Real Estate Blog by Windy Crutchfield, REALTOR®

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...

Sea Breeze Score

Anyone who has searched for property online in the last five years has been exposed to the term "Walk Score."  A walk score provides an idea of how close restaurants, schools, parks, etc are for the potential buyer.  A low Walk Score would indicate a more car-dependent lifestyle.  Being a resident and agent in the Bayfront Communities of Virginia Beach, I have found that a "Sea Breeze Score" is a valuable tool for those who are interested in living in a beach community.  As you will see on my listings, a Sea Breeze Score will be determined by the opinion of "resident experts" in the community. 

Sea Breeze Score definitions:



Beach-lovers Paradise
Are you on vacation or at home?  Unobscured sunrise and sunset views.


Salt in the Air
The sounds of the surf lull you to sleep at night and beckon you to start each day.


Paradise in Reach
An easy stroll with a Roll-Eze or a golf cart will easily get you and your beach toys for a day or just an hour of beach-time.


Getting to the beach is a bike or street-legal golf cart ride away.  Enjoy socializing with friends and neighbors along the way.


The Split Personalities of Split Level Homes

As a Realtor, I've enjoyed witnessing the modernization of the split-level home.  Once known as "Cadillac splits," this home design lost popularity in the 80's & 90's, as buyer trends moved toward a separation of family activities and the McMansion was born. After the Millennium, "open concept" became the style du jour.  One draw-back to that style was lack of separation and sound levels in homes rose in these areas as well. Teens retreated to their bedrooms (which had also grown in size) and the "man-cave" was prevalent. As family values and needs have changed, the split-level home is getting it's second chance at being the darling of the American family. Homeowners, today's Millennial and Sandwich Generation buyers, and designers with vision are learning how limitless this floor plan is in providing comfort, convenience AND style to today's family home.   

Growing up in a split-level home in Virginia Beach, I enjoyed the many benefits of this unique home design. Originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, they gained popularity in the 60's. As Carol and Mike Brady moved their 6 children into a split-level in 1969, the style became known for it's family-centric virtues. The principle design features staggered floor levels, with the main living space (kitchen, living, and dining area) between the upper bedroom floor and a lower/garage level. The lower level usually contains the laundry room and access to a crawl or basement area.  In our home, that basement area attached to the inside of our house made for our "safe room" during major storm events. Many of the homes enjoy the utility of a proper foyer. Cathedral ceilings on the main living floor provide a more spacious feeling while still maintaining a relatively compact area.  For some this translates to more economic benefits in purchase price, for others it means less space to clean!  The configuration of the living room, dining...

How to Choose the Right Lender

An insider's perspective provided by Mike Miller of Monarch Mortgage.

Last week I saw a restaurant review on a local blog that touted “The New York Times says  . . .” and I thought, wait a minute, the Times didn’t “say” anything, somebody that works for the Times did!  One person, one opinion, not the entire staff and their collective opinion, but one individual.  Invoking the mighty Times just because the reviewer works for the NY Times, transfers the credibility and credentials of the institution to the individual and turns an individual opinion into a powerful endorsement.

The mortgage lending business is hyper-competitive and mortgage originators come in all forms of education, training, experience and affiliation. With 25 years in the trenches, an undergraduate finance degree from a reputable university, countless hours of training and continuous education, and the trust and goodwill I have built with the many sources that refer their clients to me, you would think my capture rate would be bullet proof.  Not even close! I have lost business to mortgage people with less experience, less training and less education, simply because they work for lenders with household names.  A prospective client will tell me that they have “talked to” Wells Fargo or NFCU or TowneBank or whoever, and they have adamant and unwavering faith in the information they received.

When I hear “Wells Fargo told me” or “Chase told me” or “(lender name here) told me,” I recognize that I am competing with the institution and not the rep or employee of the institution that the borrower actually spoke with.  I am thrust into a mortgage contest with the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz with the booming voice and the pyrotechnics, not the little man behind the curtain.  And it is the little man behind the curtain that is quoting terms and offering up the advantages of working...

