My Hope for Richmond on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

All that kills abundant living,let it from the earth be banned:

pride of status, race or schooling, dogmas that obscure your plan.

In our common quest for justice may we hallow brief life’s span.

                -From the Hymn: For the Healing of the Nations

I guess everyone has skeletons in their closet; every person, every nation.  Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and it brings cause for us to celebrate the progress we’ve made as well as our shortcomings on some of the biggest skeletons in our national closet: slavery, racism, mounting economic inequality.

Ostensibly, I’ve got two big strikes against me regarding the issues above.

I’m from Detroit.

I’m a Real Estate Agent…

First, Detroit.  A couple of years ago, cartographer Eric Fischer produced a series of maps based on census data.  Maps of cities show where people live based on what color their skin is.  It is an instant way to visually grasp the reality of segregation in American cities today.  And guess which city is one of the most segregated?  My home town, Detroit.

Click to read Time’s article on the maps

Red dots represent white people.  The blue dots represent black people.  Every dot is 25 people.

I grew up in the suburbs on the Northeast side of the city.  Me, my family, my friends-almost everyone I knew- are a handful of those red dots.  Without being able to see the street names on this map, I can tell you that that dense line of red next to the dense line of blue by that box on the far right is Alter Rd.  I know that because even as a kid- even though no one ever told me to- I knew to turn around on my bike once I got to Alter Rd.  To the east of Alter are the Grosse Pointe suburbs (solid red) and the west side of the street begins the city (instant blue).  For the most part, Alter Rd also represented the outer boundary of the world to myself and my friends.  Segregation.

I was surprised to see that Richmond, the old capital of the Confederacy, is a more integrated city than many of the larger Northern cities.

Click to find your own city map

Still, you can easily identify some neighborhoods the bright red West End, or the heavily blue Jackson Ward.

 

The maps point to this simple fact: skin color is still, generally speaking, is one of the biggest factors in determining where people choose to live.

 

And that leads me to my second strike: I’m a Real Estate Agent.

Before the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Real Estate Industry was one of the most influential contributors to racism that existed.  Housing discrimination was the norm.  Back then, it wasn’t hard to find neighborhood communities or Real Estate companies that would display signs making it clear that Whites were the only neighbors or clients allowed.  Of course, the norm for many industries before 1968 was blatant discrimination, but the Real Estate Industry, because they had a hand in where people would or wouldn’t live, had the potential to be a powerful voice as Civil Rights continued to grow in our country.

For the most part, the Real Estate Industry was slow to change their ways.  Laws were passed, but practices continued, and still do.  In 2006, there was a legal investigation into a Chicago Real Estate company for refusing to show certain properties to black buyers.

 

My Hope for Richmond:

That we become a more purple city and a less red and blue city.

That the functional segregation of our school system breaks down more and more every year.

That businesses, especially grocery stores, invest in  and serve the urban, largely black communities.

That Sunday 10am will be the least segregated hour of the week and not the most.

That as my 2 little white children grow up, they will have dear friends who are not only white.

That in the old Capital of the Confederacy, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream would happen again and again in our daily lives…

“I have a dream that one day… the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood…”

 

 


Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Compass Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

3 Things You Didn’t (really) Know About the Richmond Market

We all know that the economy sort of… you know… stinks right now.  We all know that the housing market was one of the key triggers as well as the biggest victim of that economic decline.  For the first time in recent history, home owners around the country have lost significant equity in their homes.

But if you’re thinking of buying or selling, you need to know more than just an understanding of the concept that “the housing market crashed.”

Here’s what you know… but didn’t really know about the Richmond Market…

 

1- Prices are Down.

Median House Price in Richmond Metro

Lucky Dog:  The guy who sold his house in June of 2008.  Back then, the average home in Richmond fetched a price of $233,000

Here's what that feels like

Poor Schmuck:  The guy who bought his house in June of 2008, and then sold it in February of this year, when the average Richmond home price dipped to $153,000

The Difference:  A decline of 34%… or $80,000

 

 

 

 

2- Ask and Ye Shall Receive… Less

Back in October of 2007, when you listed your home at $200,000 you ended up selling it for $195,000… or 98% of your list price.

Today when you list your home at $200,000 you will probably end up selling it for $188,000… or 94% of your list price.  That’s a difference of $8,000

3- What it means

If you are buying, you are going to find some amazing deals and buy a lot more house than you would have been able to 5 years ago.  If you are in that boat, here’s the other great thing… hiring a Buyer’s Representative is FREE to you.  Contact me if you’d like to learn what I do for Buyer clients.  Here’s a snapshot.

If you are selling, it means you might not get the price you would like when you sell your home.  Here are the Top 10 Value Boosting Projects that you can do for your Richmond home.  You are also going to need a Realtor who works harder and is better than the rest.  You happen to be reading his blog.

