Monday, May 6, 2013

Building Wealth By Owning Real Estate: Five Lessons for Us All

"Building Wealth By Owning Real Estate: Five Lessons for Us All" is the blog series I just completed.   These tidbits and antecdotal stories are the stories of my life, but they have served me well, and I am on the way to where I want to be financially; despite enduring some trying times financially as a family (which we've done without too much suffering).  I hope you'll read the short stories, and commit the lessons to memory.  Let them guide you in your real estate decisions.  You won't be sorry.

I hope you enjoy these short stories from my life... you've learned a lot about me in the process, but hopefully you've learned even more about the real estate market and why you, too, need to own at least your primary residence.

DISCLOSURE: This is not a sales pitch - it was not when I was learning these lessons, and it is not now.  Yes, I would love to be the one to help you with your real estate needs - buying or selling.  But rest assured, the advice comes "no strings attached."   It is the same advice I give to my own children.... and there is no one in this world I care more about than my own children.  So if it's what I tell them, then you know I believe it.

I wish you much success in your real estate endeavors. If I can ever be of service, please don't hesitate to reach out to me:
Vicky Chrisner
Fieldstone Real Estate

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Types of Real Estate Investing

There are lots of different “types” of real estate investments. You can invest in land for long term hold, commercial property and so on.  However, since I am primarily a residential REALTOR, this post is about different types of residential real estate investing.

The first time I learned about real estate investing I was 4.  My dad had built 4 houses for a developer on Vale Road in Oakton.  The market was terrible and when he was done, the builder owed him about $70,000.  But he could not pay because he could not sell the houses.  Eventually, he came to my dad and made an agreement to give my dad a house in exchange for the debt, and my dad could take a loan out on the property to pay off his suppliers, etc.  My father was not happy about being forced into homeownership.  However, it’s probably the best thing that ever happened to him.  Today, both of my parents (since divorced) own homes that they own free and clear of any mortgage because since that time, they have both been homeowners, and the value of the properties they have owned, over time, have always increased.

So I believe that real estate ownership DOES built wealth over time.  Here are some examples of how YOU can build your wealth in the world of real estate.

Personal Residence

There’s no better investment, in my opinion, than the real estate you purchase to live in.  Sure you are going to let emotions and non-financial things guide this purchase but the truth is, you have to live somewhere.  So even if you pay a premium for something that may not equate to market value, you’re still reaping the dividends.  Buy what makes you happy – life is short.  Then, maintain it and care for it and love it.  Most importantly, do not use it as an ATM.  Do not refinance every 2 years to pay off revolving debt, buy a car or go on vacations.  Choose your financing wisely, take advantage of tax benefits and focus on paying down your mortgage until you own it free and clear.  A good equity position goes a long way in increasing your net worth.

Residential Rental Properties

Some people intentionally buy their first home to keep as an investment, and once more established, they keep that residence as a rental (as recommended in David Bach’s Automatic Millionaire series).  This may or may not be a good decision.  At the time you’re deciding, consider the net value of the home vs. the rental income and consider how it will impact your next primary home purchase (i.e. your ability to have a sizable down payment, and to be able to afford the mortgage on the home you want).  If it passes that test, evaluate that house just like you would any other residential rental property investment.

When evaluating a purchase of residential investment properties, first decide how long you wish to own the properties.  A “long term” investor (in my book) is 10 years or more.  Consider the acquisition cost (including any repairs), the expected costs to hold (taxes, insurance, maintenance, financing, and management costs), and expected rental income.  Then assume moderate growths in all of these areas, including a moderate rate of appreciation for the home.  At the end of 10 years, are you making money?  How much?  Will it have been worth it?

Fix & Flip

If you want to buy property to fix up and sell, you need to have high risk tolerance because just when you think the market has recovered, and it’s got no place to go but up, it’s sure to change.  So make sure you have a back up plan or lots of room for error.

Know your acquisition costs, your hold costs, your repair costs and your cost to sell.  Then pad these numbers in case you’re wrong, because unless you’ve done this a few times, you probably are.
The residential real estate market is hard to predict in 6-12 month increments because it can turn in the blink of an eye.  So, my F&F friends – work fast.  Be ready to start the “fix” on closing day and get that thing back on the market quickly – 30 to 60 days should be the goal, because you want that place sold within 90-120 days.

The key is making this work is to know when the market is turning and react fast.  If you see a slow down, don’t “wait and see” if it picks up next month – drop your price, cut your losses and get out.  If you can’t… if your budget was blown and you’re not going to reap the benefits, know your back up plan.  Can you rent it and still be comfy cozy?  Then do it.


This type of investment is also high risk in my opinion.  It circles back to my original story about how my dad became a home owner.  Much like the “fix and flip” investors I just mentioned, these investors most know their acquisition costs, their construction budget, their hold costs, and their costs to sell.  But the building process will take longer than repairing a property, which means they need even more market knowledge and wiggle room in their assessments.

I guess that developer that had the four properties in Oakton made a judgement error.  But, kudos to him for realizing that the properties did have value and he could still pay off debt with them.  He did sell the other three properties, in time.  And he did not go bankrupt.  Most importantly, because of him my parents have personal wealth today and a home that costs very little for them to live in.

Remember:  There Are Tax Consequences

The goal with real estate investing is to build wealth and produce income.  Wealth and income are taxable.  Don’t forget that.  So, a tax advisor needs to be involved in helping you to evaluate any purchases and sales like these.

