Real Estate Information Archive


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 27

Doing Yard Work? Call 811 Before You Dig

by Jorge Gonzalez

Whether you are putting up a new fence, planting a tree or installing a new sprinkler system, it is important for all Virginia Beach and other Hampton Roads cities to call Miss Utility of Virginia at 811 before you start digging. 

This number has been in place for awhile now and is part of a nationwide effort to streamline the call-before-you-dig system to avoid injuries and damage to underground utilities lines.

An 811 call alerts participating utilities of your plans.  The utilities will then send a representative to visit your property and mark the approximate location of their facilities.

This is a free service.  State law requires that you call 811 at least 2 business days before digging.

​You can also visit for more information.

Source: Dominion Resources

Online Rental Scam Using Craigslist - Never Send Money Overseas!

by Jorge Gonzalez, ABR, CRS, GRI

This rental scam has been going on for several years now, but it has been brought to my attention by several prospective tenants in recent weeks so it is worth covering again.  Dishonest people from overseas, mainly in African countries, are listing properties for rent on Craigslist and some other rental websites.  The rental amounts are usually far below the going rate and renters in our area and across the country are falling for this scam hook, line and sinker.  Our area is especially prone to this scam, since a lot of folks are coming in from out of town and many are willing to rent sight unseen from the pictures. 

The way the scam works is the thieves use actual properties for rent and create new online ads for the same house with more favorable terms.  Like a beautiful Virginia Beach rental home with 4 bedrooms for $1,800 a month, $1,800 security deposit and the owner will not accept pets.  The new scam ad runs for the same house will say something like the rent is $1,250, no security deposit required and pets are OK.  Sounds like a great deal aye!

Unsuspecting renters are basically duped into sending rent and security deposit by Western Union, but the person on the receiving end are not the actual owners.  Local area real estate companies have even had renters show up and ask for the keys, just to find out they were victims of a scam and their money is gone forever and now they have no home either. 

Basic Rules for Renting:

1. Any reputable Property Manager will require an application and application fee to verify who you are before renting to you.

2. Verify the Property Manager and the house are really for rent before sending in your money.  If it offer is too good to be true, it probably is.  So beware of incredible offers to rent cheap. 

​3. Google the full address of the house including the city and state too.  You should be able to find any Realtor listings for the same house. 

4. Many agents use a cell phone number, but ask for the office phone number to double check.  Call the office and asked to be transferred to the agent. 

5.  If you live out of town, ask a friend or co-worker to take a look at the house and meet with the agent to actually look inside the house.

​6. Mostly importantly never ever send your hard earned money by Western Union or any other service overseas to rent a home.  There are plenty of great local rentals in our area to deal with.


9 Unexpected Energy (and Money) Savers


​Here are a few surprising and simple ways to cut your energy bill this season.

Put lamps in the corners: Did you know you can switch to a lower wattage bulb in a lamp or lower its dimmer switch and not lose a noticeable amount of light? It’s all about placement. When a lamp is placed in a corner, the light reflects off the adjoining walls, which makes the room lighter and brighter. 

Switch to a laptop: If you’re reading this article on a laptop, you’re using 1/3 less energy than if you’re reading this on a desktop. 

Choose an LCD TV: If you’re among those considering a flat-screen upgrade from your conventional, CRT TV, choose an LCD screen for the biggest energy save. 

Give your water heater a blanket: Just like you pile on extra layers in the winter, your hot water heater can use some extra insulation too. A fiberglass insulation blanket is a simple addition that can cut heat loss and save 4% to 9% on the average water-heating bill.

Turn off the burner before you’re done cooking: When you turn off an electric burner, it doesn’t cool off immediately. Use that to your advantage by turning it off early and using the residual heat to finish up your dish. 

Add motion sensors: You might be diligent about shutting off unnecessary lights, but your kids? Not so much. Adding motion sensors to playrooms and bedrooms cost only $15 to $50 per light, and ensures you don’t pay for energy that you’re not using.

Spin laundry faster: The faster your washing machine can spin excess water out of your laundry, the less you’ll need to use your dryer. Many newer washers spin clothes so effectively, they cut drying time and energy consumption in half—which results in an equal drop in your dryer’s energy bill.

Use an ice tray: Stop using your automatic icemaker. It increases your fridge’s energy consumption by 14% to 20%. Ice trays, on the other hand, don’t increase your energy costs one iota. 

Use the dishwasher: If you think doing your dishes by hand is greener than powering up the dishwasher, you’re wrong. Dishwashers use about 1/3 as much hot water and relieve that much strain from your energy-taxing water heater. Added bonus: you don’t have to wash any dishes.

Essential Heating System Maintenance

by Oliver Marks

Getting your home's heating system professionally serviced every year will keep it running smoothly and help keep heating costs under control.

Who does the job?

The simplest way to get the work done is to hire your fuel company to do it. Oil companies and gas utilities usually provide this service, or you can hire the contractor who installed the equipment. Also, some plumbers handle heating systems.