Do you have any questions about the Richmond market?  Leave a comment!

 


Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Real Estate Lingo Decoded

For the past week, I’ve been sitting in on a Real Estate seminar a few hours every day.  40 Real Estate agents in 1 room.

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke that might involve God and lightening.

If you see me walking around the grocery store donning a big name tag with my company logo, you’ll know that I’ve taken some advice to heart (check out the play by play on RealRVA’s facebook page).

But here’s the point, friends; hanging out with a bunch of agents this week has reminded me that Real Estate has it’s own language and mumbo jumbo to sort through.  Terms get tossed around by Real Estate folks, and regular folks- folks who don’t wear a name tag to do their grocery shopping- aren’t sure what they mean.

 

How to speak Real Estate:

First of all, here are the ones we sometimes see in ALL CAPS accompanied by WAY TOO MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!  in MLS (defined later)write-ups…

Cozy=tiny

Fixer Upper=might collapse on itself causing serious injury/death

Many Original Features=still has Grandma’s shag carpet circa 1976 throughout

Massive Price Reduction!= we reeeaallly overpriced it the first time around!

Tons of Character=haunted.

Ellen shares some wonderful write ups from my R.E. peers around the country.

 

The Technical Terms are what you really need to learn if you’re going to understand the R.E. market.  (some definitions taken from Trulia.com)

 

MLS- Multiple Listing Service.  A marketing database set up by a group of cooperating real estate brokers.  Basically, it means that even though your agent (me) works with Keller Wiliams, he can take you in to see houses for sale under Long & Foster or Century 21 or whoever.

REO- Real Estate Owned.  Property owned by the bank/mortgage servicer, this acronym refers to homes that were foreclosed and repossessed by the former owner’s bank.  It also signals that buying this property will involve doing a deal with the bank; possibly dealing with a different escrow timeline, offer process or contract forms than a non-REO sale; and almost always taking the place in as-is condition, among other things.  Oh, yeah – and it might also involve one more thing: a great deal.

Foreclosure- You probably already know that this is a house whose owners haven’t been paying, and as a result, is bank owned.  What you might not know is this: the first time you are late on your mortgage payment, you are technically in pre-foreclosure.  If you live in Virginia, you happen to live in a state where the law allows banks to collect their collateral (your house) much faster and with less legal hurdles than in other states.  Make sure you pay on time!

 

Short Sale- This does not mean in any way that the sale of the house will happen quickly.  It’s usually the opposite.  A short sale is a house whose net sale price will not cover the debt owed to the bank.  When that is the case, the bank must approve the sale price of the house because they may be forgiving the seller of the remaining debt owed.  Because there is a bank involved, you can plan on your short sale taking a long time.

Pre-approved short sale-  Many knowledgeable agents say no short sale is truly “pre-approved” unless and until the bank looks at a specific buyer’s offer and the seller’s financials at the same time, but some listing agents designate a short sale as “pre-approved” when a previous short sale application was approved at a given price, but fell out of contract for some other reason.

 FHA- Federal Housing Administration, which backs the popular 3.5 percent down home loan program. FHA guidelines also include somewhat strict condition and homeowners’ association dictates, so if  a home’s seller notes that they are not taking FHA loans, they might be saying that the property has condition or other issues which disqualify it for FHA financing.

HUD-  The federal department of Housing and Urban Development, which governs the guidelines for FHA loans, acts as a seller of homes which were foreclosed on and repossessed for non-payment of FHA-backed loans, and publishes the Good Faith Estimate and settlement statement forms every buyer and borrower will be provided at the time they shop for a loan and close their home purchase, respectively.

Sold “As-Is”- Most often when you buy a house, there will be a provision written into the contract that allows you to have a professional home inspection to uncover potential problems with the home and its mechanical systems.  The home inspection clause allows a buyer a way out of a contract if the inspection uncovers a major issue, or if the seller refuses to fix or pay for it.  A property being sold “as-is” means that you are still allowed to have a home inspection, BUT if it uncovers massive problems, you cannot back out of the contract.

 

Are there Real Estate terms that baffle you?  Have questions about one?  Leave a comment!

 

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

The Top 10: Which Projects Can Actually Make Money

Roundup.

This week, we looked at the Top 10 Projects on the Cost vs. Value Report for Richmond, VA.  I think there’s more to learn from the list than just a list of 10 items.

First, take a look at the 6 highest ranking items:

  1. Entry Door Replacement
  2. Garage Door Replacement
  3. Basement Remodel
  4. Deck Addition
  5. Window Replacement (vinyl)
  6. Siding Replacement

With the exception of #3, they are all exterior projects.

The Takeaway: Don’t ignore the value of curb appeal when you sell your home.

Click for a great article on curb appeal tips from This Old House

 

 

 

#3 is a basement remodel.  After the top 6 exterior lineup, we follow up with a finished attic for #7.

