General Topics

To my family, friends, fellow REALTORS® and members of the community…

To my family, friends, fellow REALTORS® and members of the community, thank you for supporting me these past two years as the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® President. As President, you are tasked to write a weekly article for the Dominion Post. The topic is of your choice but must be at least 500 words. I am honored to have served a two-year presidency, being the first in the history of the Board to have two terms. What that also means is that I wrote 104 articles, approximately 52,000 words and many different topics. I was often surprised and humbled when people would tell me they read and enjoyed my articles. I want to thank each of you for your kind words and support.

In 2020, Covid struck our community, and everything shut down. We were fortunate to be considered essential workers thanks to the West Virginia Association of REALTORS® lobbying for us with the Governor. This allowed us to continue representing our buyers and sellers in all their real estate transactions. We had to figure out how to use Zoom for our meetings and how to adapt to new ways of listing and showing properties. REALTORS® love to meet people. We are very social, love to talk and we all come together to serve our community. This, however, was difficult when Covid shut the world down. For 2020, we learned new ways and when asked for a presidency “redo”, I agreed. 2021 gave us the opportunity to do more, do better and to catch up on the things we couldn’t accomplish in 2020.

I would not be where I am today without so many people in my corner of which I must give thanks. To my Board of Directors, thank you for pivoting with me as we traveled new paths to accomplish our goals to support the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® and our community. I consider each of you a friend and I wish you all the best. To my office, you also dealt with my many phone calls, meetings and events as I fluttered around the community. Thank you for keeping me upright.

To my family, especially my husband, thank you for supporting my craziness as I sat down every Thursday night to draft my articles when they were due Friday morning. Topics were suggested, many which I had already covered, but the input was appreciated. You never doubted my ability to accomplish anything and always went along with my adventures. Love to you!

There is a special person that I have had the honor of emulating for the last 48 years and yes, I just told my age. My mom has been in real estate for over 45 years. She achieved Emeritus status with the National Association of REALTORS® and is an amazing woman. She has taught me to be honest, gracious and hard working. She is my Broker and my friend. Thank you, mom, for pushing me to be my best, always.

I wish my successor, Mr. Brian Haufe, the 2022 Morgantown Board of REALTORS® president the best! Thank you for the redo and for supporting me these past two years!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and I wish you all a Merry Christmas! Remember to ALWAYS do good things!

On most days, the question is, How’s the market?

On most days, the question is, How’s the market? For the last several months, my response has been, its rough. That word can mean many things. Busy? Frustrating? Overwhelming? REALTORS® are busy, buyers are frustrated and overwhelmed. These are great descriptions of the Morgantown market. We have no inventory. When you hear someone say this, don’t misunderstand, there are homes on the market however many don’t last long. We all watch the news, read the articles and search the web but do we know the reasons why the real estate market is so rough right now?

There are several contributing factors. The first being the pandemic. 2020 was a pivotal time for everyone. Most of the population adjusted to working from home. What did we do? We searched the internet for news stories. We read and researched everything. We looked at real estate. We saved money on gas, eating out and shopping. We made plans and started mentally renovating our homes. Buyers did this as well and they were ready to buy. But the sellers weren’t as comfortable to list so this lack of inventory drove up the prices and the bidding wars began.

This isn’t necessarily a new concept in real estate. We have had many seller’s markets before the pandemic. But there has never been a housing market quite like this. While the market has, in fact, begun to cool off just a little, it’s still a highly challenging time to be looking to buy given the severe housing shortage. Builders can’t keep up with the demand. Contractors struggle to get needed supplies which can extend the building process.

In a perfect real estate world, home prices would need to rise at the same pace as people’s wages for regular folks to become homeowners. Yet over the past decade, Americans’ average wages have increased by about 2% to 3% each year, according to the U.S. Labor Department. But home prices have risen at a rate of about 7% each year over the same time. Since COVID-19 upended the world in March 2020, prices have risen 13.5% through August.

There’s just a 2.1-month supply of existing homes for sale, according to the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). That’s a tiny amount, up only slightly from February’s record low of 2.0 months of supply. Such a tight supply creates its own self-perpetuating cycle: Homeowners who had been thinking of selling realize it’s going to be hard to find a home to move to, so they decide not to sell.

 According to experts, the market seems to be shifting again, hinting at a 2022 that might even be considered somewhat normal: steadier production and supply to meet solid demand for homes, but with more typical levels of price appreciation. This forecast of a changing market could change my answer next time to the market is good!

Happy Halloween to everyone! Watch out for our little ghosts and monsters wandering the streets tonight in search of the candy. It’s almost November, remember to do good things!

This past week I spent a few days in Charleston…

This past week I spent a few days in Charleston, WV for our 102nd Annual West Virginia Association of REALTORS® State Convention. So, what did we do you may ask? First, we had an informative speaker for our continuing education. As REALTORS®, we are required to have seven (7) hours of CE every year. This type of education can be obtained by attending a conference as I did, or some may choose to do it online.  At the convention, there is also a change of State leadership for the upcoming year. These leaders for our Association are REALTORS® but they volunteer their time to make sure we are being well represented within the state.

