The Story

MY PERSONAL STORY

From other web sites I have read, this section is often dedicated to telling you how the agent being profiled is the best Realtor for your needs, whatever those needs may be. About how that person is among the most professional people in the real estate industry, with a high level of honesty and honesty, the implication being that this agent is more honest than others (In my mind, dealing with people of integrity is a given, and most people in my profession are people of high integrity). Statements are often made about how the agent is an expert in the “D.C. Metropolitan area” or “Northern Virginia,” areas so broad that no team of a dozen experts could honestly make that claim.

Instead of the above, let me give you a concise statement of who I am, the areas in which I consider myself very knowledgable, the ways I can help you. If your needs or areas of interest are beyond those in which I can provide exceptional service, to help you locate the right agent who I believe would be a good fit for you.

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Who I Am – I joined Samson Properties after a successful tenures at RE/MAX and Weichert, Realtors. I have extensive experience in the financial arena, having worked at Freddie Mac and on Wall Street, as well as being a mortgage broker before realizing that direct sale of real estate was an area which best “fits” my knowledge, expertise, and desire to be in a dynamic industry in which I can directly and positively impact people’s lives. I have multiple advanced degrees, real estate professional designations, and a CFA. I recently switched to Samson Properties because it is clearly the fastest-growing real estate firm in the Northern Virginia market, with the ability to adjust to changes quickly, incorporate new technologies immediately in ways to help both agents and clients, and deliver quality services to its agents and clients in a way unmatched by the competition. The existing “6%” traditional real estate model is fast becoming obsolete, as described in this Inman Real Estate News article:http://www.inman.com/2015/02/10/why-the-traditional-brokerage-model-is-obsolete/#.VN9GNFPhqpQ.mailto It really is that simple.

My 26 year old daughter, Jessica, and 19 year old son, Scott, have been central to my life. Jessica is a recent college graduate and very warm person with a bright future. Scott lost a three year battle against cancer in 2011. He was the most courageous man I have ever known, and a total inspiration to all who have ever been touched by him. He went through three relapses and endless treatments, but despite worldwide support and expertise, we were unable to keep his cancer under complete control. Scott never once complained about his condition nor ever asked, “Why me?” He just plowed forward, day by day, pursuing and hoping for a cure. The many fantastic people I have met in support of Scott has been the most positive of influences in my life. Their inspiration is a driving force in keeping me focused on being a complete professional at work, combining a strength and professionalism in the traditional sense with an empathy for clients’ needs. Without this, it would be impossible to truly help those with whom I work and interact.

Areas in Which I Have Specific Expertise – In terms of specific geographic areas of expertise, I live and work in Reston, Virginia. I am very active in the community, including being a Board Member of Rescue Reston, a citizen-based volunteer group organized to save Reston open spaces from reckless development. You would be hard-pressed to find someone more knowledgable and skilled in the Reston Town Center. Having lived in Manhattan, I understand the life style issues and needs of many people who would benefit from an urban environment. This has led me to closely monitor developments and sales of major urban high rise communities in Northern Virginia. I welcome any and all inquiries regarding purchase, sale, or rent of homes in this area.

The rich diversity of housing and life style in Reston proper, outside of the Town Center, is also one in which I derive particular interest and can provide significant expertise. The variety of housing and life styles in Reston is possibly unmatched in Northern Virginia, making it an area where potential buyers and sellers benefit greatly from working with someone who is not only knowledgable of the immediate area, but who can attract others to the benefits Reston has to offer. The neighboring community of Herndon also offers many of these same benefits, with strong job growth, excellent school districts, and desirable housing at an affordable price.

Reston/Herndon lead the state of Virginia in job growth, and proximity to business centers is almost always a strong benefit to housing stability and growth.

The towns surrounding the Reston/Herndon area also offer a wide variety of life style choices and different types of housing. Whether looking at estate properties in Great Falls, or beautiful homes in Vienna, Oakton, Chantilly or McLean, these are areas in which I can be of extraordinary assistance to both buyers and sellers.

