Real Estate Blog by Windy Crutchfield, REALTOR®

Summer Traditions: A History of the Ocean Park Neighborhood Beach Park

Summer was in session in the 60’s! Boys, like Larry Conner Jr of Baylake Pines, would spend endless days at the YMCA Camp. The YMCA grounds covered 43 acres of a live oak forest and included the stretch of beach from Baylake Beach to the westernmost Jefferson Blvd beach access. Opened in 1939, over the decades, neighborhood boys would spend from $6-12 for a season passand enjoy all the recreation their hearts could dream up! There was a baseball diamond, volleyball court, and canoes and kayaks for rent. The Beach Club/cantina that was built in 1949 served ice cream and offered up a pinball machine and a foosball table. Larry said “we did a lot of hanging out." Like all seasons however, this one came to a end. The rapid growth of Virginia Beach created a demand for housing in our community. The summer camp closed in the early 70’s, making way for the Water Oaks Condominiums, a private beachfront estate.
Norbeck Development Associates filed the first building plans for Water Oaks with the city in 1972. The community included not only the existing 52 units, clubhouse, and pools, but also tennis courts and two nine-story towers with 149 units in each plus several additional townhouse buildings! The Olympic-size pool would have accommodated the entire community. But, just after the first phase was built, the city required a seawall be installed. This construction delay and expense, coupled with worsening economic conditions, led to an investor backing out and the remaining project being foreclosed upon in June of 1979. The towers would never be built, and the area was re-imagined as Aeries on the Bay.
Outside of Ocean Park, the mid 70’s had delivered several hi-rise condos to the Virginia Beach bayfront including Chesapeake House, Seagate Colony, Harbour Gate, and the first Cape Henry Tower (the second tower was never built). The resort condo market had slowed, and it was apparent that something different was needed for the community....

HUD Fun

I was reminising about one of my favorite real estate transactions this morning. A dear friend's young adult daughter wanted to make the jump into home ownership and came to me for help. I connected her with a reliable lender and showed her the advantages and disadvantages of a few different homes. She chose a "HUD home," which is a home that had FHA financing that went into foreclosure. My first home was also a HUD home and was purchased for $56K and now has a market value of $325K.  It is not for everyone! Like any great investment, it involves risk. A home is like a spouse: "for better or for worse." Sometimes a foreclosure can be a great opportunity to update an under market value property and sometimes it can involve great unforeseen and unFUN expenses.  And the bidding is exciting and a waiting game. In this situation, I entered her bid to the HUD system, because I have the Registered Hud Selling Broker credentials. We then await a response. She was not the highest bidder, but we agreed to be a Back Up Bidder in case that buyer were to fall through. Because the HUD system is not fool-proof, I have to check the site regularly to see if there has been any change in the status, which would mean we might get accepted, at which time a very short time frame is provided to get ink signatures! 

As it turns out, that day came. I received an email at 8:04AM FOUR MONTHS LATER while in another state sitting at my grandmother's dining room table. My hands started shaking and my eyes got big. "Mamaw!! She got the property!! I can't believe it!!" And as my grandmother looked at me with no concept of the delirium that was setting in, I started making arrangements on getting the contract signed from two states away.  Fortunately, I had pre-written purchase agreement with tabs marking where the signatures were to go. I have never been that organized for an unexpected event in my life.  I directed my self-less Mother-in-Law where to go in my filing...

A Professionals Market

I love being asked "What's the market like, Windy?"  Being a big fan of consistent data review, I can provide my inquiring friends and neighbors with a true picture of the housing market in our area.  Real Estate is Local, and our Hampton Roads area has conditions unique to the nation, so a headline from California should not affect the perceptions of a resident of the Tidewater area.  Right now, we are in a very unbalanced seller's market, the kind that make a potential seller decide to try his hand as a "FSBO/For Sale By Owner."  Over the years of dominating the real estate listings in a particular geographical area, I have had several sellers say "I'm going to use the professionals that you recommend and take a shot at selling myself. If I don't get a buyer, I will come to you to list on the MLS."  I'm grateful for their testimony that I have a great team of service providers that I use to help me market my listings. I'm also grateful for their loyalty when they revert to me within a few weeks that they want to sign a contract with me.  The knowledge and skills that I have developed in the past 15 years has always been a benefit to them, and it's the true reward to me at the closing table.  To that end, we are in a "Professional's Market."  We entered the Spring Season 2020 with very low inventory and very high demand (See Housing Market tab of my website).  A reasonable thought for any pragmatic person would be that they could stick a FSBO sign in the yard and have a buyer at the drop of a eye.  The experience of a recent FSBO is the black and white proof that hiring a professional, career agent at the onset of selling a home today will give the seller the best results:

FSBO Sale:

  • Home marketed on Zillow Jan 28, 2020 and sold May 8th.
  • 90 days on market; industry standard at same time was 63 DOM; 
  • Asking price $600K. Sold for $520K  15%...

