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Trump Pick Carson Accepts HUD Secretary Position

Former presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson accepted President-Elect Donald Trump’s nomination to Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary Monday—an appointment, which came despite Carson’s initial reservations, that marks the first African-American selected to serve in a senior role in the new administration.

“Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities,” Trump said in a statement. “We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up.”

“I am honored to accept the opportunity to serve our country in the Trump administration,” added Carson. “I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need. We have much work to do in enhancing every aspect of our nation and ensuring that our nation’s housing needs are met.”

The appointment has been met with mixed reactions from those in housing, some of whom express optimism, while others point to Carson’s inexperience.

“Despite his apparent lack of affordable housing experience, with his communication skills, Dr. Carson has the ability to bring the message of poverty alleviation to people nationwide,” said Robert C. Moss, chairman of the Housing Advisory Group and national director of Governmental Affairs of CohnReznick’s affordable housing efforts. “I would hope he would quickly learn the importance of HUD and would try to make it better, stronger and more efficient.”

“I want to congratulate Dr. Ben Carson on being chosen to be nominated as the Secretary of HUD,” said David H. Stevens, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), in a statement on the nomination. “Housing is one of the largest contributors to the health and success of the overall economy, and, as such, we must continue to recognize its significance. MBA looks forward to working with Dr. Carson in helping to build out a well-rounded team of housing experts, with a deep technical understanding of the issues, at HUD, FHA and Ginnie Mae.”

“REALTORS® know that the incoming secretary of Housing and Urban Development has a big job ahead,” said National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) President William E. Brown in a statement on the nomination. “Potential homebuyers face a range of hurdles, from rising prices to mortgage credit that’s burdened by fees and extra costs. We congratulate Dr. Carson on accepting this important challenge and wish him the very best of luck in meeting the task ahead.”

“With so many qualified candidates to choose from with deep knowledge of, and commitment to, affordable housing solutions for the poorest families, and with the housing crisis reaching new heights across the country, Dr. Ben Carson’s nomination to serve as HUD secretary is surprising and concerning, given his lack of experience with or knowledge of the programs he would oversee,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), said in a statement on the nomination.

“The little that we do know about Dr. Carson’s position on affordable housing is a reason for concern,” continued Yentel, citing Carson’s Washington Times editorial, published last year, that referred to fair housing as an “experiment.”

“We urge President-Elect Trump, Dr. Carson and the entire incoming administration to commit to expanding proven solutions to end homelessness and housing poverty once and for all,” Yentel said.

“[The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)] congratulates Dr. Carson on his nomination as HUD secretary,” said Ed Brady, NAHB chairman, in a statement on the nomination. “He is a thoughtful leader who is sure to assemble a professional team of policy experts and be a great spokesperson for housing. Upon his confirmation to the Cabinet post, NAHB looks forward to working with Dr. Carson to promote pro-housing policies that support homeownership, provide rental housing opportunities for low- and middle-income households, and remove regulatory barriers that are needlessly raising housing costs for hard-working American families.”

Carson joins Shawn Krause, executive vice president of Government Advocacy for Quicken Loans, and Jimmy Kemp, both of whom were recently named to Trump’s HUD transition team.

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The post Trump Pick Carson Accepts HUD Secretary Position appeared first on RISMedia.

Supporting Superstar Agents with Realtor.comĀ® Leads

mowery_donIn the following interview, Don Mowery, broker/owner of RE/MAX New Horizons in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., discusses online lead generation and conversion.

Earlier this year, we spoke to you about doubling down on online leads. Was this a good decision?
Yes. I made the decision last year to purchase shared leads for an entire county. At first I was overwhelmed, and wondered if it was the right decision, but once we got our systems and processes in place—in addition to a great training program for new agent hires—we began to see our lead conversion increase, and return on investment soar. Now we’re adding expansion teams. The beautiful thing about realtor.com® leads is that you know how many leads you can expect for a position for the year. You can purchase more leads based upon how many agents you want to add.

Have any of the consumers you met online given you referral business?
We’ve been purchasing leads for over a year now. Our past client database has grown significantly during this time, and we’re now receiving referrals from our online lead generated business. Our ISA spends half of her day staying in touch with our past client database.

Besides acting quickly, which is now understood as a key factor in getting a return on online leads, what else do you coach your agents to do?
Speed to lead is always important. However, equally important is the number of times they follow up. Agents should be following up at least 7 to 10 times within the first week of receiving the lead. We also make sure they use multiple types of communication, including text, phone, email and video.

Do your agents get leads directly, or do you screen them?
Our leads are distributed to our buyer agents based on zip code and price. We don’t give newer agents million-dollar buyers.