Displaying Your Photos

What's a better idea on Valentines Day than surrounding yourself with pictures of what you love? Having photos of your favorite travel destinations, your best pet, your kids artwork, or your beloved family on your walls are hands-down the most attractive things in a person's home, in my opinion. I confess, however, that I have a habit of buying frames, printing photos, and never putting the two together on a wall. I question their placement, their grouping, the color of the frames. And then I put them back in the closet. I asked for the help of photographer, Tracey Sanders of Tracey Sanders Photography and she provided me with a helpful booklet on how to group a variety of sizes of photos (available at your request).  In addition, I've noticed that Color photos in a grouping look nice with the same color of frame as the grouping. Black and White photos can use a variety of different frames while still looking cohesive.  If you are considering a project this Valentines Day week, I wanted to share some ideas that I have seen while showing homes and visiting friends:

  • Whimsical photos displayed on walls alongside a window seat.
  • Several oversized canvas photos in a dramatic grouping.
  • Photos of a favorite tree as it passes through the seasons.
  • A picture of a child at a special landmark, over the years.
  • A mirror in the center showing your viewer in the middle of your collage.
  • Black & White photos in a grouping using a bright color frame, like yellow or aqua with a few decorative pieces of that same color.
  • B&W photos in a grouping against a brightly colored accent wall.
  • A wood panel door turned horizontally and pictures fitted into the recessed panels (I saw this done with a decorative ceiling tile too).

If you've done a grouping that you are particularly proud of, please share and inspire me to get the photos out of the closet! And if you'd like a copy of Tracey's layout...

Painted Brick

When showing a couple of painted brick ranches this weekend, my clients asked if there was a benefit to painting brick beyond aesthetic.  I replied that some people have strong feelings of opposition to painted brick.  Buyers can be concerned that evidence of settlement or foundation issues can be hidden, however foundation issues can usually be observed in other ways. What I see as more of a concern is that if brick isn't properly painted, it will generally need to be repainted every 3-5 years, according to the Brick Industry Association. So a product that was essentially zero upkeep or expense has been changed to an item of regular maintenance and cost.  Further, after it has been painted over a number of times, it can look gloppy. A better choice if you absolutely have to change the look of the natural brick, is to stain it or use a lime wash. Stain absorbs into the brick surface better and therefore lasts longer. If considering painting brick to improve your curb appeal, consider that a future buyer might shy away from the unknown potential for future expense.  Plan the job carefully, have the job done professionally, and keep that information to earn the confidence of future buyers!


Open House Poll

To show my sellers where advertising for open houses is most effective, I have produced this poll. Anyone attending my open house tomorrow will be provided with the multiple choice code to text their response. That information will be graphed and provided to my seller.  If you intend to come out tomorrow, during National Open House weekend, please make your selection either here or via text.

Thanks for your feedback!



New Website

I was at the grocery store this morning. In the past couple of weeks, the store has been undergoing some remodeling.  Items are not where I'm accustomed to them being, some aisles are so narrow only one cart can fit, and the staff is busy reshelving and reorganizing.  Despite the temporary inconvenience, I know the end result is going to be fantastic. This store has consistently proven to me their commitment to their customers. And upon check-out, I was again greeted with a service-oriented cashier and a friendly and effective bagger.  I left as pleased as always and excited for the better things to come.

And as I sit down this evening to start adding pages back to my website, I believe that my clients and customers will feel the same.  You see, a few months ago, I changed real estate firms.  The principle reason that I came to The Real Estate Group was that I recognized their deliberate dedication to pursuing the best technology to assist their agents in serving their clients. A tangible example of that was their highly functioning website, which surpassed any site that I have seen in the industry.  And promptly after committing to obtain the site, it underwent some changes to make it even better, including a mobile application.  The finished product was downloaded to WindysHomeSite on Thursday evening, replacing the site that I had designed and managed for years.  That original site was rich in content used by my clients and customers for reference and information.  And although I have the basic needs online and "open for business," I cringe that my visitors don't have that information on my site right now.  In the next month, I will be adding that content back to the "shelves" of my new site. And, like my local grocery store, I trust the visitors to the site will be excited to use the finished product.  During...