Willing to pay another $1 per month for each Virginia E-ZPass transponder?

The states in purple accept the E-ZPass transponder, which is headed for a $1 per month, per transponder fee increase. CREDIT: Virginia Department of Transportation

May 31, 2012 — In case you missed it, comments are being accepted through 5 p.m, Tuesday, June 12, 2012 by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to add a $1 fee every month for each E-ZPass transponder to help pay for a “new business model”, according to VDOT.

Below is the text of the email (emphasis added) that circulated recently seeking comments, which can be emailed to vdotinfo@vdot.virginia.gov.

“With Virginia’s E-ZPass program doubling over the next several years as new toll roads open, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is proposing a monthly fee of about $1 per transponder to pay for administrative and operations costs.

“VDOT has the utmost understanding that E-ZPass operations brings convenience and efficiency to toll operations.  E-ZPass allows for electronic toll collection at Virginia toll facilities and lessens the need for manual collection. However, there is a cost to providing the service to the participating toll facilities, most of which are not operated by VDOT.

“The Virginia E-ZPass program is being expanded to support several new toll facilities scheduled or expected to be opened over the next few years.  The cost associated with the enhanced distribution and specialized services for the new facilities and additional transponders requires a new business model.

The proposed monthly fee would cover costs for:

•    Buying nearly one-half million transponders

•    Implementing a retail program where transponders can be obtained at various stores in Northern Virginia and eventually Hampton Roads

•    Providing service at select DMV locations

•    Upgrading information technology to accommodate the expanded program

•    Account management and processing of toll transactions (managing billing of all transactions)

•    Customer service and the operations of three customer service centers

The fee would also help control costs and manage the selection and demand for E-ZPass transponders.  My clients who drive the Dulles corridor frequently hope the fee will be regularly evaluated to ensure that the charge is generating just enough revenue to maintain and operate the program without generating excess revenues above expenses.

“VDOT is accepting comments on the proposed monthly fee through Tuesday, 5 p.m., June 12, 2012.  All comments will be reviewed and taken into consideration prior to the final decision on the proposed fee structure.

“You can go to www.virginiadot.org/e-zpass for information on the proposed monthly fee increase and provide their comments online.  You can submit your comments directly to vdotinfo@vdot.virginia.gov or mail them to:

“Office Communications – Third Floor/Annex Bldg. Virginia Department of Transportation 1401 E. Broad St. Richmond, VA 23219.”

VDOT expects to have a final decision in June.

Angie’s List is helping you find more service providers, including me FYI

I’ll admit it. For a long time I’ve had doubts about paying to be on someone’s list of recommended service providers. But now that friends, clients and colleagues are asking, I bit the bullet last month and accepted an invitation from Angie’s List to join its professional network.

Shame on me for not ‘walking the talk’ of one of my mantras: you get what you pay for.

As a part of Angie’s List, I’ve quickly connected with a handful of people beginning the search for a Realtor. Needless to say, I’m now a believer in using AngiesList.com.

If you’re a part of Angie’s List, please do check out my evaluations. I may not be perfect, but I value feedback from people who care enough to give it. It would be a privilege to serve those you know who belong to Angie’s List and want the best that honesty, integrity and market savvy have to offer.

Previewing homes for buyers – here’s how I do it

May 14, 2012 — I am often asked what I do when I preview homes for buyers. How do I know whether a home comes close to what they would consider buying?

I start by conducting a thorough inventory of what they want and what their needs will likely be for the next 5-10 years.

I enjoy previewing homes, especially when I find a matches that make complete sense for my clients. CREDIT: The Andy Advantage

– Where would they like to live and why?

– What can they prudently afford?

– Are there any family additions in the offing?

– Do existing children need a big back yard?

– How important is close access to the Washington, DC-area’s Metrorail system?

You get the picture.

With that information in hand, on my own I preview qualifying homes and schedule visits with my clients I think are worth showing. As we walk through each one, I watch and listen closely to what they like and what they don’t, especially if there are any show-stoppers such as only a one-car garage. After that, the responsibility falls to me to ‘home in’ on properties that meet at least 80 percent of their needs.

With that I place them on a “drip” of homes that might meet most of their criteria that they receive via email as frequently as the homes materialize in the regional Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, or MRIS

In the early going, most of the homes that pop up may miss the mark. But as I sharpen the search criteria, this is a very efficient way to get a quick bead on properties as they are put up for sale.

On a parallel path, I research and visit neighborhoods to get a first-hand sense of the location. I might get in touch with agents who are active with listings in those neighborhoods to let them know of my clients’ interests.

Whenever a good prospect materializes, I preview it and quickly relay any relevant information that my client should know. I don’t recommend taking a client to see a home unless it meets that 80% threshold.

In the type of market we’re experiencing now in Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland, timing could be integral, perhaps critical, to submitting a contract that can win the next house of your dreams.

For a taste of how I preview a home, watch these previews of homes in May 2012.

Short home preview excerpt (1:53);

Long home preview excerpt (3:46).

In the shorter version, watch for what appears to be at first an excellent match  . . . until I peak through the sliding glass doors in the kitchen.

I welcome your comments!

Let’s get and stay connected on Facebook and LinkedIn

May 9, 2012 — Let me say up front I’m not one to spend a lot of time on Facebook or LinkedIn. But social media networks are getting more interesting by the day. So using “Andy Powell Pierobon” you can find me on both.

If you have friends, colleagues, neighbors and/or relatives I can help with their home buying and/or selling needs, my direct phone (703-593-9432) is THE best way to reach me. If you’d rather send them to Facebook or LinkedIn, that should work too.

I look forward to putting the AndyAdvantage to work for them as I have had the privilege of doing for hundreds of clients throughout my career as a REALTOR®.

DC area is among improving real estate markets starting to see multiple bids

May 2, 2012 — I’ve seen it first-hand already with several of my clients. Here now is some big-picture confirmation in this video by The Wall Street Journal.

In markets with tight inventories, up-to-date homes in good neighborhoods and locations that are priced right are drawing multiple contracts, sometimes within days of arriving on the market.

Wall Street Journal reporter Nick Timiraos spotlights Washington, DC homes for sale as ripe for multiple contracts IF the price is right and they are in good locations. CREDIT: The Wall Street Journal

The Journal spotlights the Washington, DC market as one of the metropolitan areas experiencing a big improvement from last year.

Because most banks take a skeptical view of appraisals, buyers with a lot of cash have the most buying power.

Historically low interest rates are influencing buyer psychology. That said, if rates rise significantly, the rush could speed up.

One analyst in the Journal’s video compared the market in some metro areas to “looking for your future wife in a bowling alley . . . there are very few eligible properties.”

Who says buying or selling a home isn’t entertaining!