Real Estate Information Archive


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 13

RE/MAX #1 Real Estate Franchise


RE/MAX is the United State’s # 1 real estate franchise and the nation’s # 44 franchise overall - according to Entrepreneur magazine’s 30th Annual Franchise 500 survey.

The survey appears on the magazine’s Web site and in its January 2009 issue.

Subway bested McDonald’s to capture the top position overall. Behind # 2 McDonald’s came Liberty Tax Service at # 3.

Among real estate franchises, RE/MAX ranks No. 1 for the ninth time in the past nine years. The closest competitor - Keller Williams - came in at a distant # 71.

RE/MAX ranks # 10 overall in the Low-Cost Franchises category. It finished # 1 last year.

Additionally, RE/MAX tops all real estate competitors at # 38 on the Global Franchises list.

RE/MAX has a long, successful history in the survey. It ranked # 10 overall a year ago, # 11 in 2007, # 8 in 2006, and # 10 in 2005.

All companies in the rankings are judged by the same criteria, the most important being financial strength and stability, size and growth rate. Also considered: number of years in business, length of time franchising, start-up costs, litigation, percentage of terminations and financing options.

The factors are plugged into a Franchise 500 formula, with each eligible company receiving a cumulative score.

Should I Refinance My Home?


There are a lot of Hampton Roads homeowners who are considering whether or not they should be refinancing their home.  If you would like a recommendation on who to refinance your mortgage with, please send me an e-mail at  If you fall into these categories, you should give it serious consideration.

Anyone with high adjustable-rate loans. Folks in this group should try to get into a low fixed rate if they can. Not only will they lower their payments immediately but it would also eliminate the possibility of future increases.

Those who would lower their rate by a percentage point or more. Borrowers who already have a reasonable fixed rate shouldn't jump into a new loan every time rates inch down, according to Orawin Velz, an economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association.

"You should have at least a percentage point difference before you even think about it," Velz said. "If you have a 6.5% loan right now, it would be a great time to refi."

Waiting for a substantial rate decrease makes sense because getting a new mortgage incurs some expenses. There are the costs of a new appraisal and origination and application fees. Plus, a title search and title insurance are usually required.

All those costs, which can add up to $2,000 or $3,000 or more for a typical $200,000 loan, are often rolled back into the mortgage, increasing the principal upon which the interest rates are applied. If that goes up so much that it offsets the interest rate drop, it doesn't make sense to refi.

Those who are planning to stay in their homes for a while. The increased balances usually take a year or two to be wiped out by lower monthly payments, so anyone planning to sell the home during the next few years probably should not refinance, unless the difference in interest rates is very substantial.

The actual rate borrowers get depends, just as with purchase mortgages, on credit scores, income and assets and the value of the home.

"If you have a high credit score and your equity is good, it's like a vanilla cream puff," said Velz. "You're going to get a great rate."

Borrowers with significant equity in their homes. Many homeowners have had much of their home values erased in the post-bubble bust, eliminating much or all of their home equity - the difference between the value of the home and the amount owed on the mortgage.

If a refi borrower's home equity has fallen below 20% of the total appraised home value, the borrower will likely have to purchase private mortgage insurance. The insurance adds a point or two to the monthly mortgage costs, which turns a 5% loan into a 6% or 7% loan, erasing any advantage of refinancing.

"That's the biggest hurdle for refinancing right now," said Velz.

Borrowers who don't think rates will decline much further. Everyone considering refis has to decide whether to wait for interest rates to go even lower, which the Mortgage Bankers Association has been forecasting.

That's only a prediction, though, not a certainty. Rates could turn higher instead.

Borrowers must weigh the advantages of gambling on rates turning around or locking in savings at the present very low rates.

Source: CNN

Mortgage Rate Hits 37-Year Low


The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate home mortgage in the U.S. fell to a national average of 5.17% this week, the lowest since Freddie Mac began its weekly rate survey in 1971.

With the Federal Reserve cutting its interest rates to near 0% and a continued decline in rates on the long-term Treasury notes that mortgages closely track, rates on other types of mortgages dropped again, though not as much as the 30-year.

"Interest rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates fell for the seventh consecutive week, moving these rates to the lowest since the survey began in April 1971," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac chief economist. "The decline was supported by the Federal Reserve announcement on Dec. 16, when it cut the federal-funds target to a record low and stated it stood ready to expand its purchases of mortgage-related assets as conditions warrant."

