While it’s definitely not “business as usual” for area Realtors, buyers and sellers, the COVID-19 crisis has not halted the local and surrounding real estate market as much as initially feared. To date, new listings are rolling in as are contracts. Showings, though obviously decreased, are still being scheduled and Realtors, offices and clients are embracing extreme precautions to make the process as safe as possible. The BRIGHT MLS (the local real estate multiple listing service which serves as a database for properties from New Jersey to Virginia) is providing daily communication as the industry adapts to new ways of conducting business, “We are relaxing showings requirements for Active and Active Under Contract listings. In-person/onsite showings of properties will not be required during this time. To provide another showing option for clients and their agents currently uncomfortable with in-person exposure, we are also temporarily allowing for the promotion of virtual/online showings within the public notes of a listing.” Typically homes cannot have branded virtual/online tours included in the database and must be available for in-person showings to remain in active status,” according to their online COVID-19 support center,” says a recent Bright MLS communication.
The industry as a whole is impressively stepping up to the plate in all areas to best protect while continuing to serve the public who still has a need to move during the pandemic.
New Safe Office Procedures
Offices are making the latest COVID-19 guidelines available to all agents while following guidelines and taking the threat of this virus seriously. The Keller Williams Solutions Manassas office was shut down recently for five days immediately after a staff member’s granddaughter began showing symptoms of the virus. Her test came back negative, but Lee Beaver, owner of the franchise, put the potential safety of her agents and staff ahead of the bottom line and shared, “The health and safety of all is most important to us. We will get through this critical time standing together. Being extra precautionary is the only way we are going to beat this pandemic.” Industry leaders share her concern and are going above and beyond to protect people who are engaging in real estate transactions through the pandemic.
New Safe Realtor Marketing Procedures
Agents are thankful for existing technology that makes transitioning to a more virtual way of conducting business possible. Heidi Rutz of Next Home Realty Select in Front Royal hosted a “Virtual Brokers Open House” this week and sent an email invitation to agents inviting them to take a 3-D virtual tour of the property (inside and out) and provide feedback through an online questionnaire. She’s having a drawing for a gift card for agents who participate. Agents like Rutz are utilizing creative marketing tactics to help listings stand out online.
New Safe Showing Procedures
Agents are asking buyers questions before showings to help mitigate risk and are advising them to take extreme precautions while following safety mandates. Some brokerages are requiring buyers to fill out a questionnaire about their health that verifies they are feeling well (fever-free with no symptoms of COVID-19) and a statement promising to use safe procedures when touring. Beth Medved Waller says communication and careful coordination is a key to feeling safe, “I have an occupied property that has a showing request from an agent who isn’t comfortable touring with her clients at this time. After lengthy discussions, we have decided that the seller will be turning the lights on, opening the closet doors and leaving the front door unlocked. I’ll arrive and the seller and I will wait outside (at least six feet apart) as the buyers tour. We will be available to answer their questions outdoors after they tour (from a safe distance). The seller will be prepared to wipe down the front door handle after the showing, which should be the only place the buyers will have touched. We feel comfortable with this procedure, especially since their agent has provided us with a copy of their signed buyer health questionnaire”
New Safe Communication Procedures
Jessica Dean of Weichert, Realtors in Front Royal, like many prudent agents, is presenting contracts to her sellers virtually. She’s even already received one offer from buyers who haven’t visited her listing in-person but chose to view online and make an offer sight unseen. Like others, Dean is also engaging in contract negotiations through electronic signing online and phone/Zoom calls. “Of course this is not ideal. Relationships are critical in establishing trust,” she says of this new protocol that unfortunately separates clients and agents physically but requires even closer communication to navigate the new processes of real estate transactions.
There’s Safety in the Numbers
Current market statistics for surrounding counties still look healthy as we move into month two of moving towards a new normal in life and in the pursuit of the American dream. Per Bright MLS research by Beth Medved Waller on 4/1/2020, the health of the area’s real estate market is still strong even amid the COVID-19 crisis.