Legal liability

I can not mention real estate investing without talking about legal liabilities. Owners are responsible.  For everything. All real estate owners need to have good insurance, and lots of it.  You’ll need to protect yourself from being sued, as well as against Acts of God.  Make sure you understand your risks by talking to an attorney, and consider limiting your risks through various avenues.  Get that legal advise before you even write an offer, so that you take title the best way (in your name? your business name? as tenants by the entirety? in an LLC?  in a trust?)  and so that any financing you’re using to acquire the property is also in the right entity name.  Then, talk to your insurance advisor and make sure you have plenty of coverage for all the what ifs.

Are you ready to get started?  You can reach me at 703-669-3142 or
If you’re considering owning rental housing, you might also enjoy this post: Property Management 101

Remember, I have moved my blog and only occasionally post here anymore.  Be sure to stay tuned to "The Real Estate Whisperer" at this link.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Neighbor: Pay Thy Bill!

You already knew your neighbors could impact your sale.  How their home looks, how they act when they see someone coming to look at your home… it all matters because it impacts the buyer’s view of the neighborhood and of the home.  But neighbors can impact your ability to sell in other ways, too, like if they don’t pay their bills.
Delinquency: It’s long been a standard on FHA loans for condo purchases. The number of households who are delinquent in their condo association dues can not exceed 15% of the total homes in the association.  Today we’re seeing lenders for other types of loan looking at the delinquency rate of condo associations and, even home owner associations, before they will make a loan.  It’s a sign of the times.  More and more home owners and condo owners associations are being impacted by a growing number of households who are unable to pay the fees.  And, when that delinquency exceeds 15% it can be a big issue… It can mean difficulty finding a buyer for ANY HOME in the association.
I have a transaction I am working on right now… We ratified the contract rather easily.  The listing agent is available, cooperative, even pleasant to deal with.  The home inspection and appraisal went through without a hitch.  The lender is assuring me the buyers qualifications look good. Things are rolling along.  AND THEN… Then came the call from the lender.  The condo questionnaire came back and the delinquency is over 15%… Just barely over, but it’s over, and that means no loan.
In this case, we only need 3 people to pay their bill to reduce the delinquency to below the threshold and the loan can go through – THREE PEOPLE.
Neighbor, PAY THY BILL!
I am not sure how this will work out – I will keep you posted, but it’s a terrible situation to be in, because none of the parties to the transaction are responsible for this issue… and yet, we’re all being held accountable for the late payments of a few.  So, I will keep you posted.  I won’t let this kill the deal for my clients, although I do not know what the resolution will be – yet.
What I do know is that homeowners everywhere should take note.  When you’re interviewing management companies ask about their collection procedures, and hold them accountable.  Their ability to collect association dues can impact your ability to sell your home.
Stay tuned for the resolution – there will be one.  In the meantime, call your association and get a copy of your delinquency report.

And, Psst... If you're only reading this blog, you're not keeping up with the latest greatest updates from the real estate whisperer.  Check out the new blog at "The Real Estate Whisperer" and join me on Facebook at

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

10 Things A Seller Should Know About Short Sales

I am slowly but surely migrating to using ONLY my wordpress site for blogging.  So please visit me there:

Here are 10 things everyone who is “under water” on their home should know:
1. If you owe more on your home than it’s worth, you can still sell in most cases, even if you do not have the money to pay the balance of the loan. This is called a short sale.
2. If you do a short sale, in most cases lenders are processing these fairly quickly – from listing to close can be as little as 60 days, 90-120 days is more common.
3. Most lenders will stop the foreclosure process if you are working on a short sale.
4. Most sellers can get full debt forgiveness from their lenders (meaning after the sale they no longer owe their lender).
5. If you get debt forgiveness THIS YEAR (this requires you close your sale by 12/31/2012), most people will not have to pay taxes on that forgiven debt. (See information on the Debt Forgiveness Act here.)
6. A seller’s credit WILL be damaged; but it is temporary. Before you do the short sale, consider your credit related needs, especially as it relates to finding your next place to live.
7. Although high security clearances often require credit reviews, I have never had a seller have trouble renewing their security clearances because of a short sale. Especially in these circumstances, short sales are preferred over foreclosures.
8. Some sellers are eligible for financial assistance when they file for a short sale… It’s mind blowing and I know it, so let me say that one again: YES, some sellers receive CASH from their lender for doing the short sale.
9. Short sale sellers without extenuating circumstances can restore their credit to above 700 – in most cases – within 2 years.
10. Most short sale sellers can be eligible for a home purchase loan in as little as 3 years (via an FHA loan which only requires 3.5% down). Some sellers can get loans sooner.
These 10 things reflect “typical” experiences with short sales…. it does not account for every “what if” which may apply to you.  I am happy to talk with you more to learn about your circumstances and then I can provide you with information about what the most likely scenario is for you, should you need to do a short sale.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How Can I Buy When I Still Need To Sell?

A consumer asked me... "If I have a house I need to sell before I can buy another home, how can I do it? What comes first?" 

It's sort of like the chicken and the egg conundrum.

In a buyers market, a buyer may be able to negotiate with a seller to enter into a contract that is contingent on the buyer selling their own home (this is called a home sale contingency). In these cases, though, it presents a risk to the seller, and their agent will help them to evaluate that risk so they can decide if they should take it. The evaluation will include conducting a market survey on the buyers home, among other things. Buyers will have to demonstrate to the sellers that they have positioned their property to sell in the current market.

In a sellers market, it's unlikely that the seller will agree to this. Instead, they will wait a few more days and take the next, non-contingent, contract that comes in. SO, then what? What's a buyer to do?

