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Virginia’s September home sales surge 35% over 2019

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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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What all homebuyers should know about flooding

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It’s not hard to find out if the home you’re interested in buying is located in a flood zone. Simply ask your realtor, or visit the online Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Map Service Center and enter the property’s address in the search bar. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before you decide whether to buy a particular home.

Flooding can happen anywhere
You don’t have to live in a designated flood zone for your home to be at risk of flooding. In fact, flooding can be the result of melting snow, burst pipes, tornadoes, hurricanes, construction issues, blocked storm drains, or problems with municipal sewer lines.

Maps don’t tell the whole story
Even if the home you want to buy isn’t in a designated flood zone, it might still be affected by seasonal changes to water levels in the area. Furthermore, these maps don’t necessarily account for trends driven by climate change such as rising sea levels and extreme rainfall.

Mortgage lenders may require flood insurance
If a property is in a FEMA flood zone that’s considered high-risk, homeowners may need to get flood insurance coverage before their lender agrees to grant them a mortgage. This is true of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, USDA, and VA loans.


If you’re applying for a non-government loan or the home is in a low-risk area, you probably won’t have to purchase flood insurance to secure a mortgage. Nonetheless, getting this type of coverage might be recommended.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is administered by FEMA, provides most residential flood coverage in the United States. In places where the NFIP is unavailable, homebuyers may be able to purchase flood insurance from a private insurer.

All homebuyers should be aware of the potential risks of flooding. The best approach is to do your research, ask pointed questions of the sellers and their neighbors, and spend time in the area. Additionally, working with a local realtor is a huge asset.

 

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What should you ask during a virtual tour?

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If you want to learn more about a home, here are some things you should definitely ask about during a virtual tour of the property.

Noise
Can street noise and other sounds be heard from inside the home? What about when you’re sitting outside? If any of the floors are carpeted, ask whether they creak, as this can indicate structural issues with the subflooring.

Views
Request that curtains and blinds be opened in every room. If there’s something unsightly nearby or a neighboring house is too close, you’ll want to know about it.

Wear and tear
It may not be easy to tell over video if surfaces are damaged, so ask whether countertops, cabinets, and floors look worn or scratched.


Odors
Ask your realtor if they notice any unusual or unpleasant odors inside and outside the home. Industrial smells from a nearby plant can affect your enjoyment of a property, and a whiff of mold or sewage can indicate a bigger issue.

Neighborhood
For most buyers, the look and feel of the neighborhood is important. If you can’t tour the area yourself, ask your realtor to take you on a virtual walk around the block.

More than ever, agents are relying on virtual tours to give buyers a closer look at homes. Speak with your realtor to find out more about virtually touring a property you’re interested in.

Pro tip
Before the tour begins, print out a floor plan of the home, so you can easily follow along.

 

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Virginia’s commercial real estate market resilient amid COVID-19

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According to the Q1 2021 Commercial Market Report released by Virginia REALTORS®, the commercial real estate market in Virginia has been surprisingly resilient, despite concerns about a serious downturn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virginia’s office market has seen a modest rise in vacancy rates. Office rents have risen or remained stable in most markets across the state, and mid-sized and suburban markets have been performing best. In the 1st quarter, the fastest rent growth occurred in Charlottesville and Roanoke.

One key reason behind the resiliency of Virginia’s office market is growth in several key office-supporting sectors. Virginia REALTORS® Chief Economist Lisa Sturevant, PhD, says, “In the commonwealth, the economy has gained back all of the jobs that were lost in the important Professional & Technical Services sector. In addition, the Finance & Insurance sector has remained steady throughout the past year.”

The impact of COVID-19 on Virginia’s retail market has not been as severe as expected. Despite early predictions, there has been no major fleeing from retail spaces in many Virginia markets. While retail vacancy rates have increased over the past year in Virginia, vacancy has remained fairly low—under 6%—in all markets across the state. Retail rents have declined modestly in Northern Virginia and Richmond, though there has been rent growth in some smaller markets, including Hampton Roads and Roanoke.