This is also an opportunity for us to network with other REALTORS® around the state. As a licensed agent in West Virginia, you can sell anywhere in the state however it may not make sense to drive to Martinsburg to show a house when you live in Morgantown. We network to make friends that become our colleagues and we refer business to each other. We also have people in our association that have connections on the state level to help lobby for the causes that affect the real estate industry.

Its not all business at the convention. Did you know that REALTORS® like to fundraise, and we do it well? We raised over $30,000 in one evening for REALTOR® Relief and RPAC. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) explains that the REALTORS® Relief Foundation (RRF) is a charitable organization dedicated to providing housing-related assistance to victims of disasters. Created as a REALTOR®-driven response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, RRF continues to restore and rebuild communities affected by disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes thanks to the generosity of individual REALTORS®, REALTOR® Associations, and affiliated organizations.

Also, according to NAR, the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC) was formed in 1969 and its goal is to promote the election of pro-REALTOR® candidates across the United States. The purpose of RPAC is clear: voluntary contributions made by REALTORS® are used to help elect candidates who understand and support their interests.  

The Morgantown Board of REALTORS® also donates their time and efforts to local charities. Many of our members serve on non-profit boards in Morgantown and around the state. The Community Service committee of the Morgantown Board of REALTORS® recently held a cornhole competition and we raised over $2500 for REALTOR® Relief. We do more than list and sell homes. These REALTORS® are doing good things!

The market is slowing down a bit and that is normal for this time of year. We currently have only 140 single family listings in Monongalia County on the market. The buyers are looking but the inventory is still extremely low. Interest rates are also low. If you are considering buying or selling, now is the time. Want a second home? Go for it! Contact your local REALTOR® today to get the process started!

Welcome to October, fall, pumpkins and leaves falling. Go out and remember to do good things!

It would be amazing…

It would be amazing if all you needed to prep your home for fall was to hang a wreath and light a bunch of pumpkin spice candles. While yes, those are a crucial part of getting ready for the change of seasons, but there are more important (and not exactly fun) preparations that come with being a homeowner. The fall season is upon us. How do you prepare your home before winter? Fortunately, in the Morgantown area, we are still experiencing some warm and sunny weather. Take advantage of this weather and do the following to get your home winter ready.

Clean your gutters. With the leaves falling, you need to make sure they are clear of debris so rain and snow can drain properly. Check your windows for drafts. Heat loss through windows is responsible for 25 percent of heating energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But it does not have to be that way, because weatherstripping is simple and probably the most cost-effective way to keep heating costs down. Drain your outdoor faucets. Drain and disconnect all garden hoses from outside spigots to prevent any water freezing. Not doing this can result in busted pipes.

 Bring in your outdoor furniture. You spent good money to set that outdoor space up, so if you want to get another summer season out of it you should store it in a garage or shed. If you do not have anywhere to store the items, you should cover them with a waterproof furniture cover. Fertilize your lawn. If you want to keep your lawn looking great in the spring and summer, you need to prep it for the fall and winter. Roots are still active when the grass is not growing, so applying fertilizer will prevent winter damage. Doing this will also help your lawn turn green faster in the spring, which is crucial, because who wants to look at a sad lawn come springtime?

There are things you can do on the inside of your home to prep for winter. Change your furnace filters. If your filters are clogged, it is harder to keep your home at the temperature you want it to be, which will increase your heating bills. Clean these filters monthly, not just before the fall. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Once a year you should be checking to make sure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide devices are working.

If you are thinking of listing your home in the Spring, use this cold weather time to make some interior home improvements. Spruce up the paint, redo the floors or replace that old carpet and change out old light fixtures. This is still a good time to list your property for sale. Rates are low, buyers are looking so take that leap and contact your local REALTOR®.

Add some pumpkins, mums and fall decorations to your front porch and get ready for those buyers!

Have a great week! Remember to do good things.

September is back to school time…

September is back to school time, the start of football season and the transition into fall but in the real estate world, it’s safety month. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has declared that September is REALTOR® Safety month. Being a REALTOR® can be fun, but it also comes with risks. Over the last decade or so, there have been many instances of REALTORS® being hurt, kidnapped and even murdered.

This is a good time for my fellow REALTORS® to re-evaluate their safety practices and procedures. Be aware, be smart and be proactive. So how can we apply the same safety practices that we follow to our sellers?

First, let’s talk about listing your home. Once your home is active on the market, chances are that it’s all over social media and the internet. People in your town are viewing your home online, so you need to prepare for those potential, in person showings. Strangers will walk through your home. Do a tour of your home through the eyes of a buyer and see what personal items should be removed.

The obvious things like guns, jewelry, and cash should be locked up or stored off site from your home. But did you consider spare keys, prescription drugs, and your mail as things you should hide? How easy would it be for a “potential” buyer to swipe a key when their REALTOR® is distracted or to take a prescription bottle off the shelf and slip it into their pocket? What about your mail? This can contain some personal information that someone could use to steal your identity and hack your finances.