The Evolution of Church Services in Virginia Beach

While surfing the churches in our area to see how they’ve managed to connect with their congregation through the Covid-19 Era, I started thinking about the way church services & facilities have evolved in our community. From the intimate 40 member starter church to the dynamic mega churches, it was enlightening to see the variety of services they provide to our community.

The oldest church in Great Neck is Eastern Shore Chapel, which originally existed on the eastern shore of the Lynnhaven River (1689), about a mile east of it’s current home. Adam Thoroughgood founded the church to provide Anglican services for colonists along the River to allow rural parishioners to get to church easily by water transport, coining the name “The Chapel of Ease.” In 1724 it was relocated to land now owned by Oceana. After 200 years, the church again relocated to the Laskin Rd location including pews, stained glass, the stairway to choir loft, brick walkway, and even the cemetery!  With a preschool, PIN ministry, and a food pantry that serves over 200,000 locals, the impact of our oldest church reverberates through history and projects well into our city’s future.

Prior to building Eastern Shore Chapel, Thoroughgood hosted church services in his home in 1637 and built a church on his land in what is now Church Point. That church building was later relocated to the Witchduck Road location of Old Donation Episcopal Church when rising waters of the Lynnhaven Inlet assumed possession of the land and cemetery. Also, because Thoroughgood granted that original land to the pastor of the church, future development of that land was restricted, and gave rise to the prestigious Bayville Golf Course enjoyed today. 

As the Great Neck area continued to blossom, many other residents organized religious services from their homes. Several used John B. Dey elementary school for their first public services. Francis Asbury United Methodist Church...

Very Vintage Virginia Beach

Modern day Great Neck is the land of well-appointed homes, glistening pools, and manicured lawns nestled luxuriously between the ocean and the bay. Two historic homes in some of Virginia Beach's most upscale neighborhoods enjoy the bragging rights of being the oldest continuously lived-in properties in Virginia. They whisper about an almost incomprehensible time when long trans-Atlantic travel and laboring in the New World was rewarded with more land to work. 

Early settlers arrived in Virginia in the early 1600s and found our soil produced sweet tobacco, a popular export, as well as corn and grain for the settlers. Adam Thoroughgood, an indentured servant, was our first “developer,” bringing enough settlers to America to be granted 5350 acres. One of those friends was Thomas Keeling, who came with his wife in 1634.  Thomas reportedly named Thoroughgood godfather to his son Adam. Around 1660, Thomas traded 8000 lbs of tobacco for a farm owned by a settler named Richard Dudley, who then moved to Gloucester with his cattle. Informally called “Ye Dudlies,” land records show the Keeling family passed the property through heirs and the house was built by the great-grandson Adam. Analysis of timber used in its construction indicates it was built around 1735. The quality of brick used, the detailed, interior paneling, and the center passage design were very similar to the Adam Thoroughgood home--now a museum--which was built in 1719. 

After the post-Civil War economic decline and the tobacco cigarette rolling machine shifting industry to Richmond, the Keeling family could no longer afford to maintain the property. The home and 36.2 acres were divided and sold. By 1938, the Syers family decided it was time for a new kitchen. An addition was made on the south side of the house and added electricity and plumbing! In the 1950s, a tennis court was built and a baseball diamond attracted young families. In the 60s-70s, substantial...

Stay Well at Home

Mortgage and rent payments are coming up and many of my Friends need a Game Plan. If you were one of those burned in last Recession, please take comfort that the banks have more experience with this now and manage it better. They want you to stay in your home. Further, our Federal government has taken important, proactive steps to protect you. Your best defense is a good offense--early and regular communication is your shield! Please keep in touch with me as well. My skill set includes resourcefulness, and I might be able to open some doors for you.
 
About half of my Friends have mortgage loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The first bit of good news for us is that they are healthier than they were in 2007, when much of their portfolios were in subprime loans. (watch or read The Big Short while riding this out at home--not suitable for kids--and know this is not happening again). The other lenders are likely to follow this government mandate to provide "forbearance." What this means is that the banks have been ordered to give you flexibility in paying your mortgage based on certain qualifications. Depending on your situation, you can pay reduced or no mortgage for up to 12 months.
 
