Tag Archives: 22901

Monthly Note – December 2013

December's note

In February of this year, I wrote my first monthly note. I’d like to think that I’ve shared some useful knowledge and insight about the Charlottesville real estate market, the practice of real estate and other, tangential subjects. I know this - one of the most clicked-on parts has been the “blog recap” in which I summarize some of the better posts from RealCentralVA and RealCrozetVA. Above all, I’ve loved writing these notes and I hope I've been able to convey that through my writings. Aside from the writing, the best part has been the one-on-one interaction readers have shared - the format of the note is such there are no comments, but a lot of readers have chosen to reply to the note, and that’s enormously gratifying.

With that preface, the early outline of December’s note (lamentably, I suspect this will exceed my goal of no more than 1500 words)

- The market (I start all the notes with this)

- An interesting home inspector update

- A great builder anecdote

- Agent reviews (the current hubbub about AgentMatch) - determining the “best” real estate agent for you entails more than data.

- Life after being on the Realtor Board of Directors

- Brief recap of some of my favorite stories from this year’s notes

If you find subscribing to my blogs by email cumbersome (three-four emails a week from one site would be cumbersome for me too) - please consider subscribing to my monthly note. Update: published late last night; at 2,000+ words, it's the longest ever (and I'll return to sub-1500 words in January). My monthly note really is where I write my best stuff.
Posted in General Real Estate, Shameless Self Promotion | Tagged | Leave a comment

What is “Usual and Customary” in Charlottesville? – Part 2

Ipswich, Waterfront, Ipswich Campus, The Big Question Mark Sculpture

Part 2 of 2. Part 1 is here.

Continuing the “what is usual and customary” question and answer series …

What’s “normal” in the Charlottesville real estate market? It’s a question that’s asked of me by buyers coming from other markets (agents, too) and sellers who haven’t sold a house before (or for many years). Note: what you see on HGTV is not what is “usual and customary” in the Charlottesville market. (or any market on Planet Earth).

“Usual and customary” is always changing. Radon inspections weren’t usual and customary a couple years ago; now they are. Heck, buyer agency wasn’t usual and customary 15 years ago.

Q: — Who attends the home inspection? Appraisal? Termite/Radon inspections?

A: A buyer’s agent attends all of these, with the home inspection being far more important for them to be onsite than for the termite or radon inspections. Meeting the appraiser can be tricky - sometimes if the appraiser has a lockbox key and MLS access, we never get the call to schedule. I try to meet all appraisers onsite, as I like to pick their brains about what they’re seeing in the market as they see the market through a different lens than I do.

Q: Recording and possession. Is recording done the same day as closing? Are keys transferred when closing docs are signed or when transaction is recorded?

A: Usually recording and possession happens on the same day, although I advise my buyers to not have a moving truck on the front lawn the afternoon of closing … I’ve had this happen, something went wrong and many tears were shed, curse words flew, phone calls made and a few nights in a hotel for the buyer highlighted why I advise what I do. Frequently the keys are given to the buyer at closing, with strict instructions to not enter the property until recordation has occurred.

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

No High School Rankings in Albemarle County Schools?

Albemarle County is in discussions about whether to stop ranking students.

In response to calls from parents to stop reporting class rankings to college admissions offices, Albemarle County Public Schools is in the process of reviewing its policy.

Currently, Albemarle reports class ranks to colleges and universities in deciles, but many parents feel that doing so paints students below the top 10 percent negatively in the eyes of selective universities.

Questions -

- Does *not* rewarding kids for achievement disincentivize them from trying harder?

- How could we focus educating kids on actually educating kids rather than passing tests in order to get better ranked?

- When folks are moving to Charlottesville - Albemarle what rankings to they consider in public schools? Do they factor in what percentage of

There is a great discussion at RealCrozetVA.

Update - Charlottesville Tomorrow has a poll - Should Albemarle County report student rankings to colleges?
Posted in Albemarle, Education | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Do Sellers in Charlottesville Pay Buyers’ Closing Costs?

Sometimes a post in which I pull data to answer a question becomes a bit more than intended. This is such a post.

- Do sellers pay closing costs? - Are we at a sustainable volume of closed transactions? - FHA is helping foreclosed buyers.

Do the sellers pay closing costs? Is one of the more common questions I get, whether I'm representing buyers or sellers.

A quick look at 2013 … so far, 1991 homes have sold in Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Nelson. Of those, 518 have something entered into the "seller concessions" field in the Charlottesville MLS, so presumably, about 26% of transactions this year have had some sort of seller concessions.

Last year those numbers were 1,864, 556 and 29%, respectively.**

But really .. what do "seller concessions" mean?

- The seller "paid" the buyers' closing costs. (not really)

- The buyer is financing the closing costs over the life of the loan.

in other words:

- The seller is accepting a lower net offer

- The buyer is paying a higher net offer.

For example - if a seller is asking $450k and the buyer offers $440k with the seller "paying" $10k towards the buyers' closing costs, the seller is looking at a net offer of $430k. The seller doesn't care how that's structured; they're looking at a net offer of $430k.