- Coming soon–6
- Under contract/pending–103
- Closed since 03/13/2020–43
- Temporarily Off Market–14
- Withdrawn since 03/13/2020–9
- Coming soon–12
- Under contract/pending–252
- Closed since 03/13/2020–73
- Temporarily Off Market–25
- Withdrawn since 03/13/2020–11
- Coming soon–4
- Under contract/pending–44
- Closed since 03/13/2020–15
- Temporarily Off Market–9
- Withdrawn since 03/13/2020–15
- Coming soon–1
- Under contract/pending–28
- Closed since 03/13/2020–12
- Temporarily Off Market–9
- Withdrawn since 03/13/2020–3
- Coming soon–6
- Under contract/pending–112
- Closed since 03/13/2020–45
- Temporarily Off Market–15
- Withdrawn since 03/13/2020–6
Meet the Candidates: Eugene Tewalt – Front Royal Town Council
Meet the Candidates is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will sit down with each candidate in our local election and discuss issues that are important to all of us. The Royal Examiner asked Michael Graham, a former Town Manager of Front Royal to host these conversations. As a former Town Manager, Michael has an insight into the issues facing the Town and hopefully be able to bring out from each candidate their vision and plan if they are to be elected in the November 3rd election.
In this conversation, Michael will speak with Eugene Tewalt. Tewalt is seeking a seat on the Front Royal Town Council.
All local candidates have been invited to participate in this ‘Meet the Candidate’ series. Please be sure to vote.
Virginia Beer Museum marks 4 years of celebrating state’s brewing history
On Saturday, September 19, the Virginia Beer Museum cut the cake on its fourth anniversary of lauding, not only the Commonwealth’s current barley crop of crafted beers, but noted Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to Virginia and the American colonies history of brewing their way right up to independence.
And that’s something worth raising a glass of fine Virginia-brewed beer to – the museum’s fourth and America’s history of a march toward “all men created equal” under the law celebrated every 4th – of July. Keep the faith in that march, kids – someday.
The appropriately named Play the Changes band mixed classic rock covers and original material to an enthusiastic crowd spanning a several generation gap that appeared to agree that BEER was the vote to make, at least for those of age that Saturday evening in Historic Downtown Front Royal, Virginia.
Check the band out on its Facebook page and website.
And check the Virginia Beer Museum out on Facebook and at its website.
Another 5-year wait for essential bridge over Rockland Road railroad crossing in Warren County
A long-awaited overpass needed to help emergency services, fire trucks and ambulances react to urgent 911 calls may become a reality, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) – but not until 2015, if then.
In a presentation to the Rotary Club of Front Royal, September 18, Ed Carter, a VDOT official with an office in Edinburg, estimated a fall construction date starting in 2023 which should see the bridge opening in the spring of 2025 – a date that will be 25 years in the making.
According to Rotarian and former Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley in a telephone exchange last year, it had been 20 years since problems with the railroad companies first surfaced, but then, complaints were scarce. In the past several years, however, rail traffic has increased to the extent that traffic holdups at some crossings have been reported to range to an hour, if not longer.
In addition to emergency service inaccessibility, another effect of increased train traffic for residents of the area is the wait for drivers who need to be downtown or elsewhere to keep doctors and dentists appointments, veterinarian treatments for sick animals, or other scheduled meetings – even shoppers are becoming more irritated by the train crossing barriers coming down.
While describing the noticeable increase in train traffic and the length of many trains, some requiring two and three locomotives to pull and/or push heavier loads, Carter suggested some of the complaints may be overblown – “when sitting waiting, four minutes might seem like an hour.” (see editor’s note at story’s conclusion)
The railroad companies estimate a top waiting time of about 15 minutes. Carter also blamed the current installation of “third rails” for the extra train traffic that have added to the cost of a bridge.
The original estimate for the overpass was $15.5 million, which effectively is in the bank; and pre-construction work has begun. However, the railroad companies’ “third rail” has added almost $6 million to the project, and all that extra money is not yet in hand.
“(Residents) are going to have to put up with train blockages for quite a while longer,” Carter said, adding that a public hearing on the project is slated for the spring of next year.
The estimated 200-foot long bridge, two lanes (24-feet) wide, will “straighten out the two curves on the Rockland Road approach. He also observed that the bridge would be “quite high.”
