General Topics

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!

How many “hats” can one person wear?

How many “hats” can one person wear? If you are a REALTOR®, there are many!  We are negotiators, stagers, photographers, protectors, professional jugglers, hand holders, problem solvers and many more! The real estate transaction can be very emotional and extremely stressful. Our job, as your REALTOR®, is to make the process smooth and successful!

From the beginning we are your negotiators, looking out for your best interest. Our job is to get you the best and highest price for your property all the while keeping everything on track. Once we have helped to generate a purchase offer, we will need to be able to help both sides come together in agreement. It may be necessary to anticipate aspects of the potential transaction that could lead to later friction and possible re-negotiations.

When your REALTOR® is ready to list your property, he or she may assist in staging. A good agent can tactfully explain why it is not a good idea to have 20 family photos on the mantle. Or that all the toys strewn about need to be put away to show how much space there actually is in a room. Even subtle changes in paint color and décor can make a huge difference.

Next it is time to take some pictures! With new age technology and cool cell phone cameras, your agent may be taking the photographs themselves, unless they hire a professional. If the professional is the one doing the task, the REALTOR® is always on hand, like a director in a movie, making sure they are capturing the best angle.

During showings, your REALTOR® may be a protector. For instance, if the seller lives out of town, they may rely on the agent to hire someone to cut the grass and remove the snow. Agents sometimes take these tasks on themselves. I personally cleared a sidewalk today with just my snow boots (no shovel on hand).

When you think of a professional juggler you may envision someone tossing balls in the air. As a REALTOR®, this is often how we handle our day-to-day business transactions. Lots of moving parts require skilled handling. Dealing with buyers, sellers, agents, mortgage lenders and inspectors – the list goes on. Keeping everyone on the same page always calls for a highly skilled professional.

Buying or selling can be tedious but if you hire a REALTOR® to guide you and hold your hand until closing, it can be less stressful. Whether representing the seller or the buyer, a seasoned agent will have experienced a wide variety of surprises, challenges, problems, emotions and personal issues, family disagreements, last-minute situations or emergencies. These experiences allow them to conquer any issues that may come your way.

So, the next time you talk with your REALTOR®, consider what “hat” they are wearing as they are looking out for your best interest! Have a great week (maybe less snow) and remember to do good things!

Are you wondering if you should stop renting and buy a house?

Your friends are buying homes. And you are wondering if you should stop renting and buy a house too. Your dog wants a yard, your kids want a playground, and you wouldn’t mind a garage and an office. There is only one problem: You aren’t sure you can afford it.

Hold up! Deciding whether to rent or buy always comes down to what you can afford. Are you financially ready to buy a house? Or is renting still the smarter option? Let’s compare renting vs. buying and determine which is best for you.

So where should you begin? Start with a budget by tracking your spending, reducing unnecessary purchases, and create a plan with a timeline. Are you out of debt? We are talking no student loans or consumer debt. Have you set aside monies in case of an emergency? Experts recommend three to six months of savings in case you lose your job.

The next step? You need to contact a local mortgage lender. They can prepare a pre-approval for you which will give you a better understanding of what you can afford. While a down payment of 20% is not necessary in today’s market, it can keep you from paying PMI (private mortgage insurance). Your lender will make sure the payment isn’t a huge percentage of your income and therefore allowing you to pay utilities, taxes, insurance and other fees associated with your mortgage.

 The advantages of owning your own home include building equity and tax benefits. With each payment you are one step closer to home ownership. You also have the freedom to renovate your house. From the interior to the exterior, it’s a blank slate. Some disadvantages include an increase in expenses like home maintenance. You are responsible for all the plumbing, electrical and HVAC. Make sure you set aside savings for these potential repairs.

Maybe you aren’t ready to buy just yet and that is fine. Renting a place with a lower payment allows you to save money and pay off some debt. If your job requires you to move around a lot, then renting makes sense for you until you settle down. Renting takes away the worry of maintenance. If the furnace stops working, your landlord is responsible for the repair not you. However, most owners will not allow their tenants to make changes to the unit, for example painting, to best fit your taste.

Buying a home is a long-term commitment and you should think through your decision and weigh all options. Deciding whether to buy a house is not an easy choice. That is why it is smart to partner with a pro who can help you navigate your options. Shop local. Find a mortgage lender in the area in which you are going to purchase and interview several REALTORS® before choosing one that best fits your needs.

Whether you buy or rent, do it because it makes financial sense for you and not what your friends and family are doing. Stay warm. We have six more weeks of this white stuff. Remember to do good things!

Technology has rapidly evolved how we do real estate.

More than 70% of today’s buyers search for homes online; technology has rapidly evolved how we do real estate. During this pandemic, I think the use of technology has really come to the forefront in the real estate industry, and it should be used as an opportunity to improve the process and provide the best client experience possible. Whether you are looking to buy, sell, or rent a home, pulling up listings to browse on your phone or tablet is the norm these days. Technology continues to play an impactful role in how both consumers and industry professionals are approaching the market. Technology offers a user-friendly experience when showing homes.

 Going beyond photos, new software allows buyers and sellers to take a 3-D virtual tour of a residential or commercial property, making it feel as if you were walking through the space without having to view it in person. The buyer can see the property in real time and even measure the room to see if their furniture will fit. REALTORS® can conduct the virtual tour via Zoom or Facetime call.

