Happy Veterans Day!

Thank you to my father, my son, my brother  and to all of the men and women who have served, for the sacrifices they’ve made to protect our freedom and liberty.  God Bless You and God Bless America!

Veterans Day Thank you Cartoon






Support Our Troops with Confidence

Support Our Troops BannerI was speaking with my father during his visit this past fall and mentioned that I was considering donating my horse to the PATH Intl. Horses for Heroes Therapeutic Riding Program which prompted a discussion about how much of the donated proceeds raised by the several Wounded Warrior type organizations actually go towards helping veterans and their families versus paying for administrative costs.  I am from a strong military family and my father serves as the Chairman of the Air Commando Association (ACA) Board of Directors, and is writing a book that is due to be published soon. It’s particularly exciting for our family because he has promised to donate the proceeds to the Air Commando Association Foundation.  Thus began a lengthy discussion and comparison between the three organizations that our family has donated to – Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF ) and the Air Commando Association Foundation Endowment (ACAF ).

Charity Navigator is an independent charity evaluator providing free ratings and evaluations of nonprofit corporations, http://www.charitynavigator.org/. Below are their assessments of the three foundations mentioned above.


WWP was founded in 2005 in Roanoke, Virginia and spends 57.9% of the charity’s budget on the programs and services it delivers and 41.9% on fundraising and administrative expenses. They employ officers, directors, trustees, and their highest compensated employees at a cost of $2.197 million.


SOWF was founded in 1980 and spends 84.4% of the charity’s budget on the programs and services it delivers and 15.5% on fundraising and administrative expenses. They employ 14 full time staff members at a cost of $1.162 million.


ACAF Endowment is a much smaller organization, but is quickly growing and helps Air Force Wounded Warriors and their families.  100% of the foundation funds go to helping veterans and their families. The fundraising and administrative costs are funded by the parent association “ACA”.  Their board of directors is exclusively pro-bono.  Another major difference in this foundation is that their agility allows them to react to circumstances at a moment’s notice.

Giving to any of these organizations is a fantastic demonstration of your support for our many men and women in uniform, as well as their families, who have sacrificed so much to secure our freedom and way of life. My only advice would be, do a little research and know how your contribution is being used. When you are comfortable with an organization, knowing about the services they provide and structure of their foundation, then you’ll sleep well assured that your charitable contribution is helping those who have given so much for us.

Is USAA’s Movers Advantage Program Really an Advantage?

Use caution when selecting vendors for your next real estate transaction. Mistakes like this can be costly!

Update: We were contacted by USAA’s General Counsel regarding the article below. They have requested that Williams Realty amend the language under the section “How It Works”. It is our intent to be accurate, so to that end, we are making the following clarification.  The Realtor’s broker pays a commission to a 3rd party vendor and not directly to USAA.


Trust but Verify

It is important that you take special care in selecting the vendors and programs you use when buying or selling a home after all, it is one of the largest financial transactions of your life. Bearing in mind that when you are dealing with numbers as large as $400,000 to sell or buy a home, a small percentage like 1% ($4,000) can really make a difference. Too often people make assumptions that cost them thousands of dollars in the end.

Our Own Experience

Allow me to share how we discovered that simply trusting without verifying can be a costly mistake. We considered enrolling Williams Realty in the USAA Movers Advantage, a relocation program, several years ago because we are loyal USAA members and assumed that the program would be consistent with their other services that we had come to trust. We have been members for 30+ years and absolutely love the services they provide for banking and insurance.
We examined this relocation program to determine what if any benefit there would be to our clients and were saddened to discover that there was none. Regrettably, the program would have actually prevented us from providing the level of service our clients had become accustomed to. The moral of the story is that just because you trust one company or organization to provide you with some services that they perform very well, you can’t necessarily trust them to provide you with other services.

How It Works

USAA’s Movers Advantage program offers a “cash bonus,” “the right agent,” and “valuable real estate expertise,” which clearly indicates that you will get money and implies that the realtor to whom you are referred has met some criteria to qualify them to be in the program.
The criteria for the program are disappointing at best. The requirement for access to the program for a Realtor is their willingness to pay USAA 35% of the commission they earn, with no requirement for the Realtor to be a current or past USAA member themselves. The USAA member, who is listing their home for sale, will solely bear the burden of paying the Realtor’s fees. The resulting consequence is that the Realtors referred to them by USAA are virtually incapable of rebating cash to them at closing, not to mention offering a reduced commission on the listing agreement. The Realtor knows going in that more than one third of their commission is going to USAA, in effect tying their hands from easing the burden on the seller.