Answering a question, Carter said trucks will be fed on to the relatively narrow country road, up to and including the size of tractor trailers. A questioner suggested that two trucks coming along the road in separate directions may not be able to pass one another without one pulling over.
Another Rotarian observed that there are already distinctive marks on either side of the road where mostly cars apparently have run off the road in passing from opposite directions.
While announcing that preparations for bridge construction had already begun despite the wait for extra (federal/state) funds, he described initial problems where underground caverns “close to the right of way” had been discovered and were a concern to engineering crews.
Carter, answering another question, said it would help if drivers held up for long periods would call the sheriff’s office for the record, suggesting that “we cannot control the railroads which got the right of way… many years ago” but observing that record-keeping of delays would be helpful in future discussions.
(Editor’s note: While driving to his Rockland home following the Rotary meeting, the writer was held up by a train at the Rockland Road crossing for a measured four minutes. “It seemed like an hour,” he confirmed.)
Statewide teen seat belt challenge launches “Buckle Up” design contest and free traffic safety kits
SALEM, VA — Students, schools, and youth groups across Virginia are kicking off a statewide campaign this week to increase seat belt usage rates among teens and youth.
Through a new, virtual format, the five‐week campaign, Drive for Change: Buckle Up and Slow Down will encourage youth and teens to develop a lifelong buckle up habit by reminding them that seat belts are their best defense against injury and death in a crash. In 2019, 65 teens aged 15-20 were killed in crashes in Virginia and of those teens, 56% were not wearing seat belts. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), 2020 preliminary data reveals 37 teens have been killed on Virginia’s roadways from January 1 through August 31, 2020 and of those, 19 (59%) were unbelted.
“The simple step of buckling a seat belt saves lives but, sadly, we are seeing an increase in the percentage of unrestrained teens killed in crashes in Virginia this year,” said Mary King, YOVASO Program Manager. “Through the ‘Drive for Change’ campaign, we are challenging our teens to change that statistic by influencing and encouraging each other to always buckle up. We hope every teen in Virginia will join the campaign and use their creativity to help save lives.”
In addition to buckling up, the campaign will also address speed prevention which remains a key factor in all fatal crashes involving a young driver with approximately half of fatal teen crashes being caused by excessive speed.
As part of the campaign, Virginia students ages 11-20 will be encouraged to participate in the #DriveForChange Sticker Design Contest by designing a sticker/decal with a buckle up and/or slow down message that will influence youth and teens to wear their seat belt and follow posted speed limits. The winning design will be selected by popular vote on social media during National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 18-24) and announced on October 23. Prizes will be awarded for the top five designs with first place receiving $100, having their artwork produced as a sticker for YOVASO’s 2021 Arrive Alive campaign, and will also receive 100 stickers to share with his/her friends. The other four finalists will receive $25. Contest Guidelines can be found online at www.yovaso.org/driveforchange.
Students may also participate in the campaign by registering for a #DriveForChange kit that includes driver and passenger safety resources, project ideas, and other fun items! Additional options for schools, youth groups, and parents to get involved can be explored on YOVASO’s website.
Drive for Change: Buckle Up and Slow Down is funded by a grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles with additional funding from State Farm, which supports prizes and educational incentives and materials.
“State Farm’s primary goal is to keep drivers safe behind the wheel,” said State Farm spokesperson Kate Beadle. “This campaign is a creative reminder to young drivers to always wear seat belts and obey the speed limit. With these actions, the number of accidents, serious injuries and deaths will be reduced.”
For more information or to register for free campaign materials for your school or youth group, contact Casey Taylor, Program Development Coordinator at 540-739-4392 or visit yovaso.org.
Schools and Youth Groups participating in the 2020 Drive for Change: Buckle Up and Slow Down campaign:
- Auburn Middle School, Montgomery Co.
- Bristol’s Promise, Washington Co.
- Central Academy Middle School, Botetourt Co.
- Eastern Montgomery High School, Montgomery Co.
- Fluvanna County High School, Fluvanna Co.
- Forest Middle School, Bedford Co.
- Galileo Magnet High School, Danville City
- George Wythe High School, Richmond City
- Heritage High School, Newport News City
- Hidden Valley High School, Roanoke Co.
- Jefferson Forest High School, Bedford Co.
