Real Estate Information

Virginia Beach Real Estate Blog

Judy Reed


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Many homeowners today face a serious housing dilemma. They love their home, its location, and even their neighbors. But they’ve outgrown the space. Do they trade up to a bigger or better house, thus entering a busy real estate market, or stay put and renovate?

Most homeowners have never sold and bought at the same time, nor have they lived through a renovation. Both experiences are incredibly stressful, and many people don’t know what to expect. Here are some tips for making an informed decision.

Know what you’re getting into

It’s helpful to know that it is cheaper to stay in your current home and renovate than it is to sell your home and buy a bigger one. And renovating isn’t as big a deal as one may think.

If you go into it with an open mind and full awareness, it’s not so bad. However, some people are just not cut out for living with dust, disruption, and a little bit of chaos.

Living through a renovation means a constant stress is hanging over you. If you can’t take that in your life, don’t fool yourself.

Check your finances

The most important thing you need to do is understand your home financial situation. Do you have equity in your home? If so, how much, and would you need those funds to either renovate or purchase the new home?

Is a home equity line of credit available to you? Using that money provides the mortgage tax benefit for the interest, which makes an equity line a no-brainer.

What would you need to spend on a new home in your desired location? Just like when you first got pre-approved to purchase the original home, you need to get pre-approved and run the numbers. You may find that the house you can get isn’t much bigger than where you are, or that you have to change areas to get more space.

Define your renovation requirements

What exactly is it that you need? An extra bedroom or bath, more family or community space, a larger kitchen or a master bath? Put it all out there and prioritize.

Can these changes be made within the envelope of your current home, or would you have to expand outside your walls? Renovating inside might mean that you need to leave the home for some time, while an expansion might allow you to stay in the home during the renovation.

Research zoning and building codes

Learn how building and zoning laws will affect your plan to renovate. Find out if expansion is even a possibility.

Many people think that finishing the basement is as easy as putting up some walls and carpet and moving the TV downstairs. But did you know that you likely need two forms of egress or certain height and insulation to make a finished basement meet code? A few hours of an architect’s time can help get you the information you need.

If you want to add on, make sure that your lot is big enough. Town zoning laws only allow a certain percentage of the lot to be covered. If you’re at your max, you’re out of luck.

Set-back laws might mean that you can only expand in the front or on one side of the property. You may find out immediately that what you want to do simply isn’t possible, and the decision is made for you.

Don’t over-do for the neighborhood

You need a master bathroom and family room or some extra square footage, but will the neighborhood support it? You don’t want to be the biggest or best house on the block when you go to sell. A big master suite or designer kitchen may be just what you want, but will future buyers pay for it?

Do some research, talk to a The Judy Reed Team and attend open houses in your neighborhood. If you don’t know, ask. But do not embark on a large renovation project if you can’t get your money back when it’s time to sell.

A different kind of stress if you move

Purchasing a new home and selling your existing one simultaneously means instant stress that is intense and compacted in a short period. The stress may come in the form of carrying two mortgages, getting a bridge loan or waiting for your home to get an offer.

Remember how you felt when you purchased your first home? Now double or even triple that.

Expect the expenses

When you sell your home, you need to pay the real estate commission and transfer tax on the sale, and you may be taxed on any gain. When you get a mortgage for the new home, expect more loan and title fees upfront.

While many closing costs and transfer fees are tax deductible, you don’t realize anything from these expenses. The $10,000 in fees might be better spent toward a new bathroom. Before you decide to explore this path, gather some information about costs.

Deciding whether to trade up or sell and buy is incredibly personal. The most obvious thing to do is to check your finances, and see what is out there on the purchase market. Learn what’s happening and understand how you would fare. And even if it’s intimidating, seriously consider renovating. It is incredibly rewarding to be able to make your home even more custom to you.

First-Time Home Buyer's Guide to Choosing a Neighborhood

by Judy Reed

When you’re ready to buy your first home, you’ll probably remember those three important words we always hear about real estate: location, location, location.

While the geographic location is important, it’s also the amenities around the location that make a house a home. Every buyer is different in what they desire, so you need to find a neighborhood with the location and amenities that fit your desires — and, just as importantly, your budget.


Location is one factor that will heavily influence the price of a property. You don’t want to shop in locations you can’t afford — even though it might be fun.

