General Topics

Why should you live in Morgantown?

Why should you live in Morgantown? I can only speak from experience as I have lived here my entire life. I am not saying other areas of the state are not beautiful but this town, I can attest to its character.

Morgantown is a great place to grow up and raise a family. We are surrounded by mountains, a river, a lake, wonderful parks and recreation. In addition to our local area, we are within an hour to Pittsburgh and a little over 3 hours to Washington, DC. We have sports including a minor league baseball team, arts and entertainment, and plenty of other activities. West Virginia is known for its mountains. Residents can snow ski, explore our many caves and caverns, go white water rafting, hunt and fish. We have fine dining, good shopping, history and heritage, and great people!

Let us talk sports. We are the home of the Mountaineers! Morgantown is host to WVU baseball, football, basketball, a National Rifle Team, swimming, rowing, track, golf, soccer, volleyball and tennis just to name a few. We have won tournaments and titles and many of our athletes have gone onto play Pro sports.  

WVU has produced a mountain of scholars from the University. Forbes ranked Morgantown as one of the Best Small Places for Business and Careers. (2019). We have a level one trauma center at WVU Hospital, a top ranked business and law school and graduate programs that rank within the top 100 in the nation. We are a diverse community with many of our students coming to study from other countries. Some of our Elementary, Middle and High Schools are top ranking in the state and in the nation.

Our arts and entertainment program stretches from local talent in our county schools to college level plays and performances. The Creative Arts Center or CAC as we locals call it, has hosted Broadway productions and many famous singers. We are fortunate to have some amazing talent in our community.

If you are one for adventure, Cheat Lake is a quick getaway for boating and recreation and the Mon River for kayaking and fishing. We have parks for the family to enjoy and a rail trail for biking, walking and running. Within a short drive, you can be rock climbing and exploring at Cooper’s Rock State Forest which features canyon overlooks, historical sites, picnic shelters, 50 miles of hiking and biking trails, cross-country ski terrain, a lake perfect for reeling in trout and a nearby river for rafting.    

The beauty of Morgantown is like no other. We have awesome sunrises and sunsets. Our seasons, albeit a little off over the last few years, are full of vibrant colors. We have good people here that are always willing to help others.

So, I as sit here on my front porch and write, I am thankful to watch a beautiful sunrise with a sky full of pinks and blues. I would not want to live anywhere else as Morgantown is home to me.

I hope you have a wonderful week and remember to do good things for yourself and others!

What is an HOA?

What is an HOA? Real estate developers establish homeowners’ associations as corporations for the purpose of marketing, managing, and selling homes and lots in a residential subdivision. Usually, the developer transfers ownership of the association to the homeowners after selling a predetermined number of lots. When you purchase a condo, townhome or single-family home within a “planned development”, you may also encounter the HOA structure. These structures are put in place to help maintain a clean and cohesive atmosphere in the neighborhood.

Before you buy a home that makes you part of an HOA, there are some questions you should ask of the association. What are the fees? What do they cover? Are there any special assessments? You should review the covenants and restrictions prior to making your offer. These documents detail what is allowed in the development and any expectations as a homeowner. You can obtain them directly from the HOA or ask your REALTOR® to provide them to you. You may need to obtain approval before putting in a pool or installing a fence, so you need to be well informed.

HOA’s are usually run by volunteers that live in the community. Some are very active, and some are not. You should do as much research as possible and talk with current homeowners in the development. Living in a planned development—and being governed in part by the rules of an HOA—can be a mixed blessing. It offers the prospect of exchanging some control over your home for the reduced responsibilities of maintaining it, and for the benefit of enjoying shared amenities and security. It can, however, also trade the diverse look of a typical neighborhood for a more uniform appearance, albeit one with a lower chance of a neighbor’s decorating taste or sloppy maintenance habits becoming a problem for you.

Homeowner Associations can be beneficial for your community. They can help maintain the look of the neighborhood which in turn can keep property values in line with the market. If you move to a neighborhood that has an active or even inactive HOA, get involved. The only way to make a difference is to help those that are volunteering their time to make the development a nice place to live.

There are hundreds of HOA’s in our Morgantown community. The Morgantown Board of REALTORS® has compiled a list of HOA’s including their covenants and restrictions. Contact your local REALTOR® for more information.

I hope everyone is enjoying our crazy weather, hang in there and try to stay cool!