Industrial real estate has outperformed all other property sectors, benefiting from the pandemic’s fallout, rather than being set back by it. Growth in e-commerce sales has been a key driver of the strong demand for industrial space, particularly warehousing and fulfillment centers.

Virginia REALTORS® publishes quarterly reports on the commercial real estate market. These reports summarize trends in the office, retail, and industrial markets in nine regions across the state, and provide an outlook for future commercial market conditions. Click here to view the full Q1 2021 Commercial Market Report.

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What to investigate if you want to buy a condo

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If you want to buy a condominium, you may not know where to start. Here are several things to consider if you intend to purchase this type of property.

The unit
Find out what’s included with your unit. Does it come with appliances, a parking space, or a storage locker? If you buy a brand-new unit, you’ll likely be able to choose some materials and features such as the countertops, flooring, and electrical components.

You should also ask whether there are regulations regarding how the unit can be decorated, renovated, or used.

The building
In addition to finding out what type of security features and amenities are included (gym, entertainment room, etc.), you should inquire about the building’s overall condition. If it’s an older property, make sure there aren’t any leaks.


Also, consider the demographic of the other residents. You’ll most likely want to live among people whose lifestyle is similar to your own.

The area
For many people, the best part about living in a condo is having access to an urban community with a variety of conveniences and sources of entertainment. Make sure everything you’re looking for is available nearby.

The board
Familiarize yourself with how the condo operates and read through minutes from past board meetings if you want to learn more. In particular, check to see if the condo corporation has a history of demanding one-time assessments to cover large repairs. If so, this suggests the board doesn’t properly manage the funds they receive on a monthly basis to anticipate expenses.

Finally, determine all the costs associated with owning a condo to ensure you can afford it. In addition to your mortgage, you’ll need to pay for condo fees, property taxes, insurance, utilities (if they’re not included), and upkeep of the unit.

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How to get the best interest rates

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You’ve decided to buy a home and, in doing your due diligence, are researching how to get the best interest rate on a mortgage.

It seems fairly straightforward: A good debt-to-income ratio and good credit score should result in the lowest rates, right?

Maybe, maybe not. Although these are two significant items, other factors also come into play. Some of these include:

* Type of loan. Research whether you qualify for special programs, including those geared toward first-time homebuyers and those aimed at helping people in certain professions to buy homes (think teachers, first responders, and veterans).


* Down payment. The amount of your down payment is likely to affect your interest rate, but it takes some calculating to decide what’s best for you. Will you be better off using a chunk of money to lower your rate, or could you put those funds to better use elsewhere, like in investments?

* Type of lender. Experts recommend shopping around among banks, credit unions, and online lenders to find the best product for you. A 2019 NerdWallet analysis found that a borrower who compares five lenders could save more than $400 in interest in the loan’s first 12 months.

* Property location. Certain loan types, like USDA mortgages, offer lower interest rates and down payment assistance for properties in specific locations. And rural may not be as far away from civilization as you think.

* Duration of the loan. Instead of the standard 30-year mortgage, consider a 15-year mortgage instead. Lenders like the shorter term and often offer lower interest rates to incentivize borrowers. You’ll pay more per month, but you could save thousands over the lifetime of the loan.

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6 tips for setting up a small kitchen

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Do you need more room in your cramped kitchen? Here are six smart ideas to make the most of a small space.

1. Mount a rail to the wall. Use a support bar and hooks to hang utensils, measuring cups, pots, pans, oven mitts, cutting boards, and anything else you want to keep handy.

2. Hang shelves. Install them above the stove, fridge, countertop, and doorway. Shelves provide an easy storage solution for spices, bins of pasta, candy containers, fresh herbs, and more.

3. Opt for integrated design features. Built-in appliances or a trash chute incorporated into the countertop can help you make the most of a small space. Similarly, a slide-out shelf can extend your countertop surface.


4. Get two-in-one appliances. A combination oven, which acts as both an oven and a microwave, allows you to have a single appliance that can bake, grill, and reheat food. A microwave with a built-in hood is also a great option.

5. Install cabinets close to the ceiling. Build them high to maximize storage space, and use the top shelves for items you rely on less frequently. Just be sure to keep a folding stepladder nearby, so you can easily reach any item.

