Understanding and Navigating a Volatile Housing Market in Virginia

The current economic climate is a challenge for everyone, especially if you’ve been thinking about buying a new home. Housing market volatility in Virginia is nothing unusual and is being reflected in states across the country. But despite the panic that you see in media outlets, there’s good reason to stay calm in the middle of this storm.

Having some understanding of how the market operates and what your options are when it comes to purchasing a house can help to ease uncertainty and fear. Plenty of prospective buyers are out there, navigating the current Virginia housing market conditions to find their dream home. If you’re hoping to do the same in 2022, this guide will help to prepare you for the rocky, but exciting, road ahead.

Stability in the housing market

Real estate is a common way that individuals will invest their money to see their savings grow over time.

When you’re looking for ways to invest your money and see your savings grow, real estate is usually one of your best options. It’s less volatile than the stock market and, according to a survey by Gallup, has been the most favored long-term investment option for Americans over the last eight years.

If you’re planning to buy a home for your family rather than a rental property, you’re likely planning to stay put in one location for a number of years. In that time, the market will naturally shift up and down, but once you’re in your new home, you can ride out the storms until the seas are a little calmer.

With all that in mind, the biggest question that you need to ask is if you feel that you’re financially ready to buy a property. If you feel confident in your “yes”, moving ahead with a home purchase can be one of the most worthwhile investments that you’ll ever make.

Understand your financial security and readiness to buy a home

Assessing your financial stability is an important first step when determining whether or not you are ready to buy a house.

So how do you determine whether you’re ready for this big step? You need to think about a few key areas before making your decision and meeting with a realtor.

If you’re a first time buyer and used to moving around different rental properties, you should seriously think about whether or not you’re prepared to have a long-term home in one location.

Look at the bigger picture of your life as you assess this – are you happy in your current job or the place you’re living and working in? Do you have social commitments nearby that you want to continue with? Putting down roots is a big step so don’t skip over this.

You also need to think about the practicalities of buying a home. Do you have a steady source of income to make your monthly mortgage payments and any maintenance that your home requires? Do you have savings built up for the closing costs and a down payment on a property?

For many first time buyers, the expenses that come with buying a house can come as a surprise. Take a look at our First Time Home Buyers Guide to give you an idea of what to expect.

Share your needs and wants with your realtor

Working with your realtor can help you find a home that is the best fit for your needs.

You’ve made the decision that buying a home is the right move for you and you’re ready to start house-hunting. But is it a good time to buy a house in the Shenandoah Valley? We think so. Your realtor can give you a good picture of the Virginia housing market conditions at the time you’re looking to buy. Make use of their expert knowledge about the local area to find a home that’s right for you.

Be honest and upfront with your realtor about your preferences and any constraints that you have. The market is moving quickly these days, so wasting time on houses that aren’t right for you can quickly see you missing out on the ones that could be your dream home.

A good realtor will find properties within your desired parameters and can give you advice on what’s available for your budget or price range in the area that you’re searching in. No matter the property size or location that you’re searching in, your realtor is there to support and guide you through this process.

Prepare the necessary documentation

Be sure to collect the necessary documents that a mortgage lender will need to access in order to approve your loan.

Before you get too far into your home search, take the time to prepare all of your legal and financial documents for your mortgage pre-approval. Pre-approval can save significant time when you’re trying to get a home loan and allows you to be pre-qualified before you start making offers on properties.

 

There are certain documents that all lenders need to see to process your loan package. On your first visit to F&M Bank, you should bring:

  • Originals and copies of your photo ID
  • One month of pay stubs and proof of employment
  • Your Federal Income Tax return for the previous two years
  • W2s and 1099s (if applicable) for the previous two years
  • Checking, savings, or other asset account statements for the previous two years

 

Other documents may be required depending on your individual situation.

Stay flexible in the search process

In a volatile housing market, staying flexible in your search criteria and offer details can be an effective way to win your dream home.

With housing market volatility in Virginia making properties fly off the shelves within weeks, or even days, it’s important to understand that you may need to make some compromises on your list of “wants.” In a seller’s market, inventory is low but demand for houses is high, which can make for stiff competition among competitive buyers.

To be in with a chance of having an offer accepted, you’ll need to make a strong offer that’s within your budget. Other buyers will be planning to do the same, so you need to make your offer as tempting and hard to refuse as possible. Ask your lender and realtor for guidance here.

As difficult as it may be, staying patient is crucial. You may lose out on a number of homes at the start of your search. Unfortunately, that’s common for many homebuyers in 2022. But the right property is out there and has your name written all over it!

