New real estate agents will find Virginia an appealing stew of urban and rural areas; corporate headquarters and mom and pop shops; and families who have owned land there forever and college grads sharing their first apartments during their “adulting” phase.
“I love the diversity of our state,” says Laura Lafayette, CEO of the Richmond Association of Realtors, who was born and reared in the city. In the Commonwealth—that’s what natives call the Commonwealth of Virginia— “you can have a condo in Northern Virginia, a horse farm in Albemarle, or a place on the beach or river.”
Are you thinking of starting your real estate career in Virginia, uh rather, the Commonwealth? Here are five things you should know.
1. Virginia is both “big city” and “small town”
The Commonwealth attempts to be all things, to all people. The northern tip of the state is a bridge-over-the-Potomac away from Washington, D.C., and attracts members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, federal workers, and contractors. Norfolk, in the southeast part of the state, claims the largest navy base in the world, Naval Station Norfolk. And the Shenandoah Valley, in the western part of the state, boasts breathtaking mountain vistas and Luray Caverns, the largest caverns in the eastern part of the United States.
Buyers in these different areas typically have different concerns, which a real estate agent should be able to predict and respond to. In Norfolk, for instance, buyers are particularly worried about noise problems created by young military personnel, Lafayette says. In the southwestern part of the state, buyers worry that a property once was used as a “meth house,” so an agent better know a property’s history, or at least know how a client can research it.
“We tell agents, ‘You need to be the source of the source,” Lafayette says. “You say, ‘Here are the websites to check.’ “
2. Know Virginia’s stats
Knowledge is power and a powerful lure for clients. So study up on Virginia real estate statistics and dive deep into the numbers that describe the town or county where you’ll work.
Here’s a start, thanks to Zillow. (Numbers include data through June 30 2017.)
- The median home value in Virginia is $245,500 (compared to $200,400 nationwide) and has risen 4.6 percent over the past year.
- The median listing price is $299,999.
- The number of Virginia homeowners with properties underwater on their mortgage is 0.1 percent.
- The average days a residential property stays on the market in Virginia is 67 days.
3. Virginians like connections
Contacts and referrals are a real estate agent’s stock-in-trade. The more people you know in Virginia, the wider your network will grow and the more clients you’ll get.
It’s easier to make a living where you’re known,” says Jo Alderman, a broker with the Giesen-Caldwell Agency who has sold real estate in Radford for the past 35 years.
Maybe you didn’t grow up in Virginia, but you may have attended college there, or have a slew of fraternity brothers who live there. It’s a start. Once you set up shop, join everything that connects you to people who own or want to own a home—a house of worship, Rotary International, Better Business Bureau, or even a dating site (if you’re single).
4. Your earning potential in Virginia
Even though the state is diverse, the real estate market is healthy throughout, according to the Virginia Association of Realtors. The state boasts a growing workforce and healthy international investment, which shore up its housing market.
That said, some areas of the state provide a better living for real estate agents than others. An agent in, say, suburban Alexandria typically earns $44,346 in annual base salary, compared to $36,867 in Lynchburg, a Blue Ridge Mountain town not far from where “The Waltons” television show was set.
5. Continuing education opportunities in Virginia
Passing real estate licensing exams is the first step. The more you learn about the profession and about Virginia, the better you’ll be at your job.
For instance, the definition of a “closed transaction” is not the same in all parts of Virginia. In some counties, “closed” means the property deed has been recorded at the courthouse, says Lafayette; in other places, “closed” means the paperwork has been done, the funds transferred, and the key handed over.
Details about inspections, appraisals, and financing are different throughout the state, too. “That’s not something you learn when you take your Principals of Real Estate class,” Lafayette says.
State and regional Realtor associations, and of course McKissock are great sources for continuing education through classes, guest speakers, publications, and networking events.
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