- L.C. Bird High School, Chesterfield Co.
- Liberty High School, Bedford Co.
- Louisa County High School, Louisa Co.
- Louisa County Middle School, Louisa Co.
- Luray High School, Page Co.
- Mallory’s Movement Against Drunk Driving, Chesterfield Co.
- Narrows High School, Giles co.
- Page County High School, Page Co.
- Randolph-Henry High School, Charlotte Co.
- REACH Homeschool Group, Orange Co.
- Rockbridge County High School, Rockbridge Co.
- Walker-Grant Middle School, Stafford Co.
- Woodrow Wilson High School, Portsmouth City
- William Byrd High School, Roanoke Co.
Students are also participating from the following schools and universities:
- Beverley Manor Middle School, Augusta Co.
- Breckinridge Middle School, Roanoke City
- Bridgeway Academy, Chesapeake City
- Broadwater Academy, Northampton Co.
- Broadway High School, Rockingham Co.
- Brooke Point High School, Stafford Co.
- Centerville High School, Fairfax Co.
- Christiansburg High School
- Christopher Newport University
- Colgan High School, Prince William Co.
- Dinwiddie County High School, Dinwiddie Co.
- Floyd County High school, Floyd Co.
- George Wythe High School, Wythe Co.
- Glenvar High School, Roanoke Co.
- Graham High School, Tazewell Co.
- Hanover County High School, Hanover Co.
- James Madison University
- John I Burton High School, Norton City
- John P. Fishwick Middle School, Roanoke City
- Jouett Elementary School, Louisa Co.
- King George High School, King George Co.
- Lancaster High School, Lancaster Co.
- Menchville High School, Newport News City
- Milboro Elementary School, Bath Co.
- Monacan High School, Chesterfield Co.
- North Stafford High School, Stafford Co.
- Oak Knoll Middle School, Hanover Co.
- Park View High School, Mecklenburg Co.
- Patrick Henry High School, Roanoke City
- Penn Foster High School, King George Co.
- Prices Fork Elementary, Montgomery Co.
- Radford High School, Montgomery Co.
- Rodney Thompson Middle School, Stafford Co.
- Salem High School, Salem City
- South County High School, Fairfax Co.
- Staunton River High School, Bedford Co.
- Stuarts Draft High School, Augusta Co.
- Tabb High School, York Co.
- William Campbell Combined School, Campbell Co.
LFCC launches new podcast series “LFCC Stories”
Just in time for LFCC’s 50th anniversary, the college is launching its first-ever podcast series.
“LFCC Stories” will feature LFCC students, alumni and professors sharing their inspiring and heartwarming real-life stories.
“The podcast gives those who make LFCC such a special place – our students, former students and our faculty – the chance to share their stories in a more in-depth and intimate way than they have ever been able to do before,” says Marketing Director Brandy Boies, who is spearheading the project. “We have had so many amazing people walk through our doors, and this is a great opportunity to share their experiences and successes – and challenges – with a wider audience.”
Janet Michael, an experienced interviewer who hosts The Valley Today on The River 95.3 and owns Java Media, is hosting the podcast for LFCC.
You can find the podcast by searching “LFCC Stories” on Apple Podcast or Spotify, or listen online by clicking on the podcast link at the bottom of the LFCC homepage, lfcc.edu.
Former Winchester attorney charged with embezzlement, forgery
CULPEPER, VA – A former Winchester based attorney has been indicted on felony charges related to an ongoing investigation into his business practices. On Tuesday, August 18, 2020, a Winchester County grand jury handed up one felony count of embezzlement, and two felony counts of forgery charges against Travis J. Tisinger, 53, of Forty Fort, Pennsylvania.
The charges stem from an investigation the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Culpeper Field Office initiated in May 2019 related to Tisinger withholding a client’s $8000 settlement and forging signatures.
According to the Winchester Star, Tisinger’s license to practice law was suspended by the Virginia BAR in 2018 for not providing requested records.
The investigation was referred to VSP from the Winchester Police Department.
Tisinger turned himself into state police Thursday, September 17, 2020, at the RSW Regional Jail and went before the magistrate who released him on bond.
The investigation remains ongoing at this time.