Happy 4th of July to all and remember to do good things!

Safety in the home should be your priority whether you are selling or not.

Safety in the home should be your priority whether you are selling or not. Let’s talk about smoke detectors, locks, appliance service and other potential hazards.

Smoke detectors should be installed on every level of your home to detect rising smoke from a fire. They should be placed inside or directly outside of each bedroom and common areas, and in laundry rooms and kitchens where fires can originate. To reduce false alarms when cooking, consider installing smoke alarms at least 10 feet away from any kitchen appliance. If you have a larger home, you will want to consider more alarms, that are situated in hallways and stairways.  It is best to install smoke detectors that can be interconnected so you will hear the alarm no matter where you are in your home.

Before installing, check to make sure the detector is approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to meet strict testing and safety requirements. Read the smoke detector’s manual before installing for proper set-up and install smoke detectors on the ceiling. If you must mount the smoke detector on the wall, it should be placed less than 12 inches away from the ceiling. Remember to change the batteries twice per year and test the detectors monthly. Detectors should be replaced every 10 years according to the National Fire Prevention Association.

Locks are another important safety feature. When possible install deadbolt locks on all exterior doors. New and improved locks feature keypad entry’s so family members can enter without a key. These locks can also be controlled remotely if you need to let someone in or you forgot to lock the door. Secure basement windows and doors to keep out unwanted visitors.

Security Systems are also another safety feature. You can install cameras, glass breaking mechanisms and fire and burglar alarms all at a reasonable cost. These systems can be controlled remotely as well, and you may get a discount on your insurance premium. Carbon Monoxide detectors protect you and your family from the odorless gas that can cause death. These can also be monitored by the security company or you can install the plug-in ones yourself.

Your HVAC system should be serviced annually. Replacing filters and keeping the area free of debris will help in the longevity of your system. A good serviceman will tell you to set the thermostat at your desired temperature and leave it alone. The system has to work twice as hard to heat up or cool down if you keep changing the temperature.

Another safety tip is to keep exterior areas clear of hazards. This could include gasoline cans, loose deck boards, slippery sidewalks in the winter or faulty staircases. Delivery people should be able to safely bring mail and packages to your home without the potential for a fall. Look at your home from a guest’s perspective and make the necessary changes. Trim trees and bushes away from windows and other areas of your home.

This weekend is a perfect time to review all your safety features in your home and make any necessary changes. Remember to do good things!

Flooding affected our town last week in so many ways.

Flooding affected our town last week in so many ways. People lost their personal belongings, cars and had damages to their homes. Water is a disaster that can have a long-term effect on your property if not properly remediated. There are companies that will assist with clean-up, mold prevention and future waterproofing.

Flooding. No one wants to talk about it or experience it firsthand. As a homeowner or potential buyer, you need to do research about the property to determine if it is in a flood plain. If a property is in a flood zone, this can mean higher insurance premiums and required flood insurance. You can check to see if you are in a flood zone by checking with fema.gov.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides flood insurance to property owners, renters and businesses, and having this coverage helps them recover faster when floodwaters recede. The NFIP, run by FEMA, also encourages communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations that help mitigate the effects of flooding. Flood insurance is a type of property insurance that covers a dwelling for losses sustained by water damage specifically due to flooding caused by heavy or prolonged rain, melting snow, coastal storm surges, blocked storm drainage systems, or levee dam failure. In many places, a flood is considered a major event, and the damage or destruction it causes are uncovered if you do not get supplemental insurance. The NFIP continues to be the primary source of asset protection against flooding, the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States.

If you have experienced a flood, whether a few inches or several feet you know that lives can be destroyed by this disaster. Over the last several years, our great state has experienced some devasting floods. How do you prepare? Can you prepare? If you are in a low-lying area, the most extensive preparations may not be enough. Make sure you are adequately covered with flood protection.

I personally have experienced flooding in my life. Although it was only a few feet in my basement, it was horrible. We were not in a flood zone, and it was a freak storm. Fortunately, FEMA came into our area and assisted with grants to help those in need. Be prepared. Store important documents in a safe area. Check with your insurance company to see if you need flood insurance. Unlike the homeowners’ policy, deductibles on flood losses are applied separately. If the dwelling and contents are damaged, the homeowner pays two separate deductibles. In the homeowners’ policy, one deductible applies to the entire loss.