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Foresight is 2020!

Foresight is 20/20! 

Until now, the proverb went a little differently. But I have a treat in store for you to start the New Year...

"Providing a Sea of Real Estate Service" is my slogan.  It's a play on my name Windy C (or Seay for my longer-term friends) and the desire to provide real value to my friends, neighbors, and clients.  One thing that 15 years serving the real estate community in Hampton Roads/Tidewater/"the 757" has provided me is the knowledge on when and where to get things. Some say that hindsight is 20/20, but this year, I'm proving that its FORESIGHT that's best by providing you with "The Best Time to Buy" calendar and monthly tips.  Make sure that you receive Notifications on my Facebook page Windy Crutchfield, Realtor and/or that I have your email address to get the most from this year-long campaign. I look forward to hearing your feedback, so I can build an even better calendar for your benefit in 2021!

The truth is that it is not hard to predict the future when you carefully evaluate the past. Every December, I give you my projection for the housing market in Hampton Roads in the year ahead. It's based on the monthly Housing Market Review that I do, as well as a study of economists' expectations. I post on this page for you and for some of my colleagues that follow it, but admittedly, it's not a riveting read.  However, it's important for me to be as close as possible to the data that's available, so I can give the best advice to my clients. In an effort to not be so long-WINDed as I tend to be, I'm going to slim the content down this year and use more visuals.

Housing Market Projections for 2020

Low inventory and high demand will continue to be the story in the lower price points for the upcoming year. Market conditions are very strong.  Federal and defense spending in Virginia is up alongside private sector job creation and wages.  Unemployment is below 3% and...

The History of a Baylake Home

Elizabeth and Scott Stahl bought their Beach Home in 2013 and, as many homeowners do in the mature Baylake neighborhoods, they immediately began improvements. The home had been on and off the market for five years, constrained by a dated compartmental style, and had finally come down to a price they found attractive. They both had a vision for updates and a strong work ethic going for them, which allowed their family to enjoy the spacious and beautiful home for the past five years. Military orders have called them to move away now, and their efforts paid off--the home was under contract within 5 days of being listed at $700,000!

Prior to the Stahl’s ownership, the home reaches back a few decades to the custom design ideas of Stephanie and Ezio DeBerladino. They bought the lot in 1977, when Baylake Beach was being developed. Stephanie said she wanted an overly large kitchen, which was very unique then but is featured in every new construction home today and is what every contractor hears today: “I need a bigger kitchen!” The kitchen at this home not only has a center island, a peninsula, endless cabinets and counters, but an eat-in kitchen with a bay window and a door to the back deck. The DiBerladinos chose a Center-Hall home design for its traditional roots to this area.

This style of home is also known as a Williamsburg or Tidewater-type Cottage and it was conceived in colonial times. It’s ancestor was the modest hall and parlor house (“Virginia style”), where the hall was the primary center of activity and the parlor was a more private room usually used for sleeping. This two room configuration evolved into adding a center passage with a
stairwell.

The style is significant in the Baylake community because the neighborhood is also the site of the English settlement known as Henrytown (a supply artery along the Bay west of Cape Henry) founded in the early 1600s. As the settlers there became more financially...

A History Lesson along the Banks of Lake Joyce

Along the banks of Lake Joyce, four gravestones tell a small part of the story of the Early Republic and the Civil War era. Times were substantially different then... Let today’s manicured lawns, glistening pools, and the peaceful paddleboarders on the 85 acre freshwater lake drift from your mind. This was no resort area. The early settlers replaced Coastal Virginia’s woodlands with farmlands. The Revolutionary War had been won, the Constitution written, and young Americans in the South were providing for an exploding population. Princess Anne County was yet to become identified as a tourism destination and later renamed Virginia Beach. And the Joyce family farmed the lands along their future namesake as the young country faced an economic decline.

Joyce families are found in the area back to 1624 when the region was first settled.  Although sometimes identified as “Joice” in some census data, on the gravestones along Lake Joyce, as well as a few related at Kempsville Baptist Church, the spelling is “Joyce” During the period when the Joyce family lived in what is now Baylake Pines, it is reported that over half the land supported the agricultural needs of the settlers. 

