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Fry’s Springs Downzoning Proposed Again

The perils of zoning rear their heads in Fry's Springs.

The Charlottesville City Council has agreed to consider a request from the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association to study rezoning of three streets.

“Essentially, they are asking for the properties on Stribling, Crestmont and Shamrock to be downzoned,” said Jim Tolbert, director of the city’s Neighborhood Development Services.

Specifically, the neighborhood association has been asking for the city to change the zoning on all properties classified as R-2 to R-1S. Properties in R-2 can have up to two families, whereas R-1S allows only one. Accessory apartments could still exist, but only if the property owner lives on site.

In all, there are 213 properties in the Fry’s Spring neighborhood with R-2 zoning.

This is an interesting development, so to speak. On one hand, what's the harm in having the conversation about downzoning (besides staff time and resources)? The harm is that by contemplating downzoning, the City is discussing changing the property rights of owners.

R-2 and R-1S zoning presumably provide affordable housing options, and by eliminating this zoning the City would presumably be eliminating some affordable housing options ... but with all the apartments coming to West Main Street, maybe the City is ok with this.

Curious - do off-site owners have lesser rights than owner-occupants?

"Councilor Dede Smith, a Fry’s Spring resident, said that half of those owners do not live in Charlottesville."

If you're curious to see the City of Charlottesville's zoning map, start here (the West Main study that's there is interesting, too).

Posted in Charlottesville, Growth | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Charlottesville’s City Market Getting a Permanent Home

Charlottesville Tomorrow has the story.

Downtown will get a nearly year-round City Market and a taller downtown …

- at C-Ville, take a look at the proposed building (it's huge).
The vote was met with applause Monday night after the council selected the Market Plaza proposal. Local builder Keith Woodard intends to purchase and redevelop a city-owned parking lot into a nine-story building that will have homes, offices and stores.
In context, this is a pretty fast decision for local government. This is another reason to live close to Downtown Charlottesville ... more walkable to more stuff typically = increased property values and higher quality of life. Did they ever figure out what caused the City building to catch on fire in December?
Posted in Charlottesville | Tagged | 2 Comments

Monday Reading – 16 June 2014

- This should be required reading - 8 Surprise expenses for homeowners. Changing locks, pest control … in something as rare as a purple dinosaur eating a banana in the middle of a soccer stadium talking on a cell phone, many of the comments are useful.

- City of Charlottesville City Council will discuss Belmont Bridge and the Albemarle Planning Commission will discuss downtown Crozet’s possible renovation, among other big meetings.

- This part of the conceptual plan for West Main Street is absurd:

Another change that the street could see is the addition of elevated and protected bicycle lanes on both sides of the road. Providing bike lanes that are protected from on-street parking could help to reduce the number of bicycle accidents that have occurred along the road. “The bike lanes will probably mostly be used by people who are tootling along, a little slower, maybe have children on bikes, and it’s a safer environment,” said committee member Rachel Lloyd. “People who are really moving can go in the vehicular lanes.”
Instead of elevated bike lanes, why not protected ones? - There is so much to the pocket listing conversation; it's fascinating that Colorado's Real Estate Commission may be entering the fray. I wrote about pocket listings last year and earlier this year in my note. - Creepy. What data brokers know about you. One day soon, this will (openly) affect lending. - This is a really interesting conversation on "what businesses should come to Crozet?" I missed the opportunity to better define the question - what anchor industries should come to Crozet? but the discussion was great all the same. Lots and lots of Facebook comments, too. - With clients yesterday, we debated whether the folks who designed Stonefield were drunk or high. We concluded they were probably both.
Posted in Albemarle, Charlottesville, General Real Estate | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Virginia’s New Home Inspection Form – Buyers can Terminate with No Cause

There are now two ways for a buyer to terminate a Contract with no cause. Since I started in 2001, the buyer has been able to terminate a contract based on the HOA documents - buyers have three days to review the HOA documents.

A few months ago the Virginia Association of Realtors released a new home inspection contingency form.
Pursuant to the terms of Contract, Seller shall have all utilities in service If the results of such Inspection(s) are unsatisfactory to Purchaser, in Purchaser’s sole discretion, Purchaser shall provide Seller, prior to Home Inspection Deadline: 1) An entire copy of the report(s) and a written addendum listing the specific existing deficiencies (as defined below) of Property that Purchaser requests Seller to remedy together with Purchaser’s proposed remedies (“Home Inspection Removal of Contingency Addendum,” herein referred to as “Removal Addendum”) OR 2) Written evidence that such Inspection was performed and notice terminating Contract. Upon request by Seller, Buyer shall provide an entire copy of the inspection report to Seller.

At Purchasers' sole discretion, they may terminate the contract so long as they've had the home inspection. Now, the cost of terminating a contract is a couple hundred dollars.

Anecdotally, I'm hearing a lot of stories of buyers using this contingency to back out of contracts for no cause - this isn't good for the sellers, the market or, frankly, for the buyers.

As a buyers' agent: This is good and bad. Good: I want my buyer clients to always have the best opportunity to make the best decisions. Notsogood: I tend to think of a Contract as a binding thing that should be taken very seriously. If a buyer enters a contract thinking already about how they're going to get out of the contract, no one benefits.

As a sellers' agent: This stinks. A seller should have the opportunity to negotiate and remedy deficiencies. Period. This form changes that.