The first task in your home purchase process is getting pre-approved by a bank or mortgage lender so you understand the ballpark within which you will be playing ball. Inform your real estate agent about your price range so they can identify the locations where you can afford to purchase.

Neighborhood type

You also need to figure out what works for you when it comes to the type of location you like: urban, suburban, or rural. Many people live in and love high-density areas where retail, restaurants, gyms, and grocery stores are all within a few blocks’ walk. It’s nice to be able to walk to everything — but with that comes lots of cars, people and sometimes noisy neighbors.

Other home buyers prefer quieter suburban developments that are probably going to require driving for one’s commercial and entertainment needs.

Then there are rural folks who want full quiet and no nearby neighbors. Make sure before you shop that you are shopping in the right type of area for you.

School district

Schools also make a big difference for many buyers, and a buyer will certainly pay for the best school district. School quality is one of the top items on a parent’s mind when looking for property. You can search the Internet for school ratings and check with the city or county for more information.

Of course, if you don’t have children, it’s not as big a deal.

What’s next door — or could be

You should also always consider what is next door to the property you buy. Will you be living among lots of single-family houses, or big apartment buildings?

It’s also important to know if there are currently or once were gas stations or chemical plants nearby. Drive around and look, plus check Natural Hazard Reports to see what is or was in the area.

Additionally, be cautious about empty developable lots or empty retail/warehouse properties nearby, as you never know what might end up being built there.

It’s also smart to understand the zoning on your property, as it might let the single family home next door be torn down and developed into a 4-plex rental property. That might or might not be okay with you, but you should be aware if it’s a possibility.


One more important item to consider regarding location is your chances of owning the property a long time. If you are not sure you’ll  be happy staying a while, you’re better off passing on buying for the time being.

Considering all these issues — as opposed to making a quick purchase decision based on what your heart is telling you — should help you buy a home that is a good fit, will serve you well, and will be a good investment for your future.

Has The Real Estate Market Left You A Little Spooked?

by Judy Reed

Debating Between a Condo or a House...Which is right for you?

by Judy Reed


Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important decisions you’ll ever make. Whether you are a first-time buyer, or a veteran homeowner looking to trade up or make a new start, you will inevitably be faced with a number of questions. Your answers will lead you to the home that’s right for you.

One of the most fundamental questions all homeowners face is whether to buy a condo or single family house. There are advantages and disadvantages of each and only you can know what’s right for you.
For Boston newlyweds Michelle and Kevin Millsom, 31 and 36, it was an easy decision. With high-powered financial careers and no children, they were drawn to the excitement of the city and wanted their fingers on the pulse. They bought a penthouse apartment with a breathtaking view of Boston’s famous esplanade and Charles River.
“We enjoy everything the city has to offer—the restaurants, theatre, outdoor concerts. We walk everywhere and find the easy access to the airport to be a plus since we travel frequently for work,” said Kevin. “When we have children, we may think about a house in the suburbs, but for now this is where we want to be.”
Like all things, living in the heart of the city comes with tradeoffs. For the price of their two-bedroom/two-bath condo, they could buy a home three times the size, just a short 20-minute commute away. They share decision-making for their building with fourteen other tenants and pay pricey condo fees to cover the costs of insurance and upkeep. Their car sits idle most of the time in a $300 per month rented parking spot only to leave for short jaunts to the grocery store or visits to see family. But for Kevin and Michelle who want to spend their spare time out and about, the location and convenience can’t be beat.
On the other hand, Adriana Forte, 62, lives in a condo in the Boston suburb of Arlington and misses all that a single-family home has to offer. Six years ago, after her divorce, she bought a “condex,” (a two-family home with a shared wall) with the belief that managing a home would be too much for her alone. But it turned out to be the wrong decision for her. Now, she is desperately seeking a single-family house to call her own.
“It’s difficult to live with neighbors so close,” Forte said. “First there was the noise. My neighbors are night people, and every night they are just getting geared up when I’m trying to sleep. Then I found myself handling 100 percent of the finances and maintenance of the duplex—without compensation. I may as well be living in my own house!” Forte also misses the fresh air and private outdoor space. For her, maintaining a home and garden is pure enjoyment. The privacy is what she misses most.
What is most important to you? Give consideration to the following:
  • Location – Where do you want to be? Are there options for both condos and single-family houses in this area?
  • Privacy – Is it important to you to have complete privacy or do you find close neighbors to be a comfort?
  • Responsibility – Do you need total control over decisions affecting your home or are you attracted to the idea of sharing decision-making with your neighbors?
  • Maintenance – Are you a homebody who enjoys getting dirty in the yard or are you delighted with the idea of never having to cut a blade of grass again?
  • Budget – How much do you have to spend? Depending on where you want to live, a condo may be the only option that meets your budget.
These considerations and others will help you determine the best choice for you now. And just remember, if your interests and priorities change in the years ahead, you can always sell your home and make a move, this time with experience as your guide.