The Takeaway: Increased (finished) sq. footage is one of the best ways to add value to your home.

 

 

 

Coming in at #’s 8 and 10, the minor/major kitchen remodel is not the silver bullet we usually think it is when you sell your home.

The Takeaway: In the current market, a lot of buyers are looking for a deal; a fixer upper.  I’ve seen a lot of sellers who throw in some granite counters and stainless steel appliances and think that it’s going to make every buyer swoon.

It won’t.  It doesn’t.

Buyers know that they’re paying for that granite and those appliances, and most of the time, they’d rather spend their money designing their own kitchen rather than have you do it.  A blank slate and a fair price is more attractive to buyers than some half-assed uninspired kitchen renovation.  Renovate your kitchen because you want to renovate it- not for a buyer.

Click for an article on 28 Thrifty Ways to Customize Your Kitchen

 

Here’s the last thing.  With the exception of project #1- a new entry door- none of these projects ended up putting money back into your pocket.  Check it out:

Job Description                        Job Cost                      Value Added                    Cost Recouped

  1. Entry Door                              $1098                               $1488                                 135.5%
  2. Garage Door                           $1178                                $1079                                 91.6%
  3. Basement Remodel             $57,627                          $45,757                             79.4%
  4. Deck Addition                       $9,916                              $7,670                               77.3%
  5. Windows (vinyl)                   $9,965                              $7,705                               77.3%
  6. Siding (vinyl)                         $10,347                           $7,917                               76.5%
  7. Finished Attic                        $45,591                           $33,921                             74.4%
  8. Minor Kitchen Remodel    $20,762                        $15,358                               74%
  9. Windows (wood)                   $10,873                         $8,011                                 73.7%
  10. Major Kitchen Remodel    $55,004                          $38,713                              70.4%

The Takeaway: Unless your cost recouped is over 100%, you are losing money.  That’s right.  Only one project of the top 10 meets that criteria.  In the current market, if you want to make money by doing improvements before you sell, you’ll have to do them yourself.  Doing it yourself means dramatically slashing your job costs, which means increasing your cost recouped.

 


Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Compass Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Top 10 Value Boosting Projects #9 & 10

We have come to the end of the Top 10 projects that get you the most money back for the money you put in.

Projects 9 and 10 are variations on projects we’ve already seen:

photo: thewindowshop.org

#9 is Wood Replacement Windows.

They boost the value of your home more than vinyl windows, but they cost more than vinyl.

According to the Cost vs Value Report for Richmond, VA

Wood replacement windows cost an average of $12,027 and will increase your home’s value by an average of $8,707.

Vinyl replacement windows will cost $11,066 increase the value by $7,920.

You get a better return on your money with vinyl windows.

Keep this in mind: If you own a newer home or you’re in a neighborhood that caps out below $250,000, wooden windows might be adding more value than your house can retain; you won’t get any more money than you would if you had vinyl.

If, on the other hand, you have an expensive or historic home, wood windows might be a more appropriate decision than vinyl.  Somewhere in the world a kitten dies every time a homeowner installs vinyl windows in their historic home just to save a few bucks.

 

#10 is the Major Kitchen Remodel.

photo: kitchendesigner.org

Like the minor kitchen remodel, but, you know… major.

It involves a complete overhaul.

  • New Wood Cabinets
  • New Countertops
  • New Island
  • New Sink and Faucet
  • New Appliances all around
  • New Custom Lighting
  • New Flooring
  • Painted Walls & Ceiling

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Top 10 Value Boosting Projects #8

Here’s the one we all thought was number one with a bullet:

photo: purestylehome.blogspot.com

 

The Kitchen Remodel

The minor kitchen remodel, actually.  The Cost vs. Value Report distinguishes a minor kitchen remodel from a major kitchen remodel.

Here’s what’s included in the minor remodel:

  • Keep existing cabinets but replace door and drawer fronts and and hardware.

 

photo: flickriver.com

  • Oven/cooktop upgrade to new energy efficient model

 

photo: helpful-kitchen-tips.com

  • Replace laminate counter tops

photo: concrete-countertops.org

 

 

 

 

This one is concrete.  One of my favorite countertop materials.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • New upgraded sink and faucet

photo: greigedesign.blogspot.com

 

  • Replace/upgrade flooring

photo: houselogic.com

 

Hardwood is my personal favorite for kitchens.  I think a kitchen gives you a chance to be a bit more bold with your flooring than you would in the rest of your house, like with this dark stain.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Top 10 Value Boosting Projects #7

I’m doing 2 posts a day to go through the top 10 projects that get you the most return for your money. Remember- Real Estate markets are different in different cities and regions around the country. These top 10 projects are specific to Richmond, VA.