So the next option is for one to put their home on the market, and secure a contract that contains a seller contingency called a "Home Of Choice" contingency. This is becoming more common. This contingency allows that seller to then go and find the home of their choice... and make an offer that is contingent only on the settlement of their home (which is much less risky than a full home sale contingency).

I guess the bottom line is there is not one answer that is always right... it depends on market conditions and the parties involved. An experienced and skilled real estate agent can help you evaluate risk, provide resources and alternatives and determine the best course of action for your family.

If you happen to be in this exact predicament, wondering how exactly you make all these puzzles pieces work together, well, you're in luck. I know how, and I can help you get the plan put together. Contact me today and let's set up our initial consultation...


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Market Stats - May 2012 - Looking Good

I sell homes and land in the Northern Virginia/Dulles region and throughout Loudoun County.... and today I am looking for people who wish to list their homes - like yesterday - and get them sold today. 

Here's why:The May market stats were just released from MRIS our local MLS system. 

In Northern Virginia, compared to last year, Sales Volume is up 10%, and inventory is DOWN 20%... That means I have 10% more people buying than last year, but I have 20% less homes to show them.  Simply put, more demand, less supply. And yes, that is putting upward pressure on pricing in our area. Prices in the region are up almost 7% compared to last year.

Interested in learning more?  I have charts, stats and tons of info... just go to my web site, and check it out.

If you are thinking of selling, this might be a great time.  I am waiting for your call or email.  Let's get together!

Vicky Chrisner
Selling Homes and Land in the Dulles area

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Market Recovers, Appraisals Lag Behind

Today as I was discussing an appraisal issue with a couple of fellow practioners, I learned that appraisals are suddenly becoming more of an issue.  And, unlike a year ago, it's not really because appraisers that don't know the market place, but more because of the market changes.  A year ago, 6 months ago, we had a lot more distress sales in the market....and the "traditional" sellers had to compete with the distress sales in order to be able to sell.  But for the past 6 months things have been absolutely ROCKING and there has been upward pressure on sales prices... and we ARE seeing prices go UP.  (Sellers - this is where you cheer:  YAY!)

BUT, (and there's always a BUTT, isn't there?), appraisers are pulling comps of past sales... You know, from when we had so many distress sales, and when the market wasn't so hot.  As a result, appraisers are having a hard time justifying the new sales prices that the market is bringing.  THAT is a problem we haven't had for several years.  It's good news...."ish"... I guess.  Well, the cause is good.  The side effect - not so much.  (Buyers and sellers together:  Boooo!)  A low appraisal can kill an otherwise perfect real estate sale.

Honestly, I am frustrated.  I get it, but I am frustrated.  "Fair Market Value", is, by definition, what a willing buyer and seller agree to in an arms length transaction.  It is not what an appraiser thinks.  And yet, appraisals are holding back our market recovery.

So I am trying to be an optimist here, and focus on the positive - the market is strengthening.  And I will try to take the problems in stride.  Dear sellers, and buyers, I hope you do, too.  Real estate these days is not always a fun game to play.

In the mean time, take a look at theses posts:
To make you laugh:  Your Home, as seen during a real estate transaction.
To help you get your appraisal: Get the best appraisal for your home.
Interested in learning more about our market place?  Visit the Market Statistics part of my web site for the latest news, stats, and information.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Can I Have More Than One Agent?

A Consumer Asked: Can I have more than one agent?

Hmm... The short answer: Maybe, but not if you're *my* client.

But let's back up a bit.  When you begin working with an agent, there's an important discussion that should be had - right up front.  It's about the difference between being a client and a customer.  (Yes, there is a legal difference.)

If it's determined that you will hire that agent to be your agent, then you will likely be asked to hire them exclusively.  This means you will be asked to pledge your loyalty (in writing via a contract called a listing agreement or buyer/tenant agency agreement) to work with that agent, and only that agent, to help you with your real estate need (be it buying, selling or renting).

I admit I always laugh a little when we talk about loyalty in a brokerage agreement... it feels a little like asking a guy to go steady; except it's one sided:  "I don't want you to see other girls.  But, I will be seeing other guys."

Doesn't sound fair, but let me finish:

You see, REALTORs do not get paid by the hour, for their effort, for their gas, or the many tools that are required to do the job sufficiently.  Together, these things cost thousands of dollars every year.  We only get paid if we are successful in helping someone buy, sell, or rent a property.  As a result, it seems unfair for you to work with more than one REALTOR, since - unless you're planning to rent, buy, or sell more than one place - only one REALTOR can get paid for the job.

On the other hand, when you ask us to help you buy, sell, or rent a property, you're not guaranteeing us payment... You're just representing that you are ready, willing and able.  So, we can't only spend time with you... If we want to pay our own mortgages next month, we will have to have more than one client.

It is for that reason, that the REALTOR community has established rules that prohibit us from "stealing" another agent's client.  If you have a written agreement with another agent/brokerage, there are legal and ethical issues that prohibit me from being able to work with you while that agreement is in place.

It is also for that reason that I only work with people who are working exclusively with me and no other agent. I'll post more about agency later.  But since I got this question twice today, I thought it was an important post.  I hope the next time an agent attempts to explain exclusivity to you, it makes a bit more sense.

* * *
In the mean time...Got real estate questions?  I got real estate answers.  Email me, sent me a tweet, post on my wall, text or call me.