To end on a positive note, our market is hot! Contact your local REALTOR® today if you are ready to buy or sell. They need inventory, the buyers are looking, and rates are still low. I want to wish all the dad’s out there a Happy Father’s Day and Remember to do good things!

The Morgantown Board of REALTORS® had the pleasure of listening…

The Morgantown Board of REALTORS® had the pleasure of listening to a presentation this week about Ascend WV. If you do not know what that is, check out their website at Ascendwv.com. However, allow me to offer you some highlights. This program was started by Brad and Alys Smith. He is a native of WV and former CEO of Intuit. Their belief is they “Want you to experience work-life balance in a brand-new way – through community, purpose and the outdoors so you can bring your remote work to the mountains of West Virginia”. They had 7,000 applicants and chose 50 people to participate in the program.

The Youth Cycling Coalition (YCC) is another program working with the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative. The YCC has partnered with 10 Organizations to offer an opportunity for youth ages 6-18 to have access to biking, training and education, racing, and much more all funded by grants and donations. Morgantown was chosen as a pilot program because of our unique proximity to great outdoor activities and an already established rails to trails.

According to their research, within an hour of Morgantown, there are thousands of mountain climbing opportunities, over 50 white water rafting runs and many miles of biking trails. This sets Morgantown apart from larger cities in that you can live here, work here and play here all the while enjoying our beautiful state. Is this the draw for people to live in West Virginia? Possibly. We don’t have large amusement parks, beaches or other main attractions but we do have some beautiful mountains and scenery to explore. West Virginia, specifically Morgantown, is a great place to live. I can attest to this as I am a lifelong resident.

How does this apply to our real estate market? Currently, we have a lack of inventory as does the rest of the country. Research shows Covid produced many buyers, but sellers were still leery of listing. As things start to reopen, we are seeing an increase of listings, especially in Morgantown. The problem is that there are people wanting to sell, but they won’t have anywhere to go if they do. Low interest rates are a huge contributor to this issue.

So, what do we do? Good question. As a buyer, be patient and keep looking. Contact your REALTOR® as soon as you see a house pop up on the market that interests you. For a seller? This is a good time to list if you can. It is a sellers’ market and properties are being sold for over asking price with multiple offers. Morgantown has always weathered the real estate market during its ups and downs. We hope to see more prosperity in our community as these two programs are introduced.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day! Be safe and remember to do good things!

Do you ever feel like you are in the center ring at the circus…

Do you ever feel like you are in the center ring at the circus, and everyone is watching you try to juggle? This is a good visual of how we all try to balance work and home life. If you don’t know how to juggle, you are going to drop the ball many times. When you have too many things pulling you in all different directions whether it may be work, kids’ extracurricular activities, chores at home or just life in general it can be overwhelming.

You can have balance of your work and home life, but you first must know how to begin. Finding time for yourself, creating a happy home life, and succeeding at work are not impossible if you learn to set limits, periodically say no, and forgo expectations of perfection in yourself and others. When you are asked to take on a task or volunteer for an organization, prioritize by not saying yes to all requests and learning to say no kindly but firmly.

As REALTORS®, we are constantly juggling our schedules with showings, listing appointments, client phone calls, emails and lots of paperwork. We truly work 24/7. Well, almost! Our workday begins with good intentions and one change can alter the entire day. How can you balance when things are so crazy? There are a few tips to follow and not just for our profession.

Take care of yourself. Eat right, get plenty of sleep, exercise and have some mental health time for yourself. Lack of sleep can affect our health and mental state so set a routine and try to stick to it. Get up early if you need to have some quiet time before the rest of the house rises.

Surround yourself with compassionate friends who understand your demanding schedule and won’t criticize your juggling act. If you cannot attend that dinner or social event, hopefully they understand when work or home is a priority. Send a quick text letting them know you are thinking of them and ask to reschedule.

Listen, ladies and gents our homes don’t need to be in perfect order. Southern living magazine is not coming to take pictures, so it is ok if you don’t fold that laundry tonight or run the vacuum to suck up the dog hair. Unless your house is on the market for sale and you have showings, then maybe light a candle and hide the laundry. In all seriousness, we need to learn to relax and enjoy some time doing things we love. Make memories.

Organization is the key word in all of this. Organize your time, your personal space, your home and work and things will run more smoothly. Ask your family to help when things are busy and return the favor when they need you.