Get expert financial support when buying a new home

At F&M Bank, we know that buying a home is one of the biggest decisions that you’ll ever make. That’s why our team of mortgage advisors are here to guide you through the process, whether it’s your first home or your fifth.

A good pre-approval is a great way to find out how much you can take out as a home loan and the best place to start to determine your budget. We strive to make your home buying experience as smooth and easy as possible. Contact us today to get started and to ask any questions that you might have. We’d be glad to help you find your dream home!

Meet Our Infinex Advisors: Sam Shaw

I was born in Waynesboro, VA and grew up in Staunton, VA. When I am not staring at screens taking trades or analyzing markets, I am usually found on the golf course or in the woods hiking with my family, or in kayaks in a body of water. I was recruited out of college early into the professional world where I have not been able to look back since. I spent the beginning of my career in the life insurance and mortgage protection business, eventually molding my skills into a refined retirement and financial planner. Dealing with families and individuals’ personal finances has really taken up most of my professional career since my early 20s. After exploring many career opportunities across the country my wife and I wanted to raise our children right here at home where I grew up and be able to give back to this community and help to grow it in any way we can. I started my own insurance brokerage in 2019 which my wife will be taking over, and I am beyond thrilled to join F&M and Infinex to be able to offer investment services to my existing and new potential clients. Trading stocks, currencies, and commodities is one of my biggest passions and hobbies, and I believe these skills will play an integral part of helping families reach their financial dreams and goals.

  

What led you to work for F&M Financial Services?

Being in Financial Services one of the first things I look for is stability and long term consistency.  F&M Financial Services is also associated with F&M Bank.  The F&M brand has been the shining example here in the Valley for 114 years and running. That is extremely rare these days. I also notice how much more I see the F&M logo at local sponsored events, youth sports, charity events, and business contests than I noticed any other competing organization. That says so much to me about who is giving back to the community and investing in our future growth as an area.

  

Where are you from?

I was born in Waynesboro, VA and raised in Staunton, VA. After traveling a good portion of the US and the World, I can be the first to attest to how well we have it here in the Valley and how hard it is to leave this area!

 

What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute your success to, and why?

I think my passion to help others is the major key here. More importantly I think my competitive nature and just absolutely hating to lose drives me to be better. If I think someone else is working harder than me, I just won’t wont have that. Period!

 

How do you start your day?

I open my eyes and usually open the market charts, followed by a room temperature 20oz of water, and usually my two dogs staring at me to go outside.

 

What’s a work-related accomplishment that you’re really proud of?

Being consistently ranked in the top 20 life insurance producers in the country at National Agents Alliance for my 6 out of 7 years in that focus of financial services is something I didn’t even think I was capable of when I started, I think being consistent for that long is something I am most proud of.”

 

What’s one thing you’re currently trying to make a habit? 

Not eating snack cakes from the bank break rooms, coupled with stretching more during the day.

 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Pizza, and Butterfingers, I really like sleeping too.

 

Do you have a hidden talent? What is it?

I have an extreme gift for grilling and smoking meats. My wife says I should start a YouTube channel. I like to keep my secrets.

 

What’s the top destination on your must-visit list?

Bora Bora

 

If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

Time Travel!!

 

Share the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you.

Everything worth while is an uphill climb.

 

What activities do you participate in over the weekend?

I am very boring, I either am golfing, taking a hike with my family, or washing the cars. That’s about it folks.

 

List three items on your bucket list

    • I’d like to go for a ride in a F16 or 17 Fighter jet.
    • Play Pebble Beach or Augusta National
    • Watch 90 ft waves surf contest in Jaws, Maui Hawaii

 

If you could quickly and easily learn any new skill, what would it be?

Computer Coding!!

 

Sam Shaw is a Registered Representative, Infinex Investments, Inc.

Securities offered through INFINEX INVESTMENTS, INC. Member FINRA/SIPC. Farmers & Merchants Financial Services, Inc. is a subsidiary of Farmers & Merchants Bank. Infinex is not affiliated with either entity.

Digging Deep: Connected Communities Inc.

May was National Mental Health Month, and we were happy to spend some time with Connected Communities Inc., a local organization that specializes in offering therapeutic counseling, mentorship programs, and trauma therapy to youth ages 6-17 and young adults/adults.

Throughout the pandemic, discussions surrounding mental health and self-care have become more mainstream.  Employers, workers, and family members have been challenged to adjust their routines, and methods of communication, and remain safe while following a seemingly ever-changing standard of safety.

One of our clients has been in the trenches providing aid to this exact topic.  Connected Communities was formed by a team of individuals that saw an opportunity to improve the lives of children and families in their neighborhoods.  The organization launched in July of 2017 by a small team with big goals to introduce a different approach to aiding youth and adolescent mental health.