Remember, with me, you've got a friend in the business.
Twitter: REWhisperer
Text: 703.728.5766
Old Fashioned Phone: 703.669.3142

Sold 605 Valley View Ave SW Leesburg VA

Vicky Chrisner | (703) 669-3142


605 Valley View Ave SW, Leesburg, VA

4BR/3.0BA Single Familyoffered at $349,000SOLD FOR $352,000
Year Built 1986
Sq Footage 2,129
Bedrooms 4
Bathrooms 3.0
Floors Unspecified
Parking Unspecified
Lot Size 10,019 sq ft
see additional photos below

additional photos


Vicky Chrisner
Vicky Chrisner
(703) 669-3142

Posted: March 09, 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Breaking News: RESPA, NAR, Quicken and Brokerage Admin Fees

RESPA, RESPA, RESPA...What is it anyway? The web site explains: " The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) insures that consumers throughout the nation are provided with more helpful information about the cost of the mortgage settlement and protected from unnecessarily high settlement charges caused by certain abusive practices. "

Among other things, this law has a prohibition against "unearned fees" being charged by settlement service providers to the consumer. Settlement service providers are real estate brokers, lenders, closing companies, surveyors, pest control companies, home warranty companies and almost any party whose charges show up on the HUD-1 Settlement Statement.

This portion of the law has been tested in lower courts and was seemingly interpreted to mean that real estate brokers could not charge "admin fees" or transactional costs above the commission they were charging. The courts, as I understand it, were saying that the brokerage had the duty to file the paperwork and coordinate the transaction. Therefore, brokerages could not charge an additional fee over and above the commission, to clients and customers for these tasks. As a result, many local brokerages began to rename these fees and continue to charge them, but label them as "flat fee" commissions, because that is what the court said they were. So, brokerages would charge X percent plus a flat fee of Y as commission for their services.

WELL, now NAR (the National Association of REALTORS) says that the ruling by the Supreme Court last week changes things. In this particular suit, Quicken (a mortgage broker) was being sued by customers who claimed that the loan discount fee (aka loan processing fee) violated this same clause of the law as it was an "unearned fee". Quicken defended itself by saying that the law only applied to fees that are shared with another servicer. The case made it to the Supreme Court and....(drumroll please) the Supreme Court sided with Quicken.

What does this mean for real estate brokers and their "Admin" fees? Will they be re-emerging in the marketplace? Who knows. But I know this... my office does not charge admin or transaction fees in addition to our commission. In fact, Mr and Mrs consumer... when I recently moved from one office to another I ended up at such a small boutique brokerage because all the 'nationals' that I considered do charge these fees (regardless of what they are called). I stood firm against it and simply would not go to an office where I would be forced to charge these fees to my clients. I mean, really... How could I tell you "You Have A Friend In the Business"... and then nickel and dime you to death every time we did business together?  I couldn't.

Whether you're ready to buy or sell a home, or just need some honest real estate advice, I am here for you:

Vicky Chrisner, "The Real Estate Whisperer"

Selling Homes and Land in Loudoun County and the Dulles Area



Learn more about this case:

Speaking of Real Estate "Supreme Court Provides Clarity on Brokerages' Administrative Fees"


Monday, May 28, 2012

Hidden Costs in Home Buying - New Homes Vs. Resale

Today I received an email from Toll Brothers linking to a blog about why you should buy a new home rather than a resale.... and they make a few points; but they miss a lot of points. "A" for effort! Hopefully the consumers reading the blog don't actually think about what it says - or doesn't say.

In this sheet, Toll Brothers gives you expected life expectancies of varying systems in homes, and their approximation of replacement cost. Generally speaking, they are right on about the average life expectancies. According to the estimate, over a 25 year span you could be spending $133,500... that's a little more than $5K a year in maintenance (that's regardless of whether you buy new or not - that's the cost to maintain a home over those years... and it's probably going to be more than that in our area). However, if you are buying a home, particularly a resale, I recommend you get a home inspection and hire someone that will provide you with a better estimation (based on the actual home you're buying) what maintenance or replacement items you should anticipate so that you can budget accordingly.

Aside from the predictable maintenance costs of any home (new or resale) there are other things to consider. For example:

  • Do you sneak to the kitchen for a midnight snack in your undies? If so, having window coverings in place might be a good idea. Resales usually come with them... new homes rarely do.
  • Most people repaint. For resales, most people repaint when they first move in to get rid of the prior owners taste in wall coverings and replace it with their own. With new homes, builders recommend that owners wait a year before repainting, so until then you need to live with the builder's choice of paint and the nail pops.
  • Yes, nail pops - That's why builders recommend you wait a year before repainting. At the end of a year, they will (usually) come back and cover up nail pops and other minor signs of settlement that are inevitable.... but they won't touch up custom paint, so waiting until after that 1 year walk through to repaint is a good idea, since you'll surely want to repaint after that is done. With resales, they are usually "settled" by the time you move in, so you're not as likely to find these kinds of issues.
  • Do you like to have clean clothes? Most of us do... and builders rarely include a washer and dryer. Most resales come with the laundry equipment.
  • Are you moving out of that stupid rental apartment to your own home so you can have a cook out on your own deck without the rental manager fussing at you? Well then, you're going to need a deck or patio. Resales commonly have decks or patios... New homes usually don't, and this is a big ticket item not included on that Toll Brother's list. Think $10-15K plus.
  • Maybe your motivation for moving is that you're ready to start a family, and whether you're starting your family with dog or a (human) toddler, you may find having a fenced yard would be a plus. There aren't many builders that include that in the cost of the home, in fact, many don't even offer it as an option. But in resales, you have a pretty good chance of finding a great yard with a great fence already in place.
  • Speaking of yards, do you like green grass and mature trees? This wish list item is also going to be easier to find in a resale. With a new home, the landscaping is all new, and takes much work to get established.