4 Steps to Take Now for a Faster Home Sale Next Year

by Judy Reed

A home sale typically comes as a result of a life change or a major decision. These decisions don’t usually happen overnight, providing homeowners with years to plan for a successful home sale. By using your time wisely, you will maximize your home’s value when you want to list and sell.

On your way to this point, you should be open to spending money in preparation. Investing in strategic home improvements will help facilitate a quicker and more profitable sale.

Selling a home is a large financial and emotional transaction — likely the largest in a lifetime. This makes strategic planning and counsel vital. Here are some steps you should take a year or more before you plan to list your home.

Connect with a local real estate agent

Real estate agents shouldn’t just show up, list a home, hold an open house and move on. Instead, they should be valuable assets to you years before listing. Connecting with a local agent and developing a relationship well in advance allows you to start learning the market and transitioning from the mindset of a homeowner to that of a seller.

A good agent will provide helpful information, advice and assistance on an ongoing basis, in hopes of working with you on the eventual sale. Work with an agent who can connect you to local resources like inspectors, painters and other service providers.

An agent can also assess your home’s condition and suggest small to medium-sized improvements that will help boost your home’s value. Prioritize these projects for the months or years leading up to the sale.

Have a formal property inspection

For a few hundred dollars, you can have a licensed property inspector assess the home’s major systems and components. You can take this step up to two years before you will list your home.

Why would you want to have someone come and point out your home’s flaws before selling? Because it’s better to know about any issues upfront so you can address them before your potential buyer discovers them.

Additionally, you can put a financial plan in place to pay for any needed fixes. Dry rot on your back deck could cost $500 to remedy now, but you’d be better off handling it now than having a buyer see it as a major decking/structural issue and request $5,000 when you are weeks away from closing and your back’s against the wall.

Make improvements

A year before you will list, spend the extra time and money ensuring that your home both appeals to mainstream buyers and passes a potential buyer’s property inspection.

If your agent suggests cosmetic fixes like laying new carpet, painting cabinets or cleaning the yellow grout in the bathroom, put a plan in place to tackle each of the projects. Waiting to the last minute will be too stressful, plus you won’t get the enjoyment out of the cosmetic fixes.

If you know your roof is at the end of its life, it might be more economical to replace it so that you can advertise a new roof. Today’s buyers want homes that are move-in ready. They don’t have the time or resources to take on projects. The more issues you can resolve for them, the more successful your sale.

Get a home warranty

A home warranty is like a one-year insurance policy that addresses your major (and minor) appliances and most systems. If something breaks, you can call the home warranty company, not the appliance repair technician or plumber. For a small co-pay, they will come out and repair or replace the item swiftly.

If your home has some issues, a home warranty is a great way to address them without having to spend weeks or months shopping around, getting bids for work and seeing through each repair. A warranty works well when you list the home and are too busy to call around getting bids.

Moving is tough, in and of itself. Add prepping a home for sale and your move becomes more emotional and stressful. Planning ahead can help you address issues in advance.

Don’t wait until the last minute, or you risk leaving money on the table. Meet with an agent early on and put a timeline in place to get the most of your home’s sale — fast.

5 Credit Habits to Break in 2015

by Judy Reed

Ready to win your financial resolutions? Find out how to succeed in 2015.

If you’re identifying 2015 — or even 2016 — as the year you make a major housing change, you’ll want to confirm that your credit behaviors are at their best. Buying a house is probably the biggest expense most of us ever take on in life. Your credit plays an important role in affording you access to the best terms available from your lender.

If credit is on your list of things to improve next year, there are many options to tune up the ways you think about and interact with your credit. Knowing the smart solutions to improve your credit habits can take you far in the new year — especially with a big purchase ahead.