What is involved?

The technician will clean soot and corrosion out of the combustion chamber where the fuel is burned, and check it for leaks or damage. He'll inspect the flue pipe for open seams, clogs, or corrosion that could cause carbon monoxide to backdraft into the house. He'll replace the filters on oil and forced-air systems. Finally, he'll test the exhaust from your cleaned machine and use the information to adjust the burner for maximum efficiency.

How much will it cost?

You'll pay between $100 and $180 for the service, depending largely on whether you have a gas system, which is easier to maintain, or oil, which requires a fair amount of soot removal. Usually the cost is covered by an annual maintenance contract that also provides 24-hour emergency service. While the technician is there, he should also service your water heater, assuming it has a separate oil or gas burner.

When is the best time to do the work?

Ideally, have your system tuned up in the fall so it's in top shape for the start of the heating season. Of course, that's when technicians are the busiest, so if you can't do it when you want, do it when you can—as long as your system is serviced once a year. And don't expect your provider to call to remind you that it's time. Even if you subscribe to an annual service plan, you still need to call to make an appointment. Call in the spring or summer to be sure of getting on the schedule in the fall.

What Affects Credit Scores? 7 Misconceptions

by Gwen Moran

If you’re trying to raise your credit score to get a good rate for a refinance or HELOC, you might be surprised by what affects—or doesn’t affect—your score.


More money improves your credit score

False. Your level or sources of income don’t affect your credit score, although lenders may look at it when making loan decisions, according to the Fair Isaac Corp., the company that issues the commonly used FICO credit scores.

Ownership of several credit cards can hurt your credit score

Mostly false. Having many credit lines isn’t necessarily a bad thing, says credit expert Liz Weston, author of Your Credit Score. Multiple lines give you a favorable debt-to-available-credit ratio. But use them correctly: It’s best to keep any balances below 10% or 20% of the total credit line, she says. Anything more will affect the ratio of debt-to-available-credit, which can decrease your credit score.

Opening and closing credit lines can hurt your credit score

True. New credit applications can decrease your credit score, so be careful about applying for new credit cards or personal loans before applying for a HELOC, second mortgage, automobile loan, or other large line of credit.

Surprise: Closing existing credit lines may also hurt your credit score, since it’ll damage your debt-to-available-credit ratio. A good rule is not to make any credit changes in the months leading up to a major credit request, such as for a HELOC.

Consolidating credit lines will help your credit score

Mostly false. Although it may seem like a good idea to move all your balances to one card, that can actually hurt your credit score, since your debt-to-available-credit ratio will spike on that card, says Weston.

However, credit expert Harrine Freeman says such a slight decline isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for a loan, especially if the card has a lower interest rate and will allow you to pay off the balance sooner. Your score will increase as soon as that ratio goes down.

Changing jobs can hurt your credit score

Partly true. Taking a new job or losing your job doesn’t affect your credit score. However, if you have a spotty employment history, lenders may hold that against you in making a loan. Dips in income may signal that it could be difficult to pay bills in a timely manner.

Co-signing for others can hurt your credit score

Partly true. Simply co-signing on a loan for someone else may not affect your score, but if that person is late on paying the loan, it’s likely to show up on your report, says Freeman. And that’s a nasty surprise if you didn’t know the person was late.

Judgments and liens aren’t considered in your credit score

False. If you’ve had a judgment or lien filed against you, it’s considered in your payment history, which represents 35% of your score.

Similarly, while most utility companies don’t report payment history to credit bureaus, your account will likely be reported if it is seriously delinquent and referred to a collection agency. 

Additional details on how to manage your FICO score are available on the FICO site.

Gwen Moran is a freelance business and finance writer from the Jersey shore. She’s the co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Plans and writes frequently about real estate.


Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

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Search For Hampton Roads Homes For Sale With Your iPhone/iPad

by Jorge Gonzalez, ABR, CDPE, CRS, GRI

Click on the following link to download the Apple device app and use my agent code 10646 to access all homes listed for sale.


Mortgage Insurance Cancellation: The Myths and Realities

by Brien McMahon

When it comes to private mortgage insurance (MI), there are several myths that exist that make buyers reluctant to consider a conventional loan with MI as an option when purchasing a home. One of the more common misconceptions is that cancelling MI is a difficult—not to mention time-consuming—process. 

The irony is that the majority of buyers don’t harbor those same beliefs or reservations about an FHA insured loan when, in reality, FHA coverage may be less easily cancelled, or take longer to cancel, than MI. 

HPA Makes Cancellation Clearer 
When it went into effect as a new federal law, the Homeowners Protection Act (HPA) of 1998—which applies to both FHA and MI insured loans—required lenders and servicers to provide disclosures regarding MI for residential loans obtained on or after July 29, 1999. Prior to this, consumers were responsible for requesting MI cancellation if they met two factors: one, their loan balance was paid down to 80 percent of the property; and two, they had a good payment history. 