While buying a new home offers some advantages, it offers disadvantages, too. There is not one right answer for everyone. I am not trying to sway your opinion, just to point out some of the things you may not have considered... and things Toll Brothers certainly doesn't want you to consider when you're reading their blog or shopping in their models (where, by the way, you'll see lush landscaping and decks, and patios, and fenced yards, and custom paint and window coverings). I'm just sayin'.


Whatever the right answer for you, I am happy to help you make sure that you're buying, "eyes wide open" and not swayed by marketing materials and propaganda. That's the role of a buyers agent~to make sure you have the right information so you make the best choice for you and your family. Thinking of buying a home? New or resale I can help!

Vicky Chrisner, BUYERS AGENT



Sunday, May 27, 2012

Loudoun Real Estate Market Looking Good

If you keep up with my blog, you know my opinion of the market. If you keep up with the Loudoun County market stats posted on my web site (and updated monthly), then you have already seen the evidence for yourself. And if you read the newspapers, then you will see that a recent survey of other agents and area builders reinforces what I have been sharing: The Real Estate Market in Loudoun County is looking good! :) The hottest submarkets? Ashburn, Brambleton, Potomac Station, and Potomac Falls....and homes priced $400-500K, and just above $1m....but homes in Western Loudoun are selling, too! In general, Loudoun is rockin'! In fact, inventory is so tight, the sale of land is picking up again too, and custom home builders are seeing an increase in the number of their contract. This is of particular interest, as building a custom home generally requires more than a desire... it requires a significant down payment and to qualify for a loan, borrowers must have a high level of liquidity and financial stability. Interested in learning more about real estate in Loudoun County? I am here to help! Vicky Chrisner 703.669.3142

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Refinancing Your FHA Loan Now

Yesterday I received another "Mortgage Minute" video from one of my favorite lenders, Pat Cunningham at Home Savings Trust. These videos are sent to his sphere of real estate agents so we can provide updates and information to our clients. In this video (as always) he gives some good information. But the most exciting news in this update won't even impact my real estate business. It could, however, impact your life.

Did you buy a home prior to May 2009 with an FHA loan? If so, this new deal effects YOU. Pat said they have a new option to refinance those loans - which are likely about a 5% interest rate - into today's loan prices (approximately 3.75%), and you will NOT have to pay the new mortgage insurance rates, there will be no appraisal, and no closing costs. For many of you, this could save a couple hundred dollars a month.

Watch the video yourself (note: He talks about this last, so you can skip to a little more than half way through the video if this is all you wish to hear.)

Want more information? Talk to Pat: Patrick Cunningham Main Number: (703) 766-4636 Fax Number: (703) 352-1289 Email:


I will be forwarding this post to several of my past clients... I hope you pass this on to anyone else you know. I want you to remember that I am always looking out for you, and will be sharing news that I think you can use whether you're in the market to buy or sell, or not. So, stay tuned to my business facebook page at

Also, if you're a client you may notice my web site has a new format... and I am loving it. It is a work in progress, I am still customizing things, so please explore and give me your feedback. What do you love? What do you think should be added? I want it to me the type of interesting web site that keeps you coming back to use resources regularly...and something you will likely be sharing with others.

As always, please know I rely on you, my friends and clients, to help feed my business. If you know of anyone who is looking to buy or sell a home in the Loudoun or Dulles area, be sure to connect me!

Vicky Chrisner, REALTOR


Friday, May 25, 2012

Getting the Best Appraisal for Your Home

Because most people purchase homes with a loan or otherwise subject to an appraisal, getting an favorable appraisal is key to most home sales. You likely will also need to get an appraisal for refinancing.

The purposes of a home appraisal is to estimate market value, to make sure the bank is investing (via a loan) in a property that is worth their investment.

Recently there has been a change in the home appraisal process, resulting in more regulation. To comply with these regulations, among other things, most lenders use a lottery system to chose the appraiser for each loan.

When working with the Veterans Association on a VA loan, the VA operates the lottery system. No one involved in the transaction, not even the lender, has any ability to choose the appraiser. Outside of VA loans, larger lenders have a large pool of appraisers they work with... Bank of America and other large lenders, as you can imagine, service a huge geographical area... often, so do their appraisers. And, like in the example of the VA loans, the loan officers who work for these large lenders also have no ability to influence the appraisal... nor do they have the ability to influence decisions on who goes into the lottery, or who stays.

It's not uncommon in these situations to get an appraiser from a far off land (OK, I am exaggerating just a bit, but they are often from outside the market place) to provide a valuation for your home. Since we all know that real estate is local, this can result in a "bad" appraisal.

Appraisers who do not understand what neighborhoods are more comparable to others may pull comparables from neighborhoods that simply don't make sense. Or, if they don't often work in the market, they may not realize that (for example) in Winchester, a split foyer home sells well and in Reston a contemporary home is highly desired, but both of these housing types are considered "dated" and less desirable in Leesburg, where people seem to crave colonial style homes. They may not realize that a home in Round Hill is more desirable than one in Lovettsville because of the commute patterns. And, desirability drives value in any market.

I tend to encourage my buyers to use smaller, local lenders for a myriad of reasons. One advantage is that smaller local lenders have a smaller pool of appraisers who generally work smaller areas. While these lenders are still not permitted to "hand pick" their appraisers (to prevent fraud), they do have better quality control over the "pool" of appraisers, and the end result is a more accurate appraisal.

When selling or refinancing your home, your appraisal can affect your ability to get your loan...and if you're a seller you need the appraiser to be favorable so that your buyer can get his loan. So make sure you know your "comps."