How do you make the economic model work?
In today’s complex market, it’s increasingly difficult for individual agents to have the resources and funds to not only generate leads, but also convert them. The team model allows for specializing and scale of economy. A team that’s well run allows agents to focus on their clients’ needs, rather than the paperwork and other items that aren’t necessarily the highest and best use of their time. In addition, the team agent can go on vacation for a week and know that the client will still receive a high level of service in their absence.

Have you used your online lead program to recruit and/or retain good agents?
The failure rate for new agents in the first 18 months is very high. By having a systematic lead generation program, I can provide new agents a consistent source of business. This allows them the time to generate additional business through the more traditional sources, which take a longer to time to see a return on their efforts.

Now that you’ve had experience with taking on big lead volumes, what are the most common mistakes you would coach brokers to avoid?
The first mistake I made was not having a system in place. The system must have an automatic response, lead distribution and a solid follow up plan. The second mistake I made was that I purchased too many leads and didn’t have enough agents to properly follow up. Once we reduced the leads, the conversion rate increased.

Do you have any superstars on your team who are particularly adept at converting these leads, and, if so, what do they do differently?
Superstar agents have a daily routine and are constantly training. They’re resourceful and don’t blame the resources. I never hear them complaining about quantity or quality of the leads. Superstar agents are grateful people who put their clients’ needs first.

Would you recommend this system to new agents or teams?
I would recommend this system to a broker that’s more hands-on and involved in their office. If you’re going to purchase leads and hand them out believing that they’ll magically convert, this isn’t for you. My model is to have fewer agents that have a high production rate. If your model is to hire hundreds of agents that produce two to five transactions a year, this isn’t for you. It’s also great for a high-producing agent that’s willing to help others grow and is tired of having a high-paying job instead of a business.

For more information, please visit www.mowerygroup.com or www.realtor.com.

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas a zoe@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Supporting Superstar Agents with Realtor.com® Leads appeared first on RISMedia.

Rising Home Prices Spur Increase in FHA Loan Limits

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan limits will rise in most areas in 2017, applicable to cases assigned on or after Jan. 1, 2017, FHA recently announced. The increase, motivated by rising home prices, comes after the announcement that maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would also rise next year.

The loan limit ceiling, according to a released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will rise to $636,150 from $625,500 in high-cost areas (areas where the loan limit exceeds the floor). The floor will rise to $275,665 from $271,050, applicable to areas where 115 percent of the median home price is less than 65 percent of the national conforming loan limit of $424,100.

The maximum claim amount for FHA-insured reverse mortgages (HECMs) will also rise to $636,150, 150 percent of the national conforming loan limit.

View the FHA loan limits by county here.

Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

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The post Rising Home Prices Spur Increase in FHA Loan Limits appeared first on RISMedia.

Changing Lives: More Than Just a Home Inspection

Innovation primes Pillar To Post Home Inspectors® for future success

Every industry needs a leader.

A simple—yet profound—statement, it’s a driving force for everyone at Pillar To Post. With 23 years of experience under its belt, the home inspection company has helped nearly 3 million families move into homes over the years. But as the needs of the industry and customers continue to change, a good home inspection is no longer good enough. “We have to address the needs of the real estate professional and buyer or seller in a holistic way,” says Dan Steward, Pillar To Post’s current CEO. For Pillar To Post, doing so boils down to being deeply engaged with both sides of the equation and fully committed to acting as a trusted advisor to everyone the company serves.

Laying the Groundwork for Continued Success
The largest home inspection company in North America—a title held since 1999—Pillar To Post currently has over 550 offices in 49 states, as well as nine provinces in Canada. Tracking toward a goal of 1,000 offices by 2020, the team at Pillar To Post is steadfast in its commitment to delivering leadership and drive into the real estate industry.

“While home inspections have been part of the real estate process for 35 years, today they’re integral to the transaction of residential real estate,” says Steward, who goes on to explain that the home inspection industry has come a long way since its inception.

“What began as an industry made up primarily of retired homebuilders, the home inspection industry has evolved into a more organized element of the real estate industry today,” adds Steward.

And Pillar To Post has been at the forefront every step of the way.

The first to establish a curriculum for selecting and training franchisees, create a home inspection protocol/report and computerize the report and include color photos within it, Pillar To Post was also ahead of the game when it came to offering inspection packages to serve the unique needs of buyers across the country.

Delivering an Exceptional Experience
For Pillar To Post’s Vice President of Marketing and Customer Engagement Ken Blackburn, there’s a specific reason behind every company’s decision to be in business. And for Pillar To Post, changing lives is the name of the game.

“Everything we do as a business is focused on helping the agent deliver an exceptional experience to their clients,” says Blackburn, positioning Pillar To Post as a key and trusted piece of the agent team.