Nicholas Joyce appears to be our first resident on record in the Joyce family, although his stone is not in the Baylake collection. In the 1830 Census he was identified as a landowner with two male slaves under the age of 10, one adult male slave, and two adult female slaves. Nicholas is referenced to be the husband of Jacamine (Jacomine on some census data) H. Joyce on one of the gravestone. Jacamine was born in 1801. She was just 6 years old when the HBMS Leopard attacked the USS Chesapeake along the Lynnhaven Inlet in 1807. Shortly thereafter, Congress passed the Embargo Act which prohibited trade between the US and Britain, and ignited the War of 1812.  The Joyce...

Local Knowledge - Global Reach

At The Real Estate Group we understand the importance of online exposure for your property which is why we've gone to great lengths to build an online presence that makes it easy for users to find exactly what they're looking for.

With clean, modern design we ensure that your property will never be held back by a confusing interface and a focus on imagery means that the unique details of your home are never lost in translation.

Whether you're a first time home buyer or you've been down that road time and again, you won't find a more reliable guide to navigate the Hampton Roads real estate market than a seasoned professional at The Real Estate Group.

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Showing Time (Dis)service

As independent contractors, real estate agents make the choices for how they manage their appointments.  An unfortunate growing trend is to use an automated scheduling service so the agent does not have to be involved in this part of the process. This service also removes "follow up" from the agent's task list.  At the onset of setting up showings for a buyer, for a listing that utilizes the ShowingTime service, the Buyer's Agent is instructed to call an 800 number to schedule all appointments. They speak to a non-licensed operator who coordinates with the owners or tenants of the property and texts/emails that agent back with showing instructions (where to find lockbox/any special codes). The Listing Agent is completely removed from the process of setting up the appointment. After the showing, the Buyer's Agent receives an email with a few multiple choice options for providing feedback to the Seller.

It sounds simple, but the reality for the Buyer's Agent can be quite the opposite.  If the owner/tenant declines the showing, there is no follow up to reschedule by the Showing Time rep.  I've had this happen multiple times when attempting to show a property.  I have called the Listing Agent to be told that I have to schedule through the service. I have explained that the occupant has twice declined our attempts to make appointments with no explanation. Agent stated she would call me back to set up when they are available, but she never did.  On another occasion, Buyer and I were 15 minutes from our scheduled appointment, to have it suddenly canceled via email due to an illness. In this situation, an agent followed up with a phone call behind her ShowingTime notification to ensure that I was aware of the change. But I never received a call back when the occupant was well again for rescheduling.  I am quite certain the Listing Agent didn't intend to abandon the potential to sell her listing, but it was relegated to the black...

Happy and Healthy Market Forecast for 2019!

The housing market appears to be suffering from some bipolarity as we close out 2018! I had to give you a more in-depth diagnosis because if you read the headlines, you will have, frankly, an irrational fear about entering the housing market in the coming year.  At the end of 2017, I told you the absorption ratio was the highest it's been since the Recession.  You read also this year about multiple offer situations and offers going way over asking price with few, if any, seller concessions.  And most recently, you've heard some consistently inconsistent economic news. The stock marketed plummeted, only to close out the year with the highest one-day recovery on record in the midst of a government shut down. Unemployment levels are at their lowest in 50 years but wages are still stagnant. Mortgage rates reached their highest point in 9 years and the Fed increased rates for the 4th time in December, but then mortgage interest rates eased down to at 4.63%.  Price gains for sellers have limited affordability for buyers, keeping many willing first-time buyers and move-up buyers/sellers on the sidelines, yet there is still a shortage of homes. Price appreciation reached nearly 6% last year is expected to give way to 3% in 2019 and 2.4% in 2020 as sales cool.  The general economic news is very strong but the housing market predictions for 2019 are overall rather negative nationally.  Do you also feel like hibernating a bit after reading the day-to-day headlines and my recap of the year?

I have a different perspective and am excited about the prospects for buyers and sellers in 2019.  Yes, we have indications that the imbalance in the housing market is surfacing as a correction.  If you keep up with my monthly review, you knew already that our sales in Southside Hampton Roads (SSHR) took a nosedive between August and Sept, but ticked back up to typical off-season levels in October & November. The number of new listings dipped below 2017...