"Comps" are simply market comparisons that reflect other homes that have sold in your neighborhood, zip code, and area. Review these comparisons by calling your agent of choice (hopefully me) for comparisons BEFORE your appraiser visits to make sure that all relevant comps are considered.

If your home is for sale, we've already been through the "presentation" checklist - and this still applies for the appraiser. If you're refinancing, take a few minutes to look at your home as though you were a home buyer, since checking that your home appears marketable and well-maintained is vital. Spend some time cleaning the home entrance and painting as necessary to spruce up the entry, making your best first impression. The rest of your home should be clean and clutter-free, as well. Appraisers assume - like most people - that if your home is dirty and toys are out front in the overgrown lawn, you don't take good care of the mechanics and the roof is probably a disaster; but if it's clean, surely all the nooks and crannies are in great shape as well.

Appraisals - no matter how scientific they appear on the final report - are incredibly subjective. If you hire 10 appraisers you will get 10 different values of the same property. So, make sure you make things as easy as possible for the appraiser, and present your case for the value.

There are some things you can hand to your appraiser when they visit:

  • Floorplan and plat, for starters - because they will have to create one if you don't give them one.
  • List of selling features of your home - the view, size, location, bump out, "options" when the home was built - anything that makes it better than most of the homes your house might be compared to.
  • List of recent upgrades and updates, and include costs if they were significant (a $45K kitchen remodel is much more impressive than a $10K kitchen remodel; and be sure to include anything that improves energy efficiency - this is a focus in today's market).
  • Listings for comparable properties with notes about the significant differences between your home and the one that is there (backs to highway, doesn't have a basement, etc.).

If I have listed your home you can rest assured that I will be providing this information to your appraiser - I may meet them in person or just provide the information electronically to him in advance. I will also do my very best to project to them that I am an expert in the market place, and that I am available to assist them if they need additional information, have questions, or find conflicting information. Being personable and approachable is an important factor in opening these lines of communication.

If you're refinancing, then I can still help you get these things together - just give me a call.

Once completed, an appraisal may take a week or so before you can get a copy, but do get a copy. If the appraisal is lower than you need, there are ways to request changes, and I can help you with that, too, so that you can accomplish your goals.

Don't hesitate to call me if I can help! Remember, with me, you've got a friend in the business!

Vicky Chrisner, REALTOR


Thinking of selling or refinancing? Check the comps - order a free report at www.SalesInMyNeighborhood.Info

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What? No Cookies?

I have been working with some buyers for several months... We have looked, and looked, and looked at homes.... Foreclosures, Short Sales, Vacant Homes, Model Homes, you name it. From the time we first entered a model home, the client commented "What, no cookies?" It's true... gone are the days where you can count on getting fresh baked Otis Spunkmeyer cookies at any model home.

This became the joke... Every house we went in, someone would comment "It's nice, but there are no cookies." Or something like that. Earlier this week, I showed them 2 homes that they really really liked, especially the second one. Of course, I continued the joke... "Yeah, but there are no cookies, so we better keep looking."

We went back the next evening to show another family member... Guess what we found? Yep. There were more, but we ate them. I had to take a photo before they were gone. They were tasty, too.
And no, it was not an open house. But it was an owner that did absolutely EVERYTHING right as far as staging and making the home available for viewing. She gets an A +++ !

Anyway, it got me thinking... I wonder if there is a camera in here? You know, many people have them. I even noticed them in another home I showed the same night. So, let this be a warning Mr & Mrs Prospective Buyer - be careful what you say and do, you might be caught on camera. For us, I have no idea if there was a camera or not, and we didn't say or do anything that would be a problem, so I am not too concerned. But it's pretty ironic that the cookies were there the next night, don't you think?
Oh - and in case you're wondering... We're waiting on a response to our offer. Did the cookies seal the deal? Hard to say, but it certainly sweetened things a bit.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

So You Want To Be A Real Estate Agent?

Real Estate Agent

I hear this from friends quite often... "I want to get my real estate license. I think I'd make a good real estate agent. I like looking at houses."

While the meat of the business is far more than looking at houses, the truth is that most agents fail because they can't find the people who want to look at the houses - or at least not the ones who wish to purchase them and are ready, willing and able.

See this post on Trulia, where someone posted, "I recently got my license, activated it and got my MLX lots of money invested.. I signed on with a brokerage that supposedly has one of the best training's out there but all they have told me is to send out cards and call my there any brokerage firm that will actually say "hey agent here is a property go sell it or here is a buyer find them a house? or do i practically walk around in the dark questioning why i ever decided to make this my career and feel completely alone?"

Sadly, this agent will not likely make it. You see, the brokerage hired you to find business... not the other way around. And the brokerage was right when they told her to talk to the people she already knows - Are they willing to hire you? Refer you?

In this market, I know I would not hire someone who is new. Buying or selling a home a HUGE investment decision and very complicated and when you hire a real estate agent, you're relying on their expertise. Expertise you get from doing business. In some cases a new agent may not know as much as their consumer. It takes years and years of experience.

Luckily, when I entered the market as a new agent, I was not new to the business - I'd been working in real estate for decades, and so the transition was easier for me.... but it still took adjusting. I wasn't used to having to ask for business or referrals either. My advantage was once I had the "lead" I had the experience to justify them hiring me. But what if you were a home maker or negotiated labor contracts for a living? Not only are you not used to having to "find" your next client, but once you have them you're not really sure what to do.

Sure, some people get lucky - and I am often surprised by some of the people that make it in this business. It can defy logic. Maybe that will be you. But if you're that lucky, maybe you should just play the lottery.