Technology also offers access to websites. Websites make it easy for anyone to view inventory and see what is available. Along with photos and detailed descriptions of the properties, you can find tax and purchase history, school ratings, and other neighborhood information. These sites have apps as well; easily accessible forms of technology that keep you informed without having to do a thing.         

Transaction management is much simpler using mobile technology. With electronic document signing apps and automated emails, we have significantly cut down the time spent on this portion of the sale. The agent-buyer interactions have changed over time as well. Data is easily accessible, making clients more knowledgeable on the topic. Technology allows clients to significantly narrow their searches by choosing the criteria that fits their buying needs.

Technology has been a wonderful addition to the real estate industry, but it has not and will not replace the real estate agent. Agents are highly trained and educated and can provide insight to buyers and sellers about their local markets and communities; you cannot get that personal information from technology. Working with a REALTOR® gives you the confidence that someone is representing your best interests in the transaction.

Technology is a part of everyday life, but it will never surpass the quality of one-on-one assistance you receive when working with a REALTOR®. We have REALTORS® in North Central West Virginia that have the same tools that technology offers in the process of searching for a new home. If you are in the market, and are looking for an experienced REALTOR®, please check out our website: www.morgantownrealtors.com.

Have a great week and remember to do good things.

As we reflect on this year of 2020

As we reflect on this year of 2020, I would like to brag about the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® for a moment. We have over 360 members that do great things for the people in our community. Our Community Service and Social Committee along with our general membership donated over $21,000 to local organizations to help those in need. Some of the recipients included Christian Help, Preston Food Bank, Sundale Nursing Home, Monongalia EMS, Pantry Plus, The Bartlett House, Health Right and Scott’s Run Settlement House. We fed first responders and the staff at Sundale Nursing Home in April, utilizing local eateries to help support the community. Many of our members are active with local organizations, serving on boards, delivering food, and giving back to our community. With so many people in need during this pandemic, it is important to support each other as you are able. Shop with small business and eat at the locally owned restaurants.

As we transition into 2021 with hope for a better year for everyone, my goal as the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® President is to support our community as much as possible. We are more than just the salesperson. We are your neighbors, little league coaches, school sponsors, board members serving the same communities in which we live. A REALTOR® is always working so these volunteer activities are done in the background with no expectation of glory. We do these things because we love our children, our schools, our local businesses, and our town.

Over 50 new REALTORS® joined the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® in 2020. With this growth, our goal is for the young agents to continue in the same tradition as each generation of the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® has done in the past by not only serving the board but become active, contributing members of the community.

We recently had the pleasure of presenting two of our local REALTORS® with an award for REALTOR® of the year on a state and local level. Katrina Bonfili is our 2020 Morgantown Board of REALTORS®, REALTOR® of the Year and is the chair of our education committee. She has served the membership on the Strategic Planning and Core Standards committees, was the 2018 Rising Star recipient and a long serving member on the board of the Morgantown Board REALTORS®. Jessica Lipscomb is the 2020 recipient of the West Virginia REALTOR® of the year award. Jessica was the 2016 Morgantown Board of REALTORS® President, the 2020 WVAR state secretary and is now serving a three-year term on the National Association of REALTORS® Commitment to Excellence committee. Both ladies are great contributors to their communities

Reflecting on my articles for 2020, I saw the hope for a wonderful year. None of us could have known what the year would bring but as I write my article on this Christmas Eve, I can only wish for a better 2021 for everyone May you each be happy, healthy, and prosperous in the new year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Remember to ALWAYS do good things

Difference between a REALTOR® and a real estate agent?

Do you know the difference between a REALTOR® and a real estate agent? It can be confusing to the public. There are many different titles associated with real estate. A real estate agent is anyone who earns a real estate license. The license can be as a sales professional, an associate broker, or a broker. State requirements vary, but in all states, you must take a minimum number of classes and pass a test to earn your license.

The term REALTOR® has one, and only one, meaning: REALTOR® is a federally registered collective membership mark which identifies a real estate professional who is member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics. Real estate broker is a person who has taken education beyond the agent level as required by state laws and has passed a broker’s license exam. Brokers can work alone, or they can hire agents to work for them. A real estate salesperson is another name for a real estate agent. A real estate associate broker is someone who has taken additional education classes and earned a broker’s license but chooses to work under the management of a broker.

What does it mean to be a REALTOR®? A REALTOR® is required to have continuing education including Code of Ethics every 3 years. To start your career in real estate in West Virginia, you would be required to take an approved course and state exam. This course can be completed online and is self- paced. There are many resources to help an individual in the process.

What are the benefits of becoming a REALTOR®? You have access to many state and national benefits for education and resources to further your career. If you are a self-motivated individual willing to work long hours including nights, weekends, and holidays then this is the career for you. Do you like helping people? Then this is the career for you.

The West Virginia Association of REALTORS® is the “Voice of Real Estate in West Virginia”. With a membership of over 2,850 REALTORS®, WVAR serves the diverse interest of all who specialize in residential or commercial real estate, including established and new agents, brokers/owners, association executives or board presidents.

On a local level, the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® is a membership group of over 350 real estate agents. The mission is to serve as the public’s liaison for all real estate needs while continuing to support, educate and foster the relationship of its members who serve our communities.

As I write my article on this cool Friday morning, our Morgantown Board of REALTORS® Community Service committee has organized a food delivery drive for us to participate in today. We will be serving 200 families in the Morgantown and surrounding areas.

The holidays are approaching, reach out to those in need if you are able and take care of yourself and your family. Have a wonderful week and remember to do good things!