Middle School Food Drive @ C&C Frozen Treats
Oct 31 @ 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Skyline Middle School Food Drive @ C&C Frozen Treats
Skyline Middle School kicks off its 38th Annual Food Drive Saturday, October 31, 10 am-3 pm, at C&C Frozen Treats. Please bring nonperishable food.
5:00 pm Halloween Glow Throw @ Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Co
Halloween Glow Throw @ Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Co
Oct 31 @ 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Halloween Glow Throw @ Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Co
Bring your best costumes and GLOW throw with us! Trick or treat, throw axes and have an amazing Halloween with SVAXETHROWINGCO! KID friendly! Make your reservation today, spots will fill up fast: Fill out[...]
all-day 2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Nov 1 all-day
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Beginning on November 1, 2020, to accept Applications for 2021 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a[...]
6:00 pm Annual Meeting of St. Luke Commu... @ Online Event
Annual Meeting of St. Luke Commu... @ Online Event
Nov 4 @ 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Annual Meeting of St. Luke Community Clinic @ Online Event
St. Luke Community Clinic, Inc., of Front Royal, will hold its Annual Meeting at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4, by ZOOM. All members (those who donate $35 annually or volunteer at the clinic) are[...]
6:00 pm Fashion Show Fundraiser benefitt... @ West Oaks Farm Market Event Venue
Fashion Show Fundraiser benefitt... @ West Oaks Farm Market Event Venue
Nov 5 @ 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Fashion Show Fundraiser benefitting Boy Scouts @ West Oaks Farm Market Event Venue
Fashion Show Fundraiser benefitting Shenandoah Area Council Boy Scouts Fashion, food, cash bar, silent auction, raffle, door prizes, vendors on-site. Sponsored by Anna Quinn Jewelers, Grove’s Winchester Harley Davidson and Firenza Pizza. Showcasing clothing by[...]
all-day Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Nov 7 all-day
Small Business Saturday @ Front Royal, Virginia
Why should Small Business Saturday just be celebrated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving? Buy Local – Shop Local – Eat Local – Support Front Royal’s Small Business Community and stay local! Small Business Saturdays –[...]