The 30-year mortgage fell for a seventh consecutive week, from 5.47% a week ago. A year ago the 30-year averaged 6.14%.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.92%, down from last week when it averaged 5.20%. A year ago the 15-year loan averaged 5.79%. The 15-year mortgage hasn't been lower since April 1, 2004, when it averaged 4.84%.

Five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 5.60%, down from last week when it averaged 5.82%. A year ago, the five-year ARM averaged 5.90%.

One-year Treasury-indexed ARMs averaged 4.94% this week, down from last week when it averaged 5.09%. At this time last year, the one-year ARM averaged 5.51%.

The sharp decline in rates has spurred a flood of mortgage refinance applications, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday.


Source: WSJ Online

Time To Buy A Home Is Now!


Interest rates are in the 4.5% - 5% range on fixed rate 15-year and 30-year mortgages. Financing is available with little or no money down. Inventory is high with builders and sellers are willing to negotiate. Is it a good time to buy? I think so!

Worried about appreciation? You should not be as long as you’re looking at your home purchase as a long term investment (not to mention the warm shelter it brings from the elements and tax breaks too). Appreciation in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia has consistently out-gained the national average. Time to get off the fence!

House Price Appreciation by State

Five Year Appreciation
Virginia: 50%
Maryland: 57%
DC: 64%
US: 29%

Since 1980
Virginia: 353%
Maryland: 403%
DC: 522%
US: 269%

Percent Change in House Prices Period Ended September 30, 2008
source: Federal Financing Finance Agency

4 Myths And 33 Facts About Real Estate Today


Mainstream Media Myth: Everybody is losing their house.

1. The US average foreclosure rate is 2.47%.
2. All of our markets (VA, MD, DC) have a foreclosure rate of less than two percent.
3. Foreclosure rates are moderate. Virginia ranks about 24th in foreclosure rates nationwide.
4. Only 7% of home loans in Virginia are sub-prime. Over half of Virginia foreclosures are on sub-prime loans.

Mainstream Media Myth: Everybody has a house to sell.

5. New home inventory topped out during the second quarter of 2006 and is thirty percent less today than it was then.
6. The National Association of Realtors Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in June, rose 7.4 percent in August to 93.4 from an upwardly revised index of 87.0 in July. The August reading was 8.8 percent higher than a year earlier, and the highest level since 101.4 in June 2007. Economists polled by Reuters ahead of the report were expecting pending home sales to drop by 1.8 percent.
7. Nationally, home sales were up 3.1 percent in August over July. Single family prices were up 1.1 percent in June from May.
8. Virginia second quarter (08) sales were up 48% over the first quarter (08).
9. Virginia median home prices were up six percent in the second quarter (08).
10. Single family inventory fell in Washington DC about 7.5% from April 08 to August 08.
11. Single family inventory fell in Montgomery County, MD about 7.5% from April 08 to August 08.
12. Sales are up and prices are down in many of our markets:
2nd Qtr 08 vs 2nd Qtr 07
MLS Area Average Price Sales Pending Sales
Dulles -18% + 7% + 37%
NVAR -14% -7% + 10%
Prince William -34% + 72% + 129%
Richmond Metro -2% -23% -26%
Roanoke Valley 0 % -22% N/A
Hampton Roads -2% -21% -15%

Mainstream Media Myth: The sky is falling with no end in sight.

13. The DC metro area added 35,000+ jobs from July 2007 to July 2008. This ranked fourth out of the fifteen largest metro areas. Nine areas had job loss or little noticeable gain.
14. The DC metro area has the lowest unemployment rate out of the fifteen largest metro areas and about two percentage points less than the national average.
15. Virginia is expected to add 19,000 jobs in 2008.
16. The average price of a home in Maryland has grown 9.3% since 1999.
17. People who purchased homes six years ago have, on average, seen the value of their homes rise over 24 percent, despite recent price declines.

Mainstream Media Myth: Now is a terrible time to buy.