Bottom line, here is my advice to anyone who wishes to get into this business... You are starting a new business, you are self employed, you are not getting a job. It is not the same. And, the projection on what you should make the first year... Here's how you figure it out:

How many people do you know RIGHT NOW who will buy or sell a home in the next 12 months? Of those, how many people will hire you to help them? Multiple that number by 75%, and those are the clients you'll have this year. Guesstimate your income per transaction based on sales price and the normal commission charged in your area, and then take out the costs for your broker, taxes, and expenses. (Generally an agent gets to keep 30% of their gross earnings.) That is what your projected income will be in the next 12 months. Are you excited? Probably not so much, but it's the truth that no one else wishes to tell you.

Yes, marketing helps, but the cold calling, bulk mail, door knocking, etc. can only do so much. It's a drop in the bucket, because everyone who talks to you will not hire you. Some will. Many won't. Once they do, if you do a great job, then they will refer you and use you again. That's why it's worth it. It's never about today's sale. It's always about tomorrow's.

Having shared all of this info, I have a message for my friends, family, and clients: I hope now YOU realize why I need your referrals, why I need your business, why I work hard to try to be the smartest, best, most loyal, most helpful, most competent real estate agent you know. If I have managed to establish that impression in your mind, take a moment to think about who you know that needs my help, and then connect me. I will be forever grateful. Without the support of my friends, family, and past clients, I would have no business. Thank you, thank you, for your continued support.


Vicky Chrisner, REALTOR


31 lot Subdivision, Round Hill

Vicky Chrisner | (703) 669-3142

Airmont Rd, Round Hill, VA

Conditional Approval has been received on this 31 lot subdivision in the Town of Round Hill, near Sleeter Lake. Property will be served by town water and sewer.Property is approximately 31 acres, with gentle rolling landscape, and a small lake in the corner of the property. Lots average 3/4 acres each. For more information on this or other land for development, contact Vicky Chrisner: 703-669-3142 or email:

additional photos

Contact info:

Vicky Chrisner
Vicky Chrisner
(703) 669-3142
Equal Opportunity HousingEqual Opportunity Housing
Posted: February 03, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Free Annual Credit Report

Just one quick real estate tip today.... If you're thinking of buying in the next year (or two) and haven't seen a copy of your credit report lately, I encourage you to get your free credit report. You can do so online at There are other sites, including "" with really cute commercials, like this one.

But don't get drawn in by the name and other marketing efforts, this is a site that wants your paid business, and will do their best to get it. The federal government credited the law that once per year you are entitled to a free credit report, and the web site designated for this is Even though you can get a complete credit report via this site, you can not get a free credit score.
I hope this quick little post keeps you from getting drawn to the wrong web site and spending money on something that is available to you, for free.
Got other real estate questions? I am here for you - just send me an email to and I will try to help.
Remember, with me, you have a friend in the business. Stay tuned to The Real Estate Whisperer for more real estate tips and news!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I Love My Docusign

If you’ve known me for a long time, then you probably know I am not a gadget geek. I do not own the latest greatest techno-toys and I don’t buy the first release of anything. New gadgets and systems slow me down because I have to adjust, and I do not like slowing down… especially if I am going full speed and quite content. But, some things have an advantage that is so great, so obvious, so clear, that I think anyone who doesn’t embrace it from the start is really shooting themselves in the foot. Docusign is one of those things.
Docusign is a web based program that allows electronic signatures. In most real estate transactions, it’s perfectly acceptable, and the law has been adapted to ensure enforceability of electronically signed contracts. And, oy, it saves so much time.

I still know some agents that get every signature in person. I wonder how that is possible? Do they turn away clients who live far away?

Many agents are still stuck in the days of faxes… Faxes were “the thing” back in the early 90′s (newsflash: that was TWENTY YEARS AGO). I can remember thinking “Wow, this makes things so much easier… No pony express or personal courier! Woo hoo!” And the speed of business got faster.

Then we started to use emails – and send documents that way… that happened not long after faxes became commonplace, and became the norm around the turn of the century. But, that still required an internet connection, email, a printer, paper, a pen (for signatures) and then either a fax or scanner so you could return the documents. Still, better than the pre-90s alternatives but “Pfft!”.

Docusign has revolutionized the way I do business. It’s the best money I have spent on my business. And, shockingly, most agents still haven’t embraced it.

With Docusign, anyone with email can sign without printing the document… so no printer, paper, pen, scanner or fax machine are needed. Many people get emails on their phone and although proficiency with that still varies, some of my clients can sign a contract on their phone. But, whether using a laptop, iPad or phone, I have had people driving or flying cross country who have signed documents in a car, train, or airplane. No fuss, no muss. Presto magic their contract is ratified, their property sold, their dream home officially promised to them.

My clients LOVE it! LOVE, LOVE. It’s the way business is done today. Real estate might be “local” but all the people aren’t always local… and even if they are, compare the inefficiency of me driving to someone’s home or office and waiting for them to be available, flipping through the papers to get a signature, then having to figure out how to get them a copy while I am there, and then driving back to the office or to someone else’s office to facilitate getting it to the other party. We’re talking hours. Now, contracts can literally be ratified in minutes.

I know of some other electronic signature options, although I understand they are more buggy than Docusign, and I don’t want to fix what is working so well. (Remember how I said I hate slowing down to learn new stuff when I am running full speed? Still true.)