My love of golf and multi-year association with the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Lake Manassas has led to a strong knowledge of the many world class golf communities which populate Northern Virginia. As a result of this, I have developed a particular love and knowledge of the homes and areas surrounding the gated communities of River Creek Country Club in Leesburg, Belmont Country Club, Piedmont, Virginia Oaks, Dominion Valley, Lake Manassas and Stonewall Golf Club, and the long term potential surrounding the estate community of Beacon Hill. In addition to these, Northern Virginia boasts similarly outstanding golf course communities with which I am very familiar and can be of much assistance.

A SUMMARY OF THE WEB SITE AND HOW IT CAN ASSIST YOU—- More Specific Searches and More Relevant Information Than Zillow

Welcome to my web site. Here is a quick synopsis of this site: Why it is developed as it is, and how it can benefit you most.

The goal of this web site is to  build upon the excellent work done by Zillow, led by its Chairman Spencer Rascoff. The RayMax team provides valuable neighborhood details and local market knowledge which are decidedly absent in online real estate sites. In today’s world, I realized long ago that people wanted more from a Realtor than simply the latest food recipes, football schedules, and tips on how to make one’s home smell better during an open house. Given my extensive financial and sales background, my goal is to provide that valuable final step that Mr. Rascoff mentions as being so necessary if a buyer or seller wants proper execution in a real estate transaction: find a Realtor who specializes in an area you choose to live who can best serve your localized needs. I call it “on the ground intelligence.”

My web site will provide on the ground intelligence beyond what you can possibly find in Zillow, and I believe is the next step in the process of meeting most of your needs online.

For those who have already narrowed their search to the Washington, D.C,.area, particularly Northern Virginia, my web site has significant advantages over the Zillow-style online searches including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The searches and displays on my system are direct IDX feeds, which exactly mimic the Realtor MLS searches. Most find the listing appearance to be clearer and superior to the presentation at Zillow, and the information much more accurate and timely.
  • Most find that my web site is easier to navigate and conducts searches quicker, with outstanding results.
  • Compared to my site, Zillow does not have neighborhood summaries and descriptions which will allow you to get, at a minimum, a snap shot idea from a local expert pertaining to the qualities of individual communities.

This web site is designed to take the best search features of Zillow (afterall, you want to see listings, not read a glorified business card), and incorporate them into a few paragraphs which give you the important attributes of each community. Searches are specific to neighborhoods and already set up for you. Links are easy to find, simple to use: one click and find out what you really want to know.

The following are valuable excerpts/insights from a recent interview with the Zillow CEO, Spencer Rascoff, at the Wharton School of Business. My comments are in red. It will explain how Mr. Rascoff has set up a business model which encourages you to use a local Realtor who understands your market and your needs:

  • Mr. Rascoff is a media expert, not a real estate-trained expert. He founded and sold HotWire.com, and makes this observation about how Zillow differs from HotWire and other online services: “At Zillow, we aim to unlock the information and make it readily available to consumers. The difference, though, is that in the real estate space, unlike in the travel space, there will always be the intermediary – somebody involved in the transaction (besides the buyer and seller). That’s fine by us. We actually think that real estate transactions are so infrequent, so expensive, so highly emotional and so complex, that there will always be and should always be a professional involved in the transaction. So we have a different business model at Zillow. We sell advertising and software tools to professionals. That’s how we make money, rather than being involved in the transaction, which is how Expedia makes money.”

My take on this business strategy: I have not battled with Zillow on the changing business environment for real estate, but have actually embraced it. I have been a Zillow Premier agent for years now, allowing my listings to pop up at the top of client searches among other benefits. But this web site is designed to capitalize on what Mr. Rascoff understands as the limitations of his broad-based system: Zillow searches provide a great broad-brush of large areas, and allow the consumer to casually browse through real estate listings. I love to do the same thing myself. However, once someone narrows into a geographic region or type of home and community in which I specialize (examples are golf course communities or penthouse condos), it is my goal and responsibility to be much more precise in the information provided than Zillow will ever be, and to do so in a manner which is ultimately user-friendly. The searches I have designed are specific to the immediate communities or types of communities you might consider; no need for you to guess, estimate, or slug your way through hundreds of listings which are irrelevant to get to the ones which are. I will discuss this in more detail later.