18. On Tuesday, September 30, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine called it a good time to buy a home in Virginia.
19. The average price of a home in Maryland has grown 9.3% since 1999.
20. The average renter’s net worth: $4,800. The average homeowner’s net worth: $171,000
21. In a recent survey, 8 out of 10 economists stated they believed housing prices would be higher five years from now.
22. An overwhelming majority of economists surveyed - by a better than 5-to-1 ratio - agreed with the statement, “A person can increase their long-term wealth by purchasing a house rather than renting.”
23. Over the past 30 years, home values have risen more than 6 percent annually.
24. People who purchased homes six years ago have, on average, seen the value of their homes rise over 24 percent, despite recent price declines.
25. On average, the value of a home doubles nearly every ten years.
26. 60 percent of the average homeowner’s wealth comes from their home’s equity.
27. Homeowners benefit from the power of leverage. At an annual appreciation rate of 5 percent, a 10 percent down payment on a home will return 94 percent after three years. After five years, it increases to 225 percent. After ten, 623 percent.


28. Unlike many US businesses, Allegiance is not dependent on lines of credit.
29. Make no mistake: Allegiance is here for the long term.Division President Brian Sivak said it well the other day: “We became RE/MAX Allegiance to weather storms like this. Continue to use the Allegiance umbrella to stay out of the elements and together we will make it to clearer skies!”


30. The median selling price of a single family FSBO in Virginia was $249,500 compared with $313,400 for REALTOR assisted home sales. Is 26% more for a seller’s home worth paying a commission for? I’d like to think so.
31. Virginia’s population is expected to grow by 500,000 by 2010.
32. RE/MAX Associates averaged 39 percent more transactions than our nearest national competitor.
33. Keller Williams Associates averaged $1.1 million in sales in 2007. Long and Foster averaged $2.1 million. Allegiance Associates averaged $3.5 million.

Source: Charlie Bengel, Jr., CEO of RE/MAX Allegiance

Virginia Foreclosure Prevention Task Force

by Jorge Gonzalez, ABR, CRS, GRI

The Commonwealth of Virginia has created an informative website to help homeowners who are facing the possibility of foreclosure and to help them be more proactive in preventing foreclosure.   You can find out more about preventing foreclosure at this website:

From my own past experience with homeowners in this situation is that they are embarrassed and most wait too long to do anything about it. One resource that should be helpful on this website is the list of major mortgage companies and the proper phone numbers to call for assistance.  In many cases, the problem when an owner calls is they never speak to the correct department. 

If you wish to discuss your options or a possible short sale to prevent a foreclosure, please feel free to contact me by e-mail at or at 757-287-3400.  Please note their is no reason to be embarrassed about your situation, it is becoming more common than ever before. 


Fed Commits To Lowering Mortgage Rates

by Jorge Gonzalez, ABR, CRS, GRI

The Federal Reserve announced they were establishing a target range for the federal funds rate to 0% to 1/4% and committed to driving down mortgage rates with the following statement that was released:

...over the next few quarters the Federal Reserve will purchase large quantities of agency debt and mortgage-backed securities to provide support to the mortgage and housing markets, and it stands ready to expand its purchases of agency debt and mortgage-backed securities as conditions warrant.

This is significant to home buyers and home owners who wish to refinance in the coming months.  We we likely see mortgage rates to continue to fall as new money is pumped into the system.  The reality is with rates dropping further from today's levels, it will be more cost effective to own than to rent and home buyers will be able take advantage of the mortgage interest tax deduction.  First time home buyers get a triple benefit since they also get to take the $7,500 tax credit when they buy a home. 

Holiday Season Reminder: Buy Cheap HDMI Cables


With people buying LCD TVs, XBox, PS3, Blu-Ray players, etc, over the holidays, your favorite electronics retailer will be happy to sell you overpriced HDMI cables to connect your new gear.  The best prices I have found are on the  I have bought HDMI and other electronic and computer related cables from Monoprice several times in the past and have been very satisfied.  They are a great compnay with quick shipping. 


The following is an article that appeared on CNET recently and is worth reading:

In the bustle of holiday shopping, it's easy to be persuaded by the salesperson at your local retailer that you need to buy a $50 HDMI cable to make your new gear work. They might say the expensive cable "supports faster speeds," "has better video quality," or that "cheap cables don't support 1080p"--pretty much anything to get you to throw that high-margin HDMI cable in your shopping cart. But the truth is that expensive HDMI cables aren't worth it and the cheap cables available online are just as good. In fact, our guide to HDMI cables says this in bold, at the top of the page:

CNET strongly recommends cheap HDMI cables widely available from online retailers instead of the expensive counterparts sold in your local electronics store.