And last night I felt like a complete geek. It was Saturday night and I was excited about an upgrade to this program. I got an announcement from Docusign that more improvements are on their way, with 2 that make me particularly happy! MORE people will be able to use their phones to sign the documents thanks to some changes. There will also be a portal so clients don’t even have to wait that extra 30 seconds for their email to come through – they can just log right in and sign docs the way I can. I am SO excited! :D

To agents reading this that haven’t signed up – now’s the time.

I have already gotten one client because of Docusign. They had an agent selling properties for them, and I presented an offer via Docusign. Because of the seller’s schedule, the listing agent asked if I could send the contract to the seller via Docusign to sign, and of course I did. The contract ratified immediately. The seller, shortly thereafter, took the first out to pull the remaining listings from his then agent and asked me to list those properties….which I did. The seller simply said he needed someone who did business at his speed.
The rest of my clients didn’t discover the beauty of Docusign until we were well within the process, but they love it and I get fabulous feedback. Even a 80 year old lady with limited techno-knowledge had no issues with signing via Docusign when she was contracting for a house in Virginia from her Texas home. None. She was thrilled when she did not need to buy another ream of paper and more ink for her printer, or wait on a Fed Ex package.

To potential buyers and sellers, here’s your take away: I believe in old fashioned service, and that means delivering to clients the type of service that most benefits them. If you are not the jet setting kind, and you don’t even really “get” email, then this may not be for you. Rest assured that I will happily meet you in person, and will always deliver the type of service that you want and need….but I will have a plethora of resources that I use so I can provide that service to you. And even YOU will benefit from Docusign. When I am not driving all over the region to get signatures from others, it means I will have time to to spend, face to face, with you.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Should You Hire The Inspector Your Agent Suggests?

This post is inspired by a conversation I had with a client and local business man. He is a well established, experienced home improvement contractor. Recently, he had a past customer call him and say that a potential buyer for her home had a home inspection done and that inspector reported that the bathroom fan this contractor had installed was not vented to the outside. Of course, the contractor had installed the fan and he showed the customer where the vent was. This tainted his opinion of home inspectors. I understand.

When he told me the situation, I rolled my eyes. As a listing agent I have seen many poor inspections come back to me... Most are accurate. Most are fair. Some are not. Some are just wrong. Sometimes the home inspector will think he's earning his fee by scaring the potential buyer. Sometimes the home inspector will think he won't get another referral from an agent if he points out all the flaws.

So, what kind of home inspector do you want? I say my buyers want a fair home inspector... one who will not provide a "good" or "bad" opinion, but will report the facts, objectively... In my view a home inspector has multiple roles:

  • Inspect the property and discover significant flaws. They will also discover relatively insignificant flaws, too, but let's be honest... there are a bazillion parts to a home and no one person, in a matter of two hours, can discover every flaw. You want to make sure they catch the big stuff... it's probably OK if they didn't catch something small.
  • Report the property flaws objectively - without scaring the potential buyer or glossing over facts.
  • Provide an accounting of systems... most buyers do not know from walking through the property and reviewing the marketing materials what kinds of systems are in the home. I want a home inspector to tell my buyers what's inside this particular "People House", how old it is, and how it works.
  • Provide usage and maintenance information... Even if you've owned homes before, that doesn't mean you've owned this kind of system. A good home inspector will not know everything, but they will definitely know the most common types of systems. They should be able to tell you how to operate the system and what their maintenance requirements are, as well as their average life expectancy. Proper use and maintenance of systems increases the life expectancy dramatically. That's why some homes have 30 year old water heaters that still work. But, let's face it, that one won't last long, so you need to know that it's going to need replacement soon. And you need to budget for it.
  • Provide insights on repair items - How difficult is it to repair? What might it cost? Is it something Harry Homeowner can do, or should this be left to a contractor?

What if an inspector stumbles across something that he doesn't know much about? Well, he should be able to record certain information, and give you resources. For smaller systems, like a security system for example, the owner may have a manual and be able to provide information on how to use it. And that might be all you need. For other situations where the owner can't help you fill in the blanks, you should get enough information from the home inspector that you know what questions to ask and of whom to ask them.

The inspector's role is NOT to provide advise on contract issues to the buyer. An inspector should not say "you can tell the sellers they have to fix this" because your inspector is not your REALTOR... and he probably doesn't know what your contract says nor does he know the dynamics of the transaction like your agent does. Trust your agent here.

So, should you take your agent's advice about what home inspector to hire? I suppose it depends on the competency and trustworthiness of your agent. I'd like to tell you that you can trust us all... but as in every profession, there are people who are trustworthy and competent, people who are trustworthy but not very experienced and therefore less competent, and people who are experienced but are really just in it for the quickest cash possible. Hopefully, you've found an agent that is trustworthy and competent... and if that is the case, then I think your agent is going to know better than the yellow pages who to hire. After all, they are helping a lot of people buy and sell homes, and that experience and guidance is why you hired them.

I will also tell you that sometimes, agents have a "go to" person, or two... but those people may get too busy sometimes to help you. In those cases, your agent may have to make calls to other agents they know and trust to get other recommendations. It happens. But you'll notice that if your agent is good, he or she does not go to the yellow pages to find you another recommendation...and if they do, watch out.

Buying a home is a pretty big deal... one not to be taken lightly. Although some buyers don't feel the need to do an inspection, I always encourage it. (Check out this post to learn why.) My husband would not allow a professional inspector when we bought our homes - and boy did I live to regret it. I am older and wiser now. If we ever buy another home, not only will I get an inspection, but I will know who to call, too. It will be the same person I recommend to you.

Remember, with me, you've got a friend in the business!

Vicky Chrisner, REALTOR

Ofc: 703.669.3142


Clicky Web Analytics