#7 is begins a shift from the exterior to the interior…

photo: bhg.com

 

A Finished Attic.

Storage space is nice, but living space is better.

Here is what you need to know about finishing your attic:

Follow the “Rule of 7’s.”  In most parts of the country, your attic will have to comply with these standards:

  • At least half of the ceiling space must be at least 7 ft high
  • and this area must be at least 7 feet wide
  • and 70 sq. feet.

Have an architect verify that the structure can handle a “living space” weight load.  Few unfinished attics were meant to be used as living space by the contractor who built the house.  The framing used in the house might not be sufficient to handle the increased weight of people + furniture.

If your attic framing isn’t able to handle a finished space weight load, it doesn’t mean that your dream of a finished attic is dead.  But it does mean that you’ll have to hire a contractor to reinforce the framing to ensure your attic structure is strong, safe, and up to code.

Trust me; you do not want to have a structural code issue when you sell your house.

For your Inspiration:

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

Create a focal point at the top of the stairway.  This floor to ceiling built-in makes a great first impression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have floor space that is too short for standing, turn it into storage space.

 

 

 

 

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

 

 

I thought this was a brilliant and interesting use of space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

 

 

Have some visitors that need to stop?

4 twin beds, end to end, up top.

(been reading a lot of Dr. Seuss to Sam lately)

 

 

 

 

 

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo: bhg.com

 

 

The cozy attic retreat.  I love wood stoves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo: shelterness.com

 

 

Create an awesome and interesting bathroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

 

 

 

Turn a safety necessity into a stunning focal point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

 

 

And most importantly- whatever you do- DO NOT paint the sloping ceiling the same color as the walls.  It will make the room feel much smaller.  If it’s not perfectly vertical, consider it ceiling when it comes to paint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Top Value-Boosting Projects #6

The number 6 project on the Cost vs. Value Report is…

photo: Tom Silva will teach you how to do anything on thisoldhouse.com

Siding Replacement

Again, not the sexiest project out there.  But let’s look at the trend.  The highest ranked cost vs. value projects for you home have all been things that you can see from the outside.

Curb appeal.  The statistics back up what the psychologists say; first impressions make a huge difference.

When you look at at any given house from the outside, roughly 70% of what you are taking in is facade.  The brick or the siding or the stucco or whatever.

Blah siding is just kind of… blah.  It won’t make an impression.  BUT… not making an impression is itself a first impression.  You notice siding that sticks out.

photo: floridalifetimeimpact.com

 

photo: free-press-release.com

photo: art.com

 

Lots of different options.  Not every one is appropriate for every home.

photo: sunsethomerepair.com

photo: rickscolonialpainting.com

 

If your siding is paintable and it’s not heavily damaged, some new paint and a good color scheme might be all you need to get the same result at a fraction of the price.

 







 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Top 10 Value-Boosting Projects #5

Not unlike some people, the most boring project on the list just happens to be the most responsible one…

from superiorwindowsandsiding.com

Replacement Windows.

They increase energy efficiency and save you money over time, and buyers notice them when your house is on the market.  If you have a really old house with nightmare windows that are drafty and painted shut, this project could really pay off.

Buyers love seeing new windows and imagining all the money they will save.

Here’s the ironic thing: if you are really into saving money on energy efficient heating and cooling, you’ll want to check out other parts of a house long before you put in new windows.

Number 1 with a bullet is a well insulated attic/roof.  Heat rises.  Your new windows won’t be helping you out very much in your old house that is not well insulated- especially up top.

 

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Top 10 Value-Boosting Projects (#4)

Hi Friends.  There is so much inspiration out there.  So many pictures and great ideas.  I’m doing 2 posts a day this week to fit them in, going through the top 10 Value Boosting  projects for your home.

#4 on the list of Cost vs. Value Projects for your Home is…

 

from thisoldhouse.com

A Deck Addition.

I took down one of the wall/railings of my 4 sided deck this summer and opened it up with a ten foot wide stairway.  It was a great decision.  Here is where the wall used to be:

Now we have a wide staircase that goes down into the back yard.  Not having one wall there and adding 10″ of length for the first stair gave the deck a much bigger feel.  Plus we have a new way to access our backyard.  It has totally changed the way we use the deck and shifted the focus of our yard from one side of the house to the other.

decks encourage sharing

 

Decks promote love between siblings

The other great thing about a deck project is that with a lot of DIYers successfully take on the project themselves, and that can save a whole lot of money.

This Old House is a great resource to the DIY spirit who is thinking about tacking a home improvement project.  Here they have a great article on things to consider before building your deck.

For your inspiration…

from thisoldhouse.com

from thisoldhouse.com

 

The fire pit deck…

from customoutdoorstructures.com

 

This has to be one of the coolest designs I’ve ever seen…

from sun-spaces.com

 
 

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com


HOPE International