Baylake Pines is a Treasure Trove of History

After four months at sea, colonist George Percy's ship entered the Chesupioc (Chesapeake) Bay on April 26, 1607, landed, and exploration began of this new land. He was astonished by what he described as "fair meadows and goodly tall trees, with Fresh-waters running through the woods." Shortly thereafter, his group was attacked by Indians, who retreated to the reciprocal gun fire. Therein lies the beginning of the Baylake Pines story. Known in historic circles as Henrytown(e), the area is believed to be the third English settlement in Virginia. Originally occupied by the Chesapian Indians, English settlers landed at Cape Henry in 1607 and quickly moved inland to settle in Jamestown. The famine of 1609 drove settlers back south in search of fish. In 1610 documents, forts were referred to along the Chesapeake Bay in support of the settlement in Jamestown. In a letter by Virginia's Lt. Governor Samuel Argall in 1613, he sent a fishing ship to "Henries Towne" to relieve the men there. Henrytown's namesake was the Prince of Wales Henry Frederick Stuart (and Cape Charles was named after his younger brother). The Indian natives and the settlers eventually found a way to coexist through the operation of trading outposts, as evidenced by iron tools and pipe fragments dating from 1610-1660. These artifacts were unearthed during an excavation by archeologist Floyd Painter in 1955, the year the neighborhood began to be developed. Painter also found Indian tools, pottery shards, the remains of a house, and two small children's teeth. Residents regularly report finding arrowheads in their gardens or on Treasure Island.

In 1635, Adam Thoroughgood received 5350 acres of land between the Chesapeake Bay and the Lynnhaven River via the Grand Patent, issued by the Governor of Virginia as payment for providing the passage for new settlers.  Thoroughgood brought indentured servants (he himself being one) to the New World and after serving him in the development of his tobacco...

Looking in North Carolina?

Looking for the right vacation home in North Carolina? The Real Estate Group serves all of Hampton Roads and Northeast North Carolina. Let us help you find the perfect waterfront or beachfront property. From the outer banks to Edenton, we have you covered.

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Proud to Serve Our Military

We love Hampton Roads - and it’s our pleasure to work with the military men and women in our region. We understand the unique real estate needs of our military community. In fact, many of our agents are Veterans, MilSpouses or have completed advanced training allowing them to better serve our military.

Whether you’re PCSing from another part of the country, looking to buy or sell locally, or just need the professional guidance of a REALTOR®, we’ve got all your needs covered. No one knows the local market better than we do, we are truly "A Hampton Roads Original". Let us make the process of moving a smooth and enjoyable experience. We’re proud to serve our military!

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Pricing Strategies

What is my home worth?

This is a question we receive daily in our business and the right answer is, "in whose opinion?"
Ultimately, it is the Buyer, the Seller, and the Appraiser that determine the value--what is one willing to pay, the other willing to accept, and the bank willing to loan against?  However, coupled with that are other valuable considerations that aren't reflected in the recorded sale price, such as Seller Concessions and repairs.  I'm of the opinion, that everyone should have a good idea of their Market Value, just as they know the value of their 401K.  Computer-generated values are available on Zillow and Trulia, however the owner of this company (they recently merged) even admits they can be as much as 10% off the value. Real estate is local.  And when determining value for a future sale, the following must be understood.

The Seller Determines the List Price

After receiving a list of recent comparable sales, and making adjustments for features such as age, size, quality, and condition, a Seller determines the price at which they want to market their home. Receiving reliable information in this regard is a substantial determinant at how successful that Seller will be in reaching their goal of selling.  Some factors in the Seller's Pricing Strategy are how quickly they want to sell, how much they owe on their mortgage, and how many repairs they are willing to do. In my years of doing business, I have heard the accusation that a real estate agent "bought" a listing by telling a Seller that their home is worth more than it is.  While the practice does exist in the industry, a professional agent will educate their client by using adjustments that are typical of a professional appraiser to eliminate unrealistic expectations and wasted time on the market. When that Seller chooses their Pricing Strategy, the Agent may then determines whether they want to accept the listing. Is it worth the marketing expenses to list an overpriced...