Blackburn points to four key parts of the company’s value proposition that enable Pillar To Post to deliver a great brand experience to buyers and sellers via real estate professionals, beginning with the on-site production of an inspection report immediately following the inspection.

Not only does walking the client through the report then and there allow for questions to be answered, it also lays the foundation for providing a level of confidence that’s instrumental in moving the transaction forward.

“Delivering reports on-site may seem old-fashioned, but there’s incredible technology that goes into it, all of which is used to fulfill the needs of both the real estate professional and the consumer,” says Steward, who notes that clients are encouraged to be present during the inspection.

The next step toward adding peace of mind to the process comes in the form of E&O insurance, something each inspector carries. “If something goes wrong, our insurance covers the inspector, the agent and the broker,” says Blackburn, “leaving the agent with nothing to worry about.”

Blackburn also points to the company’s extensive continuing education program for agents as a key piece toward ensuring a great experience from beginning to end.

With 34 different topics available that touch on everything from home renovations and repairs to remodeling and even radon gas and wet basements, the training provided through Pillar To Post goes a long way toward adding to the agent’s perceived value to the client.

The company recently launched a learning management platform that allows Pillar To Post to continue to focus on ongoing education among their franchisees and inspectors. “With the ultimate goal of expanding the platform to be used among real estate professionals, agents can quickly and efficiently get the information they need, rather than wait for a Pillar To Post franchisee to come to the office for a live training session,” says Steward.

Last but not least, the company has made scheduling home inspections simple. “No matter how an agent wants to connect with us—whether it’s via phone, email, online or smartphone app—we have them covered,” says Blackburn, which is important to today’s agents, as it positions them as both professional and in control when working with buyers and sellers.

“The technology that’s built in behind the scenes of our booking app plays into the overall theme of how we can best serve real estate professionals,” adds Steward. “With 24/7 access, agents have the ability to view the schedule of their favorite inspector, as well as the schedules of all Pillar To Post inspectors in a given service area.”

Keeping Pace with Buyers, Sellers and Real Estate Advisors
Value proposition aside, Steward points to Pillar To Post’s customer focus as one difference-maker that continues to drive the company’s success year after year.

“We know that what we do affects people’s lives. If we don’t deeply understand and engage with the emotions involved in the process of buying a home, we’re not being a good professional advisor,” says Steward.

Performing both pre-purchase and pre-listing inspections, the team at Pillar To Post is dedicated to providing highly valuable information to each party involved in a transaction, a feat that can only be accomplished by understanding the unique needs of real estate professionals, buyers and sellers.

“On the industry side, we’re deeply engaged through research and industry involvement so that we can get the necessary feedback in order to focus on and serve the needs of real estate professionals today and into the future,” says Steward.

The same can be said for the consumer side of the equation, where consumer-driven research is used to develop services and experiences to fulfill the needs in the journey of buyers and sellers.

“The better we understand what’s driving a client’s experience, the better we can put the right services and experience together,” adds Steward, who goes on to explain that being able to effectively communicate with those they serve is a key piece of the puzzle that can’t be overlooked.

Being in the information business, everyone at Pillar To Post is committed to keeping the lines of communication open among buyers, sellers and their real estate advisors so they can make informed decisions and have peace of mind with the decision they ultimately make.

“Sense of care is so important to us—whether we’re interacting with the buyer, seller or their real estate advisor—so we have to be there with empathy and passion for the situation in order to deliver an experience that’s second to none,” says Steward.

With the Right People, Everything Is Possible
With a customer-focused approach to everything they do, having the right people in place across the board is crucial.

“We can’t hold the customer at the center of our world if the people serving the customer don’t also believe that,” says Steward. “Therefore, we focus intensively on selecting our franchisee partners. We are determined that they fit into our culture and share the same vision and passion we do for the brand.”

Lorri Ratliff, a Pillar To Post franchisee in Southwestern Washington, is one such partner.

“Being part of the Pillar To Post franchise system allows us to really focus on the home inspection experience with our clients and REALTORS®. The franchise system provides an excellent core structure for business owners (franchisees), allowing us to build and grow our marketshare,” says Ratliff, who can’t say enough about the ways in which Pillar To Post’s brand experience differentiates them from the rest of the pack.

“Pillar To Post fosters, through their systems and support structure, a methodology for us to stand out as the best home inspection company in North America. Our clients love the variety of services we offer and the fact that we’re easy to do business with,” adds Ratliff.

“Everything we’ve learned throughout our history, and the way we’ve anchored ourselves for the future, is entirely about our front-line people,” says Steward, “underscoring the importance of knowing that our reputation is everything in an industry where we’re looked to as trusted advisors.”