1. Being disconnected 

Habit to break: Not checking your credit report

Resolution to make: Check your credit report regularly to know where your credit stands, and to make sure you’re prepared when it comes time to buy a home. Consider your credit report the road map to all your credit behaviors: It’s important to know how your report will look to lenders and others when they see it for the first time.

2. Overspending

Habit to break: Running up or maxing out your credit cards

Resolution to make: To show others you’re using credit responsibly, keep your spending under control and in accordance with the budget you’ve set. Keeping tabs on your spending now will also help you benchmark how changes to your budgeting will affect how you spend after your home purchase.

3. Managing balances

Habit to break: Just paying the minimum balances due on your accounts

Resolution to make: Bring down the balances you’re carrying by upping your payment amounts above the minimum — this can also save you interest over the long term. You’ll want to keep that extra money in your pocket (and hopefully earning some interest) while you look for that dream property.

4. Seeking too much 

Habit to break: Applying for credit indiscriminately

Resolution to make: Seek out and accept new credit sparingly, so your credit-utilization rate won’t be seen as too high when applying for credit during your home-buying process. Lenders can be wary of applicants they feel might be trying to amass excessive credit and overspend.

5. Getting behind 

Habit to break: Making late payments on your accounts

Resolution to make: Stay on top of your accounts to keep all your payments on time, every month — it’s even more important in the months you’re considering a big purchase like a home. It may be the most basic but most important way to show you’re consistently being responsible with your credit obligations.

Challenging yourself by making it your New Year’s resolution allows you to take advantage of the months before your new home search begins to kick bad credit habits to the curb for good. You’ll want the peace of mind of knowing that when you discover that perfect listing, your credit is already in tiptop shape.


How Does the Color of Your Home Affect Buyers?

by Judy Reed


It’s no secret that color is crucial when marketing a product. In fact, consumers come to a subconscious conclusion about a product within 90 seconds of viewing, and much of that judgment (62-90 percent) is based solely on color, according to the Institute for Color Research. Retailers apply these findings every day (think red sale signs) to encourage consumers to purchase their products. Can the same be said in real estate?

Consider this: If color influences product marketing strategies, the color of a home can be a decisive factor when selling.

“Your home’s exterior color is literally the first thing a buyer will see and comment on,” says Suzanne Otto, home stager and owner of Six Twenty Designs in Montgomery County, Pa. When preparing a home for the market, Otto recommends shades within the white, tan or gray color families. These colors resonate beyond pure aesthetics – according to e-commerce giant eBay, white indicates safety. For a homebuyer, a home with a white exterior can translate to concepts like “shelter” or “safe haven.”

Similarly, understated browns (including the aforementioned tan) signal security. Homes painted in sandy or mushroom hues read comfort and warmth. Colors like taupe, which falls somewhere between brown and gray, call to mind traditional values, homeownership included. Earthy tones like laurel green or artichoke can not only highlight a verdant landscape, but also evoke a sense of tranquility.

Per eBay’s assessment, blue is ideal to move product because it transcends culture. Homes outfitted with a dusty blue or blue-gray exterior may not bridge the gap between your everyday seller and an international homebuyer, but a universally regarded color can help widen the net for buyers on the home front.

If red signs boost retail sales, it seems likely a red home would be ideal for a speedy sale. Not necessarily – red in small doses, such as sale stickers or tags, encourages action. Red on a grander scale can cause adverse reactions. An alizarin crimson door, for instance, might be well-received by buyers, but a house in the same shade could potentially limit offers.

Homes in other colors can sell successfully – our retinas tend to register yellow before any other color, so a buttery yellow exterior could be an attractive option for buyers – but non-traditional colors, like oranges and purples, appeal to very specific personalities and can significantly shrink the pool of interested buyers.

It’s important for sellers to consider the home in relation to the neighborhood before swapping out the exterior color or refreshing an existing paint job. Do nearby homes share a distinct color scheme? Is each home uniquely colored? Evaluating the home’s surroundings can help sellers determine what’s most popular in their market.


Should I Buy a Home Now?

by Judy Reed

I'm often asked if this is a good time to buy a home. Some clients are concerned that home prices may fall further than they have already. They are assuming that the best course of action is to wait for the bottom in the market and then buy. The problem with this approach is that you don't know where the bottom is until you see it in the rear view mirror, meaning until you've missed it!