6. Invest in a portable cooktop. Some electric cooktops are as powerful as a standard stove, which makes them the perfect solution to save on counter space.

Additionally, considering brightening up the room with targeted lighting. Install strip lights and other fixtures near the prep space, sink, and cooking area.

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Front Royal
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Upcoming Events

May
8
Sat
2:00 pm Mother’s Day Weekend Paint Party... @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Mother’s Day Weekend Paint Party... @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
May 8 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Mother's Day Weekend Paint Party - Hydrangeas @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Bring Mom to The Studio for our Mother’s Day Weekend Special. Buy two tickets and save! This will be a lovely piece to add to your collections… and so much fun to paint. Join us[...]
8:00 pm Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 8 @ 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area – behind Mount Bleak. Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA Jet Propulsion Lab[...]
May
9
Sun
2:00 pm Mother’s Day Weekend Paint Party... @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Mother’s Day Weekend Paint Party... @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
May 9 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Mother's Day Weekend Paint Party - Daisies @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Bring Mom to The Studio for our Mother’s Day Weekend Special. Buy two tickets and save! This will be a lovely piece to add to your collections… and so much fun to paint. Join us[...]
May
13
Thu
6:30 pm Law Enforcement Officers Memoria... @ Front Royal Gazebo
Law Enforcement Officers Memoria... @ Front Royal Gazebo
May 13 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service @ Front Royal Gazebo
Please join Warren County/Front Royal Back the Blue, in partnership with the Fraternal Order of Police and Front Royal/Warren County Lodge #33, during National Police Week as we honor our local Law Enforcement Officers who[...]
May
14
Fri
12:00 pm Millionaire Maker Golf Tournament @ Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club
Millionaire Maker Golf Tournament @ Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club
May 14 @ 12:00 pm
Millionaire Maker Golf Tournament @ Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club
Join us for the 2021 Millionaire Maker held at award-winning Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club. The Millionaire Maker is a combined golfing and networking experience! Serious, amateur, and novice golfers are welcome. *Four golfers who[...]
May
15
Sat
7:30 am Captain’s Choice/Best Ball Golf ... @ Bowling Green Country Club South
Captain’s Choice/Best Ball Golf ... @ Bowling Green Country Club South
May 15 @ 7:30 am – 3:00 pm
Captain’s Choice/Best Ball Golf Tournament @ Bowling Green Country Club South
Please join us for the Captain’s Choice/Best Ball Golf Tournament, a fundraiser for the Linden Volunteer Fire Department. The event will be held Saturday, May 15, 2021, at Bowling Green Country Club South (768 Bowling[...]
10:00 am Fort Loudoun Day: Living History @ Historic Fort Loudoun Site
Fort Loudoun Day: Living History @ Historic Fort Loudoun Site
May 15 @ 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Fort Loudoun Day: Living History @ Historic Fort Loudoun Site
Bring the family and enjoy a fun day learning about the history of the French & Indian War era at the site of Colonel George Washington’s headquarters for the Virginia Regiment. Meet living history interpreters[...]
11:00 am National Kids to Parks Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
National Kids to Parks Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 15 @ 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
National Kids to Parks Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Children’s Discovery Area: This National Kids to Parks Day, join us for fun-filled activities and music at our interactive discovery stations. Kids, pick up a scavenger hunt brochure and hike on the Track Trail. Just[...]
May
16
Sun
9:00 am Virginia Psychic Fair @ Arlington-Fairfax Elks Lodge
Virginia Psychic Fair @ Arlington-Fairfax Elks Lodge
May 16 @ 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Virginia Psychic Fair @ Arlington-Fairfax Elks Lodge
Psychic Fair for both those who are serious and for those who are just curious. Event can be a life changing experience or just a fun time! Many of the best psychics, mediums, healers, and[...]
1:00 pm Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 16 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
What’s that buzzing? Meet with local apiarists of the Beekeepers of Northern Shenandoah (BONS) and discover the art of Apiculture (a.k.a. Beekeeping). This monthly program series examines all aspects of beekeeping from hive construction to[...]