While many lenders obliged consumer requests to drop MI coverage, consumers had sole responsibility for keeping track of their loan balance. 

The HPA established three different times when a lender or servicer must notify consumers of their rights. 

At loan closing, lenders must disclose:
• The right to request MI cancellation and the date on which the request can be made
• The requirement that MI be automatically terminated and the date on which this will occur
• Any exemptions to the right to cancellation or automatic termination
• A written initial amortization schedule for fixed-rate loans only

Each year, loan servicers must send borrowers a written statement that discloses:
• The right to cancel or terminate MI
• An address and telephone number to contact the loan servicer for determining when MI may be cancelled

When MI coverage is cancelled or terminated, lenders must send a notification to borrowers stating:
• MI has been terminated, and the borrower no longer has MI coverage
• No further MI premiums are due

Termination of Coverage
Under the terms of the HPA, mortgage lenders or servicers must automatically cancel borrower-paid MI coverage when the mortgage has amortized to 78 percent of the original property value, with all unearned premiums returned to the borrower within 45 days of the cancellation or termination date. This provision also requires that the borrower be current on mortgage payments required by the terms of the loan, and if the loan is delinquent on the date of automatic termination, a lender must terminate the coverage as soon as the loan becomes current. 

Cancellation of Coverage
Also under the HPA, a homeowner has the right to request MI cancellation when the mortgage balance reaches 80 percent of the original property value. All payments must be current, meaning a homeowner must not be 30 days late on a mortgage payment within one year of their request, or 60 days late within two years. 

However, a borrower can only initiate a cancellation request for FHA based on their prepayment of the loan, and even then, it can only be requested beginning five years after the loan origination date.

With MI, homeowners can request cancellation based on prepayment of the loan, as well as an appraisal. Despite falling property values, it’s possible for homeowners to gain enough equity in their home to request cancellation in less than five years based on a home appraisal. 

Why this Matters to Agents
By understanding these rules and what they mean for homeowners, real estate agents can educate their buyers to help them better evaluate all of their home financing options based on facts rather than myths. 

This is even more important considering the FHA’s recent price increase, which has reduced buyers’ purchasing power and increased monthly mortgage payments. 

RISMedia Article

Replacing old, inefficient appliances is a simple way to make a difference in both your energy bill and the environment.  As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) provided nearly $300 million for states to set up appliance rebate programs.  Virginia’s allocation is $7.45 million.

Virginia’s Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program offers Virginians up to $300 on certain ENERGY STAR qualified appliances.  The eligible appliances were selected to best accomplish the rebate program’s goals of increasing residential energy conservation through more efficient appliances and stimulating the Commonwealth’s economy and job growth through additional retail sales of ENERGY STAR products.

  • Heat Pump, Air Source - $300
  • Natural Gas or Propane Furnace - $250
  • Heat Pump Water Heater - $250 (purchased May 28 or after)
  • Tankless Natural Gas or Propane Water Heater - $225
  • Clothes Washer - $75
  • Refrigerator - $60
  • NEW! Dishwasher - $50 (purchased Sept. 1 or after)
  • NEW! Room Air Conditioner - $40 (purchased Sept. 1 or after)
  • Storage Natural Gas or Propane Water Heater - $35

Your First Steps To Avoid Foreclosure

by Jorge Gonzalez, ABR, CDPE, CRS, GRI

Your First Steps To Avoid Foreclosure

In today’s market, 1 in 7 homeowners is having trouble paying the mortgage. More than 70% of these homeowners proceed without seeking assistance or getting the facts. Many do not even realize that foreclosure is a process, and that there is time to make decisions that may result in a better outcome.

As a homeowner in the Virginia Beach area, you are not alone. Millions of other homeowners nationwide are in the same circumstances. To assist you, I’ve prepared a free report outlining the first steps a homeowner should take when facing a foreclosure.

Please use the link below to obtain your free report. Don’t hesitate. Get back on track today!

Homebuyer Tax Credit Extended & Expanded



Income limits have been raised for Virginia Beach area homebuyers, and now some existing homeowners can also claim a credit if they buy a new home too.

The basics:

  • To claim any credit, buyers must have a contract by April 30, 2010 and close by July 1, 2010.
  • The income limit has been raised to $225,000 for couples.
  • First-time buyers can claim an $8,000 credit, as before.
  • Buyers who already own the home they are selling (or have sold), and have lived there for five of the past eight years can claim up to a $6,500 tax credit (on homes worth $800,000 or less).
  • Both credits apply only to primary residences.

imageClick here to view or download a chart (PDF) explaining the difference between this credit and the one set to expire on November 30.

VAR already has a new flyer to help you inform your clients about those expanded tax credits. You can download it today at

And NAR has a host of information on its site, including a useful Q&A about the updated credit (PDF), with answers to questions like “Must the new house cost more than the old house?”


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 27

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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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Chesapeake Real Estate For Sale and Chesapeake Property Manager
Norfolk Real Estate For Sale
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