Just remember to take time for yourself, enjoy those around you and be kind to others. You have no idea what may be going on in their lives. Maybe they haven’t mastered the juggling act yet.

Have a fantastic first week of May! Remember to do good things!

One of our most frequently asked questions is how do REALTORS® get paid?

One of our most frequently asked questions is how do REALTORS® get paid? We are paid on a commission basis. In most cases, the seller pays a sales commission based on a listing agreement with the real estate company. In our area, a commission of 6% of the sales price is common for a residential listing. That 6% is split amongst the listing agency and the selling agency. 55% is awarded to the listing agency and 45% to the selling agency. However, this could be different in other markets. Then the agents that represented the buyers or sellers get a percentage of that percentage based on their experience and agency splits.

Sounds easy, huh? Well, let us look a little further into what it takes for the real estate companies to get paid. There are inspections, appraisals, financing and sometimes surveys. For the sale to be completed, all these things must work out for the seller and the buyer.

There are home, radon, mold, and pest inspections. These are usually recommended by the selling agent to be completed early in the transaction. If everything looks good and/or repairs can be agreed upon, then we move onto the appraisal. The appraiser must find comparable sales to be able to substantiate the sales price of the home. The appraisal is ordered by the lending institution and can take several weeks to complete. What is the REALTOR® doing during this time? He or she is making sure inspections occur on time, they are keeping their buyers and sellers updated and possibly preparing addendums for repairs or other changes to the transaction.

Let us assume all inspections have been completed and the appraisal comes in at or above the sales price. Keep in mind we have probably spent a good thirty days at this point in this transaction. Remember the REALTOR® is paid on commission, which means they are not getting a bi-weekly paycheck. The next step is that the loan will go back through underwriting with the lending institution to make sure all items have been taken care of to proceed to closing. The average closing time, in our area, from the day the offer is accepted until the actual closing is between 45 and 60 days. Your REALTOR® has not been paid during this time unless he or she has other closings that are taking place.

So now let us assume this sale is not going to happen. What could be the cause? The buyer could lose their job and/or financing, something could come up in the inspection that all parties cannot agree upon or maybe the home does not appraise. In this instance, the REALTOR® does not receive any commission.

Some may look at this as a negative. But I personally do not see it that way at all. Working for commission drives us to work harder. I learned years ago that commission-based sales were the best way for me to earn a living. I am driven by a challenge and by helping people achieve their dreams.

Have a great week and remember to do good things!

Did you know April is Fair Housing month?

Did you know April is Fair Housing month? What exactly does that mean, you may ask? The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 to prohibit discrimination upon race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities. In 1988 the Fair Housing Act was amended to add two protected classes of disability and familial status. Each April, REALTORS® commemorate Fair Housing month to reaffirm their continuing commitment to fair and equitable treatment for all.

The National Association of REALTORS® opposes discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and national origin. This policy is embodied in NAR’s Code of Ethics. NAR’s Fair Housing Action Plan abbreviated ‘ACT,’ emphasizes (A)ccountability, (C)ulture Change, and (T)raining to ensure America’s 1.4 million REALTORS® are doing everything possible to protect housing rights in America. 

I feel this is an important topic to discuss. Many people are coming together during this pandemic to help each other. Fair Housing should not just apply to real estate, but to all the things we do and situations we encounter. I have seen so many people doing good things this week. Just today, someone paid for my coffee. Pass on the kindness to others. Whether it be in the news, on social media or in person. It is refreshing! I am looking for the good in all things. Treat everyone equally.

How is all of this affecting our local real estate market? It is no surprise sellers who don’t have to sell right now are rethinking listing their home. Inventory is low. Buyers are ready to buy! Many times, we can’t even show the property without it already having multiple offers. To put this in perspective, there are 317 active single-family listings on the market in our area. The average of days on the market are 79 with an average list price of $385,000.

When you find a REALTOR® to work with, understand they can guide you through the process from the beginning to end. They can show you any listings, even if they are not listed with their company. If you are buying, get pre-approved so you are ready to make that offer. Contact your REALTOR® as soon as you see a new listing. If priced right, it won’t last.

If you are selling, prepare your property for the market. See your property as a buyer. What needs fixed or painted? Look at your curb appeal. Would you want to come inside if the lawn is a mess and trees aren’t trimmed? You can sell much quicker if your property is ready for public viewing.

Regardless as to what position you are in, remember to treat others with respect and kindness. Have a wonderful Easter holiday! Remember to do good things!