What about family photos? While it may seem nice to display the school pictures of your children, do you really want everyone seeing them? Remember if the photograph is in your home photos, the world can zoom in and see them. So maybe clear things out and make a blank slate for your showings. You are moving, aren’t you? Time to start packing.

Make sure all doors and windows are locked before any showings and confirm they remain that way when you return. Installing a home security system can ensure you have video footage if a crime does occur. Some models and programs will even allow you to view your home remotely. Use this added feature to watch over people during showings or simply check it at night to ensure your home remains safe from vandalism and theft. If you have indoor cameras, you can keep track of those buyers touring your home but remember to let your REALTOR® know that you may be watching.

You are responsible for your pets. If possible, animals should be removed during showings. If your dog would attack a potential buyer, you will be held liable. Do your best to keep everyone safe. Do not show your home by yourself. If someone knocks on your door, tell them to contact your agent to schedule a showing. Not all buyers are who they say they are. As exciting as it is to have people interested in your home, stop, think and practice your safety.

Happy Labor Day weekend to you! Have a relaxing time and remember to do good things!

Why do people live where they do?

Why do people live where they do? Some people have more choice than others when determining where to live. According to a national poll, the cost of housing was the most selected reason for why residents chose to live in their neighborhood. Being close to friends and family was second and the size and type of housing available was third. Some people choose their home based on the proximity to their workplace. Whatever the reason, there is a place for everyone. Some of the negative aspects were living too far from family and friends and the availability of public transportation.

Studies also show that the geographic proximity between buyers with elderly parents is small. The trend will continue, social scientists say, as baby boomers need more care in old age, and the growing number of two-income families seek help with childcare. Relocating for a job can be tough on a young family especially if they rely on their parents to assist with childcare or help the parent with their needs.

Some buyers like to live in the mountains, near a water source or in a planned community. Do you want an HOA? Do you want neighbors nearby? Maybe you want a farm with lots of acreage. There is a home for you. These are all things to consider when you start your search. Drive the area if you are not familiar with it. Check school ratings. You want the best schools for your children, don’t you? Are you close to shopping, restaurants and other amenities? Ask your REALTOR® about resale values for that neighborhood. Are you in a flood zone? Near a power plant? If you live in a college town, is the neighborhood full of student rentals?

While most buyers start their search with number of bedrooms and baths, size of home and amount of land, there are many other aspects to consider. Educate yourself. Our REALTOR® website has links and information about the community, school ratings, tourism, public transportation and more. Check out www.morgantownrealtors.com.

If you are new to the area, use a REALTOR®. These men and women know the community. They can help you find that home on the lake or nestled in the mountains. They can tell you about the best shopping and dining or the closest park for your dog. We all have access to the internet. Use it to research the town you will be relocating to and ask your REALTOR® questions about why they live where they do! Rates are still at an all-time low, but inventory is scarce. If you are ready to buy or sell, contact your local REALTOR®.

WVU students are back, and local schools will be starting soon too. Be cautious and assume no one knows where they are going. Drive safely, watch for that bicyclist. Have a great week! Remember to do good things!

It is hard to believe that in just a few short weeks…

It is hard to believe that in just a few short weeks our kids will be heading back to school. Why do our summers go by so fast? This local college town, in which we live, will soon swarm with thousands of students moving into their dorms and apartments. Morgantown residency will almost double in size in just a short time. This is great for our economy supporting local businesses including retail stores, restaurants and hotels.

Parents will ascend into our town for a few days buying groceries and home goods for their kid’s apartments and dorms. We have several local landlords that have been prepping for weeks to get their apartments ready for these students. WVU is working hard to plan activities for the incoming freshman and upper class as well as keeping parents informed about move in and other events.

How does all of this affect our local real estate market? Being that this is a college town, many residents rely on rental income to support their livelihood. Competition is strong, but if you provide the renters with modern spaces that are clean and safe, you can be successful. If you are looking to invest, real estate can be very profitable.

Does it make sense to rent an apartment for four years or to buy an investment property? Some parents would rather spend their monies on a property they can own versus paying someone else’s mortgage. This type of ownership makes up a large portion of our market. What should you do if you decide to buy but live hundreds of miles away? Are you willing to drive into town for maintenance issues during all hours? Or should you hire a property management company to help you along the way? Ask your local REALTOR® for guidance. There are some good companies in town that have managed rentals for years.

What if you aren’t financially able to purchase currently? Is renting all that bad? Of course not. If you find a good landlord and a safe place for your child to live, then you should feel comfortable letting someone else handle maintenance issues. Ask your local REALTOR® for suggestions if you are in the market to rent, as they are familiar with the local landlords.

Whether you choose to rent an apartment or purchase an investment property, both options will require some financial planning. Many property management companies now require credit and background checks for potential renters. If the renter is a student, the parent or guardian may need to sign as a guarantor. If you choose to purchase an investment property, check with your mortgage lender as it may be wise to add your child to the loan to help them build credit.

If you are a townie, be patient over the next two weeks as people coming to our area don’t know our roads. Think of it as being on vacation in another town, it’s very similar to what we experience during move in week.

As I sit here on my vacation at the beach, I am reminded to be kind to others and to do good things!

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!