  • Mr. Rascoff often says that the consumer needs to know the value of his/her home today for many reasons: Are you going to sell? How does it compare to your mortgage amount? This democratizes data, and it makes the market more transparent, and more efficient. All of this is very important to a market that has seen its troubles This helps bring liquidity back.

This is a very important point. And Zillow continually tries to make its valuation models more accurate, but they have inherent valuation difficulties which cannot be cured by automated means, regardless of the sophistication of anyone’s algorithmic models. At the end of the day, your best estimate of value will come from a solid, intelligent, authentic real estate practitioner who understands your market and the underlying trends. Mr. Rascoff knows this and preaches it: identify and work with your local experts!

  • Per the ever-popular ZESTIMATES. I receive more comments and questions about this from consumers than any other. First, let’s allow Mr. Rascoff to tell us exactly how “Zestimates” are derived: The short answer is the data base. The software looks at the property attributes of the home, and tries to compare it with like homes. The longer answer is, at each census track level — census track is basically a couple of neighborhood blocks — Zillow has a meta-model that sits on other sub-models. For example, one looks at tax assessments, another may look at distance to an arterial, a third might examine dollars per square foot and a fourth would look at just regression against a number of bedrooms. The meta-model is constantly changing and improving itself as more data comes in, so as time passes, it becomes more accurate.

I have had people who swear by Zestimates, and others who laugh at them. I have found that, most of the time, a Zestimate is a somewhat reasonable look at current market value. But not always, and it is never precise. There are times when the “estimate” is way too low or high, but in any case, Mr. Rascoff is basically admitting to known limitations in trying to use such a model at the individual home level for every house in America. There is only one good way to get a solid estimate: use an intelligent, authentic, knowledgeable real estate professional who understands your market and underlying trends.

  • About 1/3 of homes in the U.S. have had their property attributes changed on Zillow by homeowners or their agents. This is much like Wikepedia, which is the largest living data base in the world. Zillow is the largest living real estate data base in the world, and so much of the data is missing or inaccurate, but Zillow is getting more accurate over time. Zillow uses what is known as a “hedonic analysis”. This takes the attributes of property and weighs them to statistically derive an estimate. It becomes more accurate as more accurate data is submitted.

I admire Mr. Rascoff for acknowledging the limitations and being honest with consumers. Once again, the answer is: use a solid, intelligent, honest, authentic real estate professional, preferably one who understands and works with Zillow as well. There have been several occasions when, as a Premier Agent, I have had to help a homeowner challenge a “zestimate”, and done so with success. My feedback helps them make their data base more accurate.

  • To the question about Zestimates accuracy, and criticisms that many valuation factors cannot be captured and automated, Mr. Rascoff answers that as follows: “I agree with that. I mean, it’s computer-generated on every home in the country three times a week. No employee of Zillow has ever been in your home. For a computer-generated valuation, we believe it is quite accurate, and a good starting point. We call it ‘Zestimate’, not “Zappraisal.’ It is meant to be a starting point. If you want to figure out a more accurate determination of your home’s value, we encourage you to talk to a real estate agent or an appraiser, who will come to your home and refine the valuation.”

I have nothing to add to what Mr. Rascoff says, above. All great points.

  • To the issue of “accuracy problems” and the fact that many real estate developers have complained to him about the inconsistency in valuations (according to them)…. Rascoff: This is an industry wide problem. We rely on county records, and data there can only be corrected by owners or agents, so Zillow is reliant on that. Zillow has spent a lot of money, a lot of business expertise, to try to solve this issue. It will be something they work on for years down the road. Many states and some cities have exceptional collection methodologies and many have poor collection methodologies. Zillow is somewhat hamstrung by this in terms of accurate output.

Once again, Mr. Rascoff is making the point that Zillow is improving and is an excellent starting point for searches. But as you move down the processing road, eventually enlist a valued real estate professional partner to help you.