Innovation and Technology Set to Rule the Future
With a true focus on those delivering the service day-in-and-day-out, the future is looking bright for Pillar To Post as the company prepares to raise the bar even higher.

“There are a bunch of rapidly changing dimensions in the inspection world,” says Steward. “Whether it’s the aging housing stock, the expansion of technology found within homes, the vast needs of buyers and sellers when it comes to information, growing concerns about healthy homes and the environments in which we live, in addition to concerns about energy efficiency overall, Pillar To Post’s long history of innovation will continue to fuel the future as we look at the core issues in housing in America throughout the next decade.”

One thing that won’t change? Pillar To Post’s focus on technology, and its role as the core in everything they’re doing today—and well into the future.

To that end, the company has made a massive investment in technology in order to plug in more completely with the real estate process.

In fact, Pillar To Post recently made a change to the technology platform they use to conduct home inspections, allowing for heads-up inspecting through the use of iPads.

“We’re truly excited about this concept,” says Steward, “as it’ll allow our home inspectors to engage more readily with the client as they make their way through the inspection process.”

Pillar To Post is also looking forward to increasing their use of data when it comes to looking at the evolution of closings and transaction management software.

“We touch hundreds of thousands of people a year in what we do,” concludes Steward. “It’s an incredible responsibility because people are counting on us to do good work, and it’s an incredible honor as a brand when it comes to the responsibility we hold in helping real estate professionals and their clients.”

Indeed, one such professional, Executive Vice President of RE/MAX, LLC, Mike Ryan seems to agree.

“When it comes to home inspections for new purchases or listings, Pillar To Post is always at the top of the rankings. Pillar To Post Home Inspectors® has been a RE/MAX Approved Supplier for a long time, and our agents and brokers value and appreciate the service they deliver to our customers.”

Download a sample inspection report here.

For more information, please visit www.pillartopost.com.

Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at paige@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Changing Lives: More Than Just a Home Inspection appeared first on RISMedia.

Staying Visible On and Offline

lynn_whelpleyIn the following interview, Lynn Whelpley, broker/owner of Abundant Home Realty in Palm Bay, Fla., discusses her keys to success, including social media marketing.

Region Served: Brevard County, Fla.
Years in Real Estate: 14
Number of Offices: 1
Number of Agents: 3
Facebook: @AbundantHomeRealty
Twitter: @SellingBrevard

How is the market faring in your area?
During the recession, when the country was hit with foreclosures, Florida was hit the hardest. Brevard County, which is our county, was the hardest-hit county—and Palm Bay, which is where my office is, was the hardest-hit city in the county. We were in a very deep hole for what seemed like a very long time. A lot of people who lost their homes in foreclosure seven years ago are now able to buy a home again, so we’re seeing a lot of buyers come back. Things are moving slowly but steadily upward.

What has been key to your success this year?
I attribute our success to being out in the neighborhood, being accessible—a lot of the people that we work with are referrals that come back to us. We try to keep the Abundant Home Realty name in front of everyone in Palm Bay. I don’t want people sitting in my office—I want them out and about.

What steps have you taken to ensure success in 2017?
I know this is old school, and a lot of people really don’t do this, but whenever we sell in a neighborhood, whether we represent the buyer or the seller, when that property closes, we blanket them with a postcard. I mail out, say, 200 cards in a one mile-radius around that listing.

How are you positioning your real estate business to meet the needs of millennials?
I think the personal touch counts. You could look at Zillow all day for information, but in the real world, walking the neighborhood, knowing exactly what it’s like out there, still gives precedence over something online. I make sure they know that I can fill their need for information.

How are you using social media to better your real estate business?
I’ve been trying to stay on top of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn so my friends, associates and prospective customers see my posts regularly. I try not to share just real estate listings, but also community happenings and interesting stories to keep from getting boring.

You recently added RISMedia’s ACE to your social media marketing strategy. How are you implementing the system in your business, and what aspects of it are most appealing to you?
I’ve given ACE free reign to post every day on my Facebook page, my LinkedIn, and, soon, Twitter. I love the fact that ACE is on automatic pilot. I don’t have to think about it every day—but if I do find something outside of real estate that I want to post, I just do it.

I also love that ACE is affordable. I’m a small brokerage and hate overextending my marketing budget. ACE boosts my social media presence for a small monthly fee.

For more information, please visit ace.rismedia.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Staying Visible On and Offline appeared first on RISMedia.

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©2015 BHH Affiliates, LLC. An independently owned and operated franchisee of BHH Affiliates, LLC. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices symbol are registered service marks of HomeServices of America, Inc.®  Equal Housing Opportunity.  Licensed in Virginia.

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