The full guide explains all the reasons in detail, but the main takeaway is that you should never pay more than $10 for a standard 6-foot HDMI cable. Cheap HDMI cables can be found all over the Web--we've had good experiences with both Monoprice and Amazon. Then you can take the money you saved and get some gear that's actually worth it--check out CNET's Holiday Gift Guide for suggestions.

Read CNET's Quick Guide to HDMI cables.

Real estate brokerage Realogy sought to skirt defaults on some of its bonds by launching a debt exchange but Carl Icahn’s venture-capital firm, High River, threw a wrench in its plans by slapping Realogy with a lawsuit and accusing it of delaying the inevitable.

High River, which owns some of Realogy’s senior bonds, alleges the repayment of its securities would be unfairly delayed under the debt deal announced last month since it may give new debtholders certain benefits such as moving them up on the repayment list if Realogy goes bankrupt.

Realogy, which owns brokerages Century 21, ERA and Coldwell Banker, planned to exchange $1.1 billion worth of bonds for new securities of roughly half of their value under the offering. The company is owned by Leon Black’s private-equity firm, Apollo Management, which acquired the sucessor company to Cendant for $9.0 billion two years ago.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission dated Tewsday, the real estate company said as of the close of business on Nov. 26, it had received $237.1 million total aggregate principal amount of commitments for the second-lien incremental term loans, which will be due in 2014 and 2015. If no other commitments are received, the company’s outstanding debt would be reduced to $286.0 million, upon fulfilling the invitations, the filing said.

The filing also mentions the litigation brought by High River, which alleged the new loans breach terms of Realogy’s senior toggle notes contract.

“The company believes that the allegations contained in the complaint are without merit and intends to vigorously defend this action,” Realogy said in the filing, adding that it believes the incurrence of the new loans are allowed under the senior toggle note contract and credit agreements.

Interestingly, the filing says that Bank of New York Mellon, the trustee charged with monitoring the notes, last month told Realogy that it did not think the offer complies with the terms of the securities. It wasn’t clear if the objection was the same one that Icahn made, and the filing did not say if Realogy replied or if it disagreed.

Icahn, who considers his fellow billionaire Black a friend, downplayed personal aspects of the lawsuit during a television interview. The activist investor said that given current market conditions, bankruptcies are unavoidable and that companies aren’t helping anyone by prolonging the inevitable.


Source: Forbes


What Is That Alphabet Soup After Your Name?

by Jorge Gonzalez, ABR, CRS, GRI

Most people are familiar professional designations like CPA and MD after names of Accountants and Doctors, but real estate professionals have many opportunities to earn designations too. Most depend on whether they are in Brokerage Management, Property Management, Appraisals, and Real Estate Sales.

The letters ABR, CRS, GRI after my name are professional desiginations I have earned over the course of my career. 

ABR - Accredited Buyer’s Representative Designation is provides specific training and education for providing buyer-client representation and is the benchmark of excellence in buyer representation.  Buyers should always look to see if their agent has a ABR designation before entering into a buyer broker agreement.  I was one of the first real estate professionals to earn this designation and their are a little more than 50,000 active ABR Designees today.

CRS - Certified Residential Specialist Designation is the highest Designation awarded to sales associates in the residential sales field. The CRS Designation recognizes professional accomplishments in both experience and education.  Since 1977 the Council of Residential Specialists has been conferring the CRS Designation on agents who meet its stringent requirements. Currently, there are more than 39,000 active CRS Designees.  Buyers and Sellers should always ensure their agent has earned this designation. 

GRI - Graduate REALTOR® Institute Designation is the mark of a real estate professional who has made the commitment to provide a high level of professional services by securing a strong educational foundation. REALTORS® with the GRI designation are highly trained in many areas of real estate to better serve and protect their clients.

Professional real estate agents who are willing to dedicate themselves to their profession should be willing to further their education after being licensed.  A Virginia real estate license itself just provides basic knowlege to enter the business.  These Designations take years to earn and are based on experience and education. 

Why hire the least experienced agent with no training when for most peole real estate is the one of the largest investments of their life, when it does not cost anything extra to hire the higest qualifed person you can find.  

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 13

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Jorge Gonzalez primarily provides Real Estate and Property Management services for rental properties for the following areas of Hampton Roads:

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