  • When asked his ultimate goals, Mr. Raskoff says that he hopes to create an everlasting and enduring brand that his children, and someday grand children, will know. Zillow is just getting started. They hope to team with local real estate experts to create a system which works best for the consumer and home owner in America.

Good luck, Mr. Rascoff. I look forward to walking the walk with you.

 

SPECIFICS OF THE RAY MAX WEB SITE:

I developed this site in response to the many people who have requested more than just a “standard, off-the-shelf” site, stuffed with links leading to all sorts of standardized (many would say “canned”) articles and commentary painted with a broad brush. To repeat that format would be of no value to anyone. Most of the writing on this site is original content.

Good practitioners in any field should always “bring something to the table”, and real estate agents are no different. In that regard, this web site will provide more opinions than you will receive from other sites, and hopefully much more relevant content, organized in a way which will allow you to focus on particular areas of interest or concern. I attempted to organize information in ways which are easy to locate, to write in a way to avoid “Realtor fluff”, and provide an honest assessment of events of the day.

The site is organized with five major tabs on the home page. Within each tab are sub-sections down the left side, with links to enhance the information flow. When you click to enter one of these five areas, you be immediately offered the opportunity to search active listings which focus only on those communities and their sub-communities. For the person who has a specific interest in a specific community (or an interest in a certain niche type of housing), this cuts to the chase and provides a much simpler search process than through Zillow or any other online source. If you want the more generalized search capability offered by Zillow, you can achieve that equivalent on the home page, lower-center, by clicking the home search widget. A general description of each community is also provided, which is a major benefit above that offered by all on-line listing services.

Under “Why List With Ray Wedell?”, I attempt to get to the core issues involved in this decision to choose a listing agent and avoid many of the platitudes which populate this topic on other web sites.

The section which most people seem to favor in preliminary test runs of this site is the one dedicated to “Areas/Life Style.” This section is organized to allow the user to receive indepth discussion of those areas and specific communities with which I have personal knowledge. Within each individual section and community, you will find numerous links to listings in only those areas: targeted listing searches allowing you to cut “right to the chase”. I repeat from above: When you click to enter one of these five areas, you be immediately offered the opportunity to search active listings which focus only on those communities and their sub-communities. For the person who has a specific interest in a specific community (or an interest in a certain niche type of housing), this cuts to the chase and provides a much simpler search process than through Zillow or any other online source. And the data is a direct MLS feed, ensuring accuracy.

If you want the more generalized search capability offered by Zillow, you can achieve that equivalent on the home page by clicking the home search widget. A general description of each community is also provided, which is a major benefit above that offered by all on-line listing services. For example, the section on penthouse living, entitled “DC Castles in the Sky”, provides a link leading you to a list of ONLY those homes which are truly high floor, penthouse homes. But it does not stop there. Also within this section is a summary of many of the specific buildings which would house these types of homes, now and in the future, AND a link which gives you all the listings in that particular building. By using this format, I can provide descriptions and relevant commentary on communities of interest, and give you searches already set up to allow quick access to active listings in those communities.

One thing I consciously avoid is an “all-things-to-all-people” approach. At the bottom of this section, you can read a summary as to what areas and styles of homes I specialize in. Information in this web site will be focused only on those areas. If you are not interested in any of these areas, call me anyway: I have experienced colleagues throughout the Metropolitan D.C. region with whom you can be matched, based on knowledge and personality. Having a third party professional help you in this search could be a major benefit. All of this at no charge to you.

I hope you enjoy your visit to my site, and feel free to stay awhile!

Finding the Right Agent for You– As stated above, I believe that no individual or group can claim to be all-things-to-all people. It is very possible that you have a need to buy a home in an area in which I believe you may be better served by an agent more knowledgeable in areas of likely interest. Or you may be looking to list your home for sale in an area in which I believe your sale would be better handled by another agent. For these reasons, it is even more important that you contact me and allow me to find an excellent real estate agent from RE/MAX who I know would provide the best possible real estate service. If given the opportunity to discuss your situation and needs, I can introduce you to an agent who is both technically competent in your area and, equally as important, matches the personality traits which we decide would work best with you. 

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