Is being a REALTOR® a hard job?

Is being a REALTOR® a hard job? It can be extremely rewarding and demanding at the same time. Real estate agents can be successful and have a lot of freedom. That does not mean it is an easy career or that everyone succeeds. It takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance to become a successful real estate agent. You must take classes, pass a state test, and find a broker to sponsor you. Once you get your license, the training begins. You will learn to sell houses, know the ins and outs of listing and purchase agreements and always work in the best interest of your buyers and sellers. If you can make it through the licensing process and the first few months, real estate can be a great career.

Being successful and making a sustainable income as a real estate agent is hard work and, in most cases, it requires a substantial commitment of time and effort. REALTORS® do not work from 9 to 5. In this market, of multiple offers and showings, many of us are working 7 days a week and many long hours. You must be ready to show at a moment’s notice.

One of the hardest things about being in real estate, for newer agents, is the financial aspect. It is financially challenging because most people are used to salaried positions. They are accustomed to getting a paycheck every two weeks after putting in a certain amount of work. The REALTOR® is the last one to get paid. If the transaction falls through, we do not get a commission. You must develop a strict budget to be prepared for such instances.

We often wear multiple “hats”. We are advertisers, counselors, cleaners, jugglers and more. We must figure out marketing budgets, methods, branding, and generating leads all while trying to pay the bills. When working with multiple buyers and sellers, it can sometimes be overwhelming, so you need to be organized. As a REALTOR®, it is important to keep track of your transactions and communicate often with your buyers and sellers.

Because we are constantly growing our business, we feel the need to work all the time. There is always more work that could be completed. This creates a compulsion to work as hard as possible and a feeling of ‘slacking off’ when trying to relax. We work on our vacations, during family dinners and events often taking away from quality time with our loved ones.

What are the benefits of becoming a REALTOR®? We meet some awesome people from all over the state and country. We get to help people buy and sell homes to fulfill their dreams of homeownership. Everyone has a different story. Whether they are first time homebuyers, relocating to a warmer client or downsizing due to becoming an empty nester, the REALTOR® is there to help! So, if you are ready for a career change, check out the West Virginia Real Estate Commission for more information.

The market in North Central West Virginia is hot! Find your REALTOR® and make your move today! Have a great week of sunshine and remember to do good things!

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

From the time we started kindergarten, we were taught to be kind to others and to be honest. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” was a common theme in my home. I have adopted that as my motto. In a world where we can be anything, be kind.

Did you know that REALTORS® are also told to be kind and trustworthy and they are held to a Standard of Practice called the Code of Ethics? The first code was approved in 1913 at the Annual Convention in Canada. There are 17 articles written into the Code of Ethics. The 17 Articles of the Code establish standards of conduct which the REALTOR® must satisfy. These Articles govern the REALTORS® conduct in everyday business dealings with clients, customers, and other REALTORS®. Failure to observe these standards can result in disciplinary action.

Professionalism in Real Estate practice is taught so the REALTOR® is aware of their ethical obligations, to ensure a smooth transaction. We are trained to uphold the Code of Ethics in our everyday business dealings. Our duties to work with other REALTORS®, represent our buyers and sellers in their best interest and be ethical, always, is the foundation for our business.

Our duties are to the clients and customers, the public and other REALTORS®. The clients and customers should always be represented to the best of their interest. It is our obligation to submit all offers, disclose what we know and to never mislead or misrepresent in the transaction. It is the duty of the REALTOR® to preserve confidential information provided by their clients in any agency relationship. This is our duty to the client and customer.

Article 10 of the Code of Ethics states that REALTORS®, in their real estate employment practices, shall not discriminate against any person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. REALTORS® should be honest and truthful in their real estate communications of advertising, marketing and other representations. The REALTOR® must make clear to the public their Broker information when advertising. This is our duty to the public.

REALTORS® shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about other real estate professionals, their businesses, or their business practices. This is stated in Article 15 of the Code of Ethics. We are taught not to contact the other parties in the transaction, to work diligently to ensure the transaction runs smoothly and to treat each other with respect. This is our duty to other REALTORS®.

So, what is the takeaway from all of this? It is simple. Be kind, be honest, be ethical and respect those around you. Spring is here! The birds are singing, and the flowers are blooming! I hope you remembered to set your clocks ahead one hour! Have a great week and remember to do good things!