Home prices are one factor in determining your cost of ownership, but so are interest rates and financing availability. Even though interest rates have gone up in the last six months, they are still near historic lows. Since your monthly mortgage payment is a combination of paying down your principal and paying the interest owed, if home prices come down a little further but interest rates go up, it could cost you even more to service a mortgage on an identical home!

While a home is a major investment, it is also the center of your personal life. It's important to live in a home that reflects your taste and values, yet is within your financial "comfort zone." To that end, it may be more important to lock in today's relatively low interest rates and low home prices, rather than to hope for a further break in prices in the future.

Please give me a call if I can be of any assistance in determining how much home you can afford in today's market.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Foreclosed Home

by Judy Reed

Five years ago, a home buyer could spot a bank foreclosed home a mile away. They were abandoned structures, stripped of all appliances and fixtures, with unkempt landscaping and falling down “For Sale” signs.

Today, banks often renovate their REOs (also known as bank real estate owned) before listing in hopes of selling to end users, not contractors or investors who will capitalize off the bank’s loss.

Banks know the market has improved, and they aren’t as desperate as they used to be. They want to minimize their loss on each sale — not simply sell as quickly as possible. This creates some potential risks and rewards for home buyers considering purchasing a foreclosed home.

To help you make a smart decision, here are some pros and cons for buying a foreclosed home in today’s market.

PRO: They are still cheaper

Today, bank foreclosed homes are typically about five percent below a comparable house in the same location that is not a foreclosure. In previous markets, they were often in horrible condition and about 15 to 20 percent below market.

While many new buyers set out in search of the deal that comes with these sales, many REOs should be left to more experienced home buyers.

CON: Foreclosed homes can be very risky

Even though they are priced higher today, REOs still come with baggage. Many banks will invest money to make the listings look nice and get the prices up. In return, they are less flexible on price and less eager to sell in general.

Behind the scenes, these are still risky sales. You don’t know about the history, and there are no disclosures about leaky roofs, mold or crime. And you are forced to buy the home “as is,” without any recourse if things go wrong.

Investors were once fine with this risk, but they are less interested today because the “deals” are gone.

CON: Many are not in prime locations

Many of today’s foreclosed homes are in less desirable parts of towns or school districts. If you see an REO and the price looks good, remember that it may not be the foreclosure that makes it such a great bargain. It could be location, and you don’t want to get stuck unloading a home in a bad location in a few years. Foreclosed homes in good locations will sell quickly.

CON: Banks aren’t people

Consider that you are negotiating with a spreadsheet. Unlike a typical seller who may care about your situation, your personal background or market history, banks don’t. Your offer is likely submitted electronically and placed into a cell on a spreadsheet for an asset manager to consider. If the numbers don’t work, expect a big rejection. Never get your hopes up.

Buyers today can’t assume that a bank-foreclosed home is a good deal. While you can still find a needle in the haystack, they are fewer and farther between.

Banks want top dollar out of their foreclosure inventory. They are sellers just like anyone else. They watch the market and read the headlines. Foreclosed homes will be priced slightly lower than the market, but they are still as-is, take it or leave it with some risk associated.  


4 Ways to Tell How Fast Your Home Will Sell

by Judy Reed

for sale

It’s not just location, location, location — although location is certainly important. Lots of other factors make one house hot and another one not.

Here are data-driven pointers from Zillow Research that help identify which homes are likely to fly off the market (in 60 days or less):

  • Keep calm and price it right. The housing market is improving, but take care not to overheat your listing price. Homes priced more than 12 percent above their Zestimate® home values are almost half as likely to sell in 60 days as those priced closer to their estimated values. The sweet spot is between the Zestimate and six percent above it — a range where homes sell about as quickly as those priced below their Zestimates.
  • Take a picture, but not too many. The optimal number of listing photos is 16 to 21, but it’s better to have too many than too few. Having fewer than nine photos lowers your chances of selling in 60 days by two percentage points.
  • Size matters. As a rule, smaller homes (under 1,100 square feet nationally) sell the fastest — about nine percentage points faster than the largest homes in a 60-day window — but that doesn’t hold true for all markets. In San Francisco and Indianapolis, for example, small homes take the longest to sell.
  • Get the word out. Page views on Zillow are a strong indicator of how quickly a home will sell. Listings with 280 or more page views in the first week were three times as likely to sell in 60 days as those with fewer than 100 views. That’s powerful incentive to make sure your agent spreads the word early by posting your listing online.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 18