What value is the earnest money deposit? A purchaser could put down an abnormally large earnest money deposit (the deposit they make at Contract Ratification that ostensibly binds them to the contract and represents the amount that they potentially lose if they default) - and get it back if they simply change their minds in the home inspection contingency timeframe.

What is a buyer or seller to do? Know what you're signing.

Posted in Charlottesville, General Real Estate | Tagged | Leave a comment

Buying a House? Talk to Planners First

Things change. Especially so when it’s some else’s property. Spend some time at GIS sites and look at historical photos - everything changes.

The things I dream about ... (or Zillow, or NestRealty or …) + Sitegeist + Charlottesville Tomorrow + Geocoded Locality Planning data ….

I’ve said for years that if you buy a house and are expecting that field (or house) across the way to stay that way you’d best buy it yourself.

In response to my note last month, I received this insightful email: (a few edits for clarity and bolding are mine)

I will say this about the questions "what it's like to live here" as a planner I wish that the local realtors would tell potential buyers in the county (or City …) are those areas that are within the development area and those in the rural. It always amazes me when people get upset about development on an adjacent property when they moved to the development areas. It would be awesome if they were told, "this is the development area so see that nice forested property? It may be developed in the future." Not sure if you are "allowed" to give that info, but I am always amazed by people who get angry that didn't know they bought in a development area. I think it should be added to the MLS, so buyers ask the question of what does that mean.

I make sure my clients are as aware as possible about the risks posed by adjacent properties and what they need to do to educate and prepare themselves.

As far as the MLS having development-area information: the flaw is almost always the human. Whether a house is in the development area would have to be an automated or required field, as many Realtors inputting property data neglect to specify basic data points such as whether a property has high speed internet.

Better yet, wouldn’t it be cool if there was an app that pulled locality data from Albemarle County’s County View and stories from vetted local sources, such as, say, Charlottesville Tomorrow (and RealCentralVA)?

Charlottesville’s going to be changing MLS’ this year and now would be the time to do this. At the same time, how about making "hardwired internet - Yes/No?" Plus a speedtest required fields. Darn it.

Posted in General Real Estate | 1 Comment

Hiring Professional Photographers for Real Estate Photos

Hiring professionals is what professionals do.

The guy in the red shirt? He'll take better photos than I would. Note the tripod.
Posted in General Real Estate | 1 Comment

How do I know I’m Getting the Best Deal (on a loan)

Shopping for a loan is hard. Comparing loan terms and offers can be harder. When I recommend a lender, there is an incredible amount of conveyed trust in that recommendation.

A client asked me the other day -

"How do I know who has the best terms?" So naturally I asked a lender I trust for his answer. Matt Hodges with Presidential Mortgage wrote: Well, there’s the following: 1.       Rate & points & fees & lock in time frames 2.       Meeting commitment/close dates 3.       Breadth of products 4.       Uniqueness of products – i.e. closing prior to starting your job, gift for 100% of down payment, 100% LTV deals, etc.   We all should be .125% in rate apart on any given day, but you might see outliers.  For example, I had a rate shopper asking for a conventional 20 year loan and I was able to quote 3.875%, and no one else was better than 4% and some were higher than that.  There are a few exceptions to that pricing point, but in general it’s the value a loan officer brings to the picture to get to the finish line with the least amount of upset and on time. ----- I'd add to Matt's last sentence with this: there is tremendous value in a lender (or any professional for that matter) who will: - Foresee and anticipate problems - Acknowledge problems - Communicate problems - If it's their mistake, own the mistake and ... - Fix the problems Also. I like local lenders; as a buyer's agent, they make me immensely more comfortable. As a listing agent, I value a local lender (whom I know to be good) tremendously - and convey that to my clients.
Posted in Charlottesville, General Real Estate | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Giving Useful Feedback on Listings is Valuable

So much for valuing feedback Here's a new question I'm going to suggest sellers ask the real estate agent they are considering hiring. "Do you give good feedback to your fellow agents?" ("Do you use professional photographers" should be one of the top 5 questions asked, by the way)

Giving feedback on houses I’ve shown kinda sucks. It’s tedious. I don’t always remember which house is which (after showing 12 houses in a day, 20-some over the course of three days, the houses sometimes run together - even for a professional!), and the feedback requests usually come a couple days later.* Frequently I have to search the MLS for the house so I can remember it. And the listing agents tend to not use the mnemonics my clients and I use to remember houses - the stinky house, the cold house, they yellow house, the house on the hill, country house with road noise ...

But. Feedback is valuable.

I can make the argument that giving feedback could damage my buyer client’s position. (ie. If the listing agent asks what I think of the price, I say it’s probably pretty accurately priced and then my client and I make an offer 10% below asking … ) But for this post I won't make that argument.

As a listing agent, getting (actionable) feedback is extremely valuable:

- The house smells (for God's sake, get rid of the smelly things, people!)

- Fix the carpet

- Mow the grass

- Replace countertops

- The price is way too high

Sometimes the feedback is “they didn’t like it” or “the house is too big” or other inactionable things.


A big reason I diligently try to give useful feedback to listing agents is because I want them to give me feedback when they show my listings. Charlottesville is a small town; with not so many productive agents. Building, having and maintaining those relationships is crucial to my clients. Being able to be candid and have good relationships and rapport is absolutely critical, and while giving feedback on listings may be one of the less fun and sexy parts of being a real estate agent, it’s one of the many important little things that matters.

Posted in General Real Estate | Leave a comment