From Lemonade to Legacy -- A History of Chic's Beach

One of the many great things about living in the Bayfront communities is the diversity of people, lifestyles, recreation, and homes.  No where is that variety more apparent than in Chic's Beach. It has been said that you can't quite "size-up" the person sitting next to you at Zia's or crossing your path on the beach. But ask the locals about the correct name and spelling of Chic's Beach and you will see community pride and unity well-up. Chesapeake Beach is the area west of Baylake Beach to Little Creek Amphibious Base and north of Shore Drive. It includes many neighborhoods such as Chesapeake Shores, Chesapeake Acres, and Chubb Lake Villas.  Maps dating back to the 18th century note "Chesapeake Beach" and a vantage point for Revolutionary soldiers to watch out for British ships was later named Lookout Road. Another main ingress to Chesapeake Beach, Pleasure House Rd, is reportedly named after a house that served up a bit of bootleg or simply some leg, we aren't sure. There are historic accounts that the widow of Adam Thoroughgood opened the Pleasure House Tavern to serve soldiers an innocent libation after a long day at watch.  Local historian Susan Boland, who has studied Sarah Thoroughgood extensively, explains that Sarah operated an "ordinary" or a B&B in the Baylake Pines neighborhood that operated as a waypoint for travelers to the Eastern Shore. As they might have awaited weather conditions to improve to use the ferry service, serving alcohol was a benefit that was legally awarded to Mrs. Thoroughgood.  She even had her own whisky still on the premises. But this was not on Pleasure House Rd nor named Pleasure House Tavern.

In 1919, Chesapeake Beach incorporated and is currently organized under the Chesapeake Beach Civic League.  In 1948, Luther "Chic" Ledington and his wife Audrey ("Sadie") opened up a lemonade and hot dog stand on the beach at the end of Fentress Rd, where Buoy 44 serves locals today.  According to Ledington family-friend...

A Healthy Housing Market Brings Challenges for 2017 Buyers

As most of you know, I update my website monthly with a review of current local housing market results. By examining the same economic factors on a regular basis, I can give buyers and sellers reliable and timely advice. It would be easy for me to provide my readers with a subscription to a newsletter that provides a national outlook, but my value to you as a real estate advisor is in knowing what is happening on a local level, as it happens. I also provide this annual review and forecast for the coming year.

2016 showed steady and healthy improvements in the economy. The United States is currently enjoying full employment (4.2%), a rising GDP, wage increases, and job gains. Job creation was however below expectation for economists and the annual growth rate was less than predicted. Home sales currently are the highest since February 2007 when the Recession began, but they still are $50,000 below the pre-recession sales prices. First-time buyers were at a 30 year low in 2015, but made gains to almost 50% in 2016. 61% of those first-time buyers were under the age of 35. The availability of starter homes, however, have dropped by 10%, making it harder for these young buyers to get into the market. In Virginia Beach, conservative sellers marketed their homes with only a 1% increase in list price from last year, but saw a 3.26 increase in sales prices and a 3.6 month absorption rate. Interest rates defied predictions and stayed below 4% for most of the year. Riding in on the strong economy is a new American President, espousing ideas that promote positive business growth. Stocks soared after the election to record highs. Based on the campaign platform, the technology, industrial, and transportation sectors should see healthy growth. Improvements to the sky-rocketing health insurance costs are expected with a modification to Affordable Health Care. And with a Republican-controlled Congress, the country should see the largest tax revolution since 1986, promoting tax cuts and government spending on infrastructure....

A Rising Tide for Real Estate Investors in 2016!

The December statistics for housing in Hampton Roads just rolled in, and it does appear we are riding into 2016 on a high tide! With the Great Recession officially in the history books, consumer confidence and positive economic data abound, with experience as our compass. I am excited about the opportunities for Buyers, Sellers, and Investors this year and look forward to helping make some goals come to fruition for my clientele.
In October 2015, the Home Builder Confidence Index reached it's highest point in a decade. Housing starts ended 2015 with the healthiest gains in 8 years, mostly in multi-family complexes. As builders are reviving inventory shortages, we agents are experiencing home buyers at unprecedented levels. Boomerang Buyers who survived foreclosures and short sales are returning to the market as their finances have recovered and credit has improved. An estimated 7 million of these buyers are expected to be back in the market over the next 5 years or more. They will be joining the Millennial Buyers, those born between 1980-2000, who are settling into careers and marriages and making the Home Ownership decision. Millennials were the largest percentage of buyers for the second year in a row in 2015.

In the mortgage industry, we experienced some positive change in 2015. Loan Estimates have replaced Good Faith Estimate, encouraging consumers to have a better understanding of the costs to obtain financing and have a firm number three days before their closing date, eliminating many last minute frustrations and misunderstandings at the time they close on their home. Also, the Fed determined that economic conditions were healthy enough to raise the (Federal Funds) interest rate by a quarter percent in December. Some factors used in the decision include the US unemployment rate steadily below 6%, inflationary indexes, and the health of emerging markets. While unemployment has declined, there has been limited wage growth. The expectation is the US will stat on course for it's longest expansion...