How “the Savings” Actually Work with Enrolled Brokers

To break that down for you, let’s go back to our example of a $400,000 property. If the Realtor lists your house offering a 6% commission, which is common but not required, the entire commission collected from you will be $24,000. The listing agent would usually get half and the buyer’s agent would get the other half, so $12,000 each. But because the listing agent is enrolled in USAA’s relocation program they must pay $4,200 to USAA, thereby reducing their commission to $7,800.
You are probably saying to yourself “$7,800 is still a lot of money” and you would be correct, but permit me to illustrate for you how it will cost you (the seller). Because the final commission is reduced, the listing agent is not in a position to charge you a reduced commission, of say 5%, which would reduce the cost to you by $4,000, or to offer you a rebate from the commission at closing that could be used to pay a buyers closing costs (which would allow the buyer to offer more for the property). In effect you are paying USAA the extra money.

Where You Can Benefit

As for the “cash bonus,” USAA is able to say that they provide one because when you are the buyer and you use their program, USAA pays the buyer $1,550 on a purchase of $400,000 and over (.388%) as indicated in the table shown on their web page. I think it is important to point out that this type of rebate is something that a buyer can negotiate with their Realtor directly and the amount could be far greater if the agent hadn’t already promised more than a third of their commission to USAA. They do offer this same “cash bonus” to a seller but only a fool would consider $1,550 a cash bonus when you are paying USAA $4,200 first. You would save much more just paying a reduced commission with a brokerage like “Williams Realty” who is willing to list for 5% (in fact we commonly offer 4.75% full service listings).

We have owned & operated Williams Realty since 2004. The reason we started our own brokerage was so that we would have the flexibility to put money back into the pockets of our clients.
I encourage you to take the time to learn about the service providers you use and refer people to, it can save you money and preserve your reputation. Like Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

When you think of Northern Virginia Real Estate experts, think of Williams Realty.
Williams Realty can be reached at 703-980-4045 or SpikeandJulie@williamsrealty.us or http://www.WilliamsRealty.us we look forward to helping you assess your options and plan for your future.

Northern Virginia Housing Market At-a-Glance

Comparing home sales from February 2012 with those of February of 2013 tells us the market has heated up.

The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors® has released its reports on February 2013 home sales activity for Fairfax and Arlington counties, the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church and the towns of Vienna, Herndon and Clifton compared to February last year. Following is the exact text from NVAR, and I have summarized the findings in the table provided.

A total of 1,103 homes sold in February 2013, a 5.25 percent increase above February 2012 home sales of 1,048. Active listings decreased by about 33 percent from last year, with 2,029 active listings in February, compared with 3,033 homes available in February 2012. The average days on market (DOM) for homes in February 2013 decreased by about 27 percent to 55 days, compared with 75 days in February 2012. Price growth held for the second month in a row, with year-over-year increases almost identical to the January 2013 numbers. The average sales price in February increased by about 9 percent from February 2012, to $496,226, compared with last February’s average of $455,453. The median price of homes sold in Northern Virginia rose by almost 12 percent in February to $430,000, compared with February 2012’s median price of $384,500. Reflecting a continuing shortage of inventory, the number of new pending home sales in Northern Virginia in February decreased by almost 2 percent to 1,688 compared with 1,721 new contracts pending in February 2012.

The long and short of it is that inventory is down, prices are up, and properties aren’t staying on the market long. So if you are looking to buy or sell you will need to be working with an agent/broker that knows how to read the market and negotiate contracts, we can do that and so much more, give us a call.

Williams Realty can be reached at 703-980-4045 or SpikeandJulie@williamsrealty.us or www.WilliamsRealty.us we look forward to discussing your situation, we will help you assess your options and plan for your future.

Say What? Thanks to the Virginia Transportation Bill it will cost me more to sell my house?!

Virginia Transportation Bill HB 2313 having financial consequences for RE sellers unless amended by the Governor or loses a legal challenge on the grounds that it violates the Virginia Constitution.

