Prepare, plan and trust the professionals to navigate an ever-changing real estate market, local realtor advice

By Christy Mumford Jerding

Whether you’re looking for a rental apartment or buying a house, preparation and planning is key to success, according to Parr & Abernathy Realty, Inc., in Hopewell.

For more than 30 years, Parr & Abernathy has been providing residents of Hopewell and surrounding communities with real estate services, including buying, selling, renting and property management. Opened in 1986 by Elizabeth W. Abernathy and Donald W. Parr, the company is now led by broker/owner Shanna Story. In a recent interview, Story talked about how the real estate business has evolved as well as current challenges in the market.

“I have been involved with the company since 1995, and even in my 24-plus years, there have been a lot of changes,” she said. “When I first started, the MLS books were printed and distributed weekly, we used map books to plan out appointments, and we hand-delivered flyers and brochures to other real estate offices in the area. I would say that one of the biggest changes has been the incorporation of technology into the industry.”

One thing that has not changed is the importance of engaging with the community as part of strengthening the business. Parr & Abernathy has supported Operation Christmas Child in Hopewell, National Law Enforcement Week and drives to provide school supplies for children.

“We are a hometown, local-owned company,” Story said. “We are a family here in the office; and we try and spread the sense of community out to our customers and clients. It is very important to us that the communities we service also know we care about their well-being and want to help in any way we can. It is important for the staff to understand that we are not just a business; but a part of the community, and by giving back, it is very much appreciated by those in need.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unique challenges throughout the community, but in terms of real estate, the biggest effect has actually been a scarcity of available properties.

“We thought when COVID hit our region in March 2020 that business would slow down for all aspects of our services,” Story said. “Just the opposite occurred. The resale market of 2020 continued to show improvement from the prior years, and then took off. COVID did not stop people from wanting to get into the home-buying market. Our inventory has been very low, with too many buyers and not enough houses to sell.

“This has been the same in the rental market. With the uptick in the values, some landlords decided it was a good time to sell, and so as leases came vacant, they sold their units. This created a shortage in the rental market, which drove up the rental rates in some areas. This continues to be the case going into the end of the first quarter of 2021.”

Overall for 2020 in Virginia, home sales rose 10.8%, largely driven by a surge in the second half of the year, according to the National Association of Realtors.

“It just goes to show that real estate is part of the foundation for a strong economy,” Story said. “No matter what is going on socially or politically at a national level, the real estate industry is resilient and will always stay on track to help keep consumer confidence moving in a positive direction.

“The (mortgage interest) rates, of course, do make buying at certain times attractive; but the confidence of the consumer is what drives their desire to step into the arena.”

The pandemic has brought about some changes in what consumers are looking for in a home, Story said. “With a large increase of teleworking and students doing distance learning in our area, I am sure the need for more working space, outside of the living space, was a contributing factor to some who desired to enter the market (this year).”

Whatever the reason for making a move, Story said that doing research, reviewing finances and having a game plan are more important than ever when it comes to home sales.

“When you go to enter the home buying market or looking to make a move to another rental home, have your finances in a row,” she said. “Solid credit, money in the bank ready to put down on deposits and being ready to act ASAP are what is needed. Both the resale market and the rental market are moving houses so quickly, if one does not have everything lined up, they will miss out.”

One item that is critically important in home buying is pre-approval for a mortgage. “Pre-qualification letters are no longer what sellers are looking for; they are looking to review a pre-approval letter from a mortgage company before entertaining most offers,” she said.

If you’re selling, have a place to move into, even temporarily, lined up. “Your house will more than likely be under contract within days or weeks of placing it on the resale market. We are seeing some sellers refraining from putting their house on the market due to the lack of inventory for a house for them to relocate to as a home buyer.”

Most important, Story said, hire a professional realtor to guide you through the process.

“Let us do the work for you of finding the home, helping with the paperwork and assisting you in making this dream come true. We are professionals. We not only are here to assist in bringing buyers and sellers, landlords and tenants together; we are also here lobbying on behalf of these folks to protect private property rights and the rights to home ownership. This is what we do all day and every day.”

Since it opened, Story said, Parr & Abernathy has had the same goal: “To help our customers find the home they want at an affordable price or help them sell their home for the best price possible.”