We recently sat down with the founders of Connected Communities to learn more about its mission and about its success.

Mission & Value Proposition

“Over the course of our careers, we witnessed so many children who needed an outlet, a trusted person to confide in who were simply left out.  Counseling can be expensive, and many programs aren’t tailored to be readily available to children in poor environments.”Tavan Mair    

Seeing the need to serve children and families that institutional programs had failed, Connected Communities seeks to connect with these individuals and provide a more customized experience.  They actively support the most difficult cases to fix generational systems that aren’t serving the minority demographic. Institutional programs, while necessary and supportive, can be limited by standardized structures that may not suit the needs of every client.

Connected Communities seeks to meet its communities where they are and to create a tailored approach for each client. While many organizations discharge clients after missing a couple of sessions, Connected Communities subscribes to a different philosophy.  The team understood its client base dealt with overwhelming obstacles and the last thing it wanted to do was take away an outlet from struggling individuals.

“We simply don’t discharge clients very often.  We serve kids and families that are juggling an array of scheduling and transportation obstacles.  We see kids struggling with substance abuse, threatening family lives, and assist parents who simply want a better life for their families.  Instead of discharge, we continue communication with clients who miss appointments and keep building trust.  That’s how change happens.”Megan Slaughter, Human Resources + Finance Director

Connected Communities currently maintains a short waiting list.  Many institutions have a three-six month waiting list which may increase panic in clients desperate for assistance.  The organization maps its hiring strategy to meet demands and prevent a long wait period for any client needing to be onboarded.

 

Counseling During the Pandemic

Connected Communities began assisting its home market, Frederick County, in 2017 but officially opened a location near Old Town Winchester in May of 2019.  Its success after this was due to a unique value proposition just before the onset of the impending pandemic that surged in 2020.

Connected Communities, with the rest of the world, faced the difficulties of the pandemic.  Many organizations transitioned to virtual-only counseling. While virtual sessions were offered, this team understood that many of their clients didn’t have access to reliable internet and technology to maintain a regular treatment plan.  They also felt an opportunity to provide a haven for clients who needed an escape from their home environment. They safely continued in-person counseling throughout the pandemic to accommodate their community’s needs.

The need to maintain a sense of regularity became of utmost importance to the counselors that work with Connected Communities.

“There are families who drastically suffered during the pandemic.  Families who went without income, children who couldn’t keep up with schoolwork that was virtual, and parents who were trying to explain why life was different now due to the spread of COVID.”  -Krystal DeWalt, Clinical Director

Connected Communities also launched a program, Home For Now, to provide a pandemic-safe environment for students in underserved areas, helping them to stay on track with school while still having a safe outlet with their counselors. This program is still active and continues to support students who are readjusting to daily in-person school.

Culture

F&M Bank understands that any successful organization that makes this level of impact does so with the foundation of an incredible team.  Tavan Mair founded the organization after many years of serving in various state and local programs aiming to help troubled youth.  While he modestly attributes the organization’s success to his team, Tavan’s passion for making an impact in his community, and his tenacity to overcome adversity, is what inspired so many of his team to join his initiative.

“We’ve implemented a value-driven hiring policy.  In order for us to reach the lives we are called to; we feel it’s important to hire teammates that share in our values.” –Mair

Krystal DeWalt met Mair while working together at a different organization and built a mutual bond over shared concerns  where their industry was lacking in terms of helping families of various minority and income statuses.  “Tavan really is one-of-a-kind.  We met several years ago and discussed how we can set a better standard in the industry, or at least close more gaps.”

The organization has employees who have relocated to join the team simply because they wholeheartedly believe in its mission.  Connected Communities built its team to represent the communities they serve.  They found it important to have counselors that children could relate to and had shared backgrounds.

“One of my favorite moments while working here happened just a few weeks ago.  We were sponsoring an event for troubled youth in a nearby town on a Saturday night.  It was calling for bad weather and many other organizations backed out, but we wanted to show up.  The number of Connected Communities staff that showed up and gave up their rainy Saturday night to make an impact on kids assured me that I’m in the right place.  I work with a team who genuinely cares.”Slaughter

 

More About the Organization

Connected Communities specializes in offering therapeutic counseling, mentorship programs, and trauma therapy to youth ages 6-17 and young adults/adults.  With a footprint spanning from Winchester to Augusta County, the organization is actively growing to meet the needs of each neighborhood it expands into.

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, or are facing a troubling time, you can contact Connected Communities at info@cciwinchester.com or call 540-404-5985.