That’s right. With the passing of the massive Transportation Bill HB 2313, which applies a “Regional Congestion Relief Fee” Virginia homeowner’s grantor’s taxes (paid by the seller) will increase by $0.25 for every $100 of the sales price. Just as our real estate market is starting to recover, our elected legislators in the Virginia General Assembly clip our wings by increasing the taxes sellers pay at the time of sale. You may be asking yourself, how can these “leaders” be so out of touch? It is as if they are unaware that many homeowners are still underwater and struggling to come up with money needed at the closing table as it is. Needless to say, increasing the cost will not stimulate our real estate market, so why would they do it? The justification across the board from special interest groups who supported it and the legislators who voted for it is that Virginia needs to raise taxes in order to reduce commute times in an effort to attract businesses to Virginia and improve quality of life for existing residents. Leaving aside the obviously polarizing discussion over where the line should be drawn between increasing taxes and reducing spending, one is still left wondering how legislators justify spending real estate recording taxes/fees throughout Northern Virginia to pay $300 Million dollars toward Phase II of the Silver Line in the name of congestion relief. The bill indicates that the fees paid in Northern Virginia municipalities will go to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and will be returned to those jurisdictions proportionately. I decided to look into “The Authority” and this is what it is comprised of; Virginia’s Planning District 8, which includes: The counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William; the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park; the towns of Dumfries, Herndon, Leesburg, Purcellville and Vienna. For more information on District 8, you can find it on the web here:
http://www.novaregion.org/ .

Wait, put down the knife, there is a chance that this legislation will be modified by the Governor but even if it isn’t it is still quite possible that it will face legal challenges and be found unconstitutional. There are several areas that at least one expert is suggesting could expose it to legal challenge; Discriminatory local tax being called a fee (VA Supreme Court ruled against similar in 2008 also violates the “home rule” principle), uniform taxation (In Virginia’s Constitution http://constitution.legis.virginia.gov/ Article X, Section 1), local taxation only on real estate (and Article X, Section 4), taxes added to the bill in conference committee in violation of the Jefferson Manual on Legislative Order. If you want to know more, the detailed article that appeared in the Washington Post can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/vas-transportation-bill-is-unconstitutional/2013/02/25/3d73abee-7f88-11e2-a350-49866afab584_story.html

Please find below the language for the fee/tax in HB 2313:
§ 58.1-802.2. Regional congestion relief fee.
In addition to any other tax or fee imposed under the provisions of this chapter, a fee, delineated as the “regional congestion relief fee,” is hereby imposed on each deed, instrument, or writing by which lands, tenements, or other realty located in any county or city embraced by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority established pursuant to § 15.2-4830 is sold and is granted, assigned, transferred, or otherwise conveyed to or vested in the purchaser or any other person, by such purchaser’s direction. The rate of the fee, when the consideration or value of the interest, whichever is greater, equals or exceeds $100, shall be $0.25 for each $100 or fraction thereof, exclusive of the value of any lien or encumbrance remaining thereon at the time of the sale, whether such lien is assumed or the realty is sold subject to such lien or encumbrance.
The fee imposed by this section shall be paid by the grantor, or any person who signs on behalf of the grantor, of any deed, instrument, or writing subject to the fee imposed by this section.
No such deed, instrument, or other writing shall be admitted to record unless certification of the clerk wherein first recorded has been affixed thereto that the fee imposed pursuant to this section has been paid.
Fees imposed by this section shall be collected by the clerk of the court and deposited into the state treasury as soon as practicable. Such fees shall then be deposited into the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority Fund established under § 15.2-4838.01 as soon as practicable.

10 Cities Where Home Prices Will Rise in 2011

Is good news on the way for the Washington, DC Metro area? According to MSNBC we will see a 6.5% increase in property values.

While home prices are expected to continue to fall in most metro areas, Clear Capital’s Home Data Index report says a few cities are already on eh rebound and showing some gains in home values.

The following is a list of 10 cities that Clear Capital expects will rise in property value in 2011:
1. Washington, DC – 6.5 price increase
2. Houston – 3.6%
3. Honolulu – 3.4%
4. Memphis, TN – 3.2%
5. Coloumbus, OH – 2.1%
6. Dallas – 1.4%
7. New York – 1.3%
8. Birmingham, AL 0.9%
9. Pittsburg – .08%
10. New Orleans – 0.5%

To read the entire article go to: http://www.realtor.org/RMODaily.nsf/pages/News2011012801?OpenDocument
Source: MSNBC (Jan 26, 2011)