** Just because I'm naturally curious, I looked at the number of closed transactions in the Charlottesville MSA in the January - August timeframe in 2007 … 2,336. And 2006 … 2,824. So, from a pure volume perspective, our market is down 30% from the peak. As noted in 2012 - I’ll Know Housing Recovery in Charlottesville When I’ve Seen It

Transactions – volume of transactions – what is normal volume of sales transactions in the Charlottesville MSA? I don’t know; homeownership rates are declining. Last year, 1755 single family homes sold in the Charlottesville MSA (including Louisa). In 2002, 2479 single family homes sold. I’d put the “sustainable” rate of single family home sales somewhere in between those two numbers.
We might be getting close to a sustainable recovery.

One sign of the recovery that I called years ago? Those who were foreclosed on are now eligible for new loans - a year after foreclosure.

Posted in Market statistics | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

C-Ville and The Western Bypass

Graelyn Brashear's story in C-Ville on the Western Bypass is remarkable; its depth, range, imagery and clarity are outstanding. Take 30 minutes to read it.

Also notable is C-Ville's presentation of the story; it's useful and makes a subject of this breadth easier to digest. I particularly like the Medium-like commenting, which is particularly useful for a story of this length. Really, go see it and read it.

The Western Bypass debate/conversation/saga has been ongoing for so long that it's often impossible for anyone - even long-time residents of Charlottesville (read: Charlottesville + Albemarle + Central Virginia) to fathom or comprehend the scope of both the proposed road and the political/business/transportation dynamics of the Western Bypass (and our region's collective inability to efficiently solve transportation and planning challenges).

The C-Ville story is an outstanding summary.

I know this:

- Route 29 is a disaster. Hydraulic/29 and Rio/29

- For years, many of my clients target their home search locations as either "not North of Rio" or "not North of Hydraulic"

- The current termination of the Western Bypass is silly

… the current design of the northern terminus is flawed: Northbound traffic from the Bypass is dumped out onto Route 29 just before the light at Ashwood, where the highway narrows from three lanes to two.

I mean, really?

- I've told my clients for years that transportation is one of the Charlottesville-Albemarle area's greatest detractors

- Charlottesville and Albemarle - and the entire region need to be involved in this conversation, not just "the City" or "the County"

Something has to be done, but it really needs to be done 25 years ago. The best solution? I don't know, but I know that the flawed current proposal is severely flawed. If only our system allowed for a reasonable debate instead of politicians and interest groups fighting rather than compromising.

All this as another anti-Western Bypass group motivates.

Posted in Albemarle, Charlottesville, Politics, Transportation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking Back at 6 Things in Charlottesville – #6 – Apartments

Crane at West Main Plaze in City of Charlottesville

In January I mentioned 6 things that we should watch in 2013 - inventory, home prices, distressed sales, confidence, buyer frustration and apartments. Being nearly September, I figured it a good time to look back at where these things stand. I'm going to be looking at these six things over the next few weeks. Starting with Apartments.

Apartments - there are going to be a lot more available in 2013 and 2014. A few of the new complexes: Arden Place (Rio Road), The Pavilion at North Grounds (Millmont/UVA), Stonefield Commons (Hydraulic & 29), The Reserve at Belvedere (Rio), the Plaza on West Main (UVA), City Walk (Downtown - more on the Coal Tower). As I said, a lot more apartments will be coming on the market soon.

City Walk is taking shape, the Plaza on West Main is moving fast, The Pavilion at North Grounds has people moving in (and presumably Sedona Taphouse is loving life), Arden Place and Stonefield Commons are leasing.

And …

Another 192 apartments will be coming to West Main Street directly across from the Plaza on West Main - called "The Standard" :

“We’re proposing a new multifamily apartment complex and we’re working now on a design that will cater to the surrounding uses of the university and the hospital,” said Jason Doornbos, vice president of development for Georgia-based Landmark Properties.

And …

Another 56 units are proposed for 10th and Market Streets Downtown:

In all, the developers have proposed 56 units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground and first floors. A structured parking garage with 100 spaces is also planned underneath the building.


The ramifications for bringing all of these are apartments at pretty much the same time … staggering. The first few thoughts and questions that come to mind:

- To my mind, this is confirmation that the 0-5 Buyer is GONE. The buyer who would move to Charlottesville, buy and then sell in under 5 years: thing of the past. (really, read that story if you're interested in this trend)

- If you're looking to buy an investment property in the City, you would probably be advised to think about the competition against which you'll be renting.

- Transportation. I really hope these new developments actively promote bicycling and walking as opposed to being purely car-centric. Adding about 1,000 new apartment units in the City of Charlottesville will presumably add a commensurate number of vehicle/pedestrian/bicycle trips.

- Where are these people working? UVA? Startups? Restaurants?

- Will any be designated "affordable"? And whose definition of "affordable" applies?

- Parking. Each of the two new proposed developments above seem to have about a 2 to 1 ratio for spots to units; presumably the commercial development will use some of these spaces as well.

- Maybe this is a sign that we're in the midst of a more mobile economy

- Or maybe it's a reaction to the trend that driving isn't cool (if you're a millennial).

- Maybe it's a reaction to the forthcoming "renter nation" many have discussed for so long.

But really the number of new apartments in Charlottesville is a reaction to the better economy. Financing is available and developers are obviously confident that there is demand for these products - commercial and residential. Who is the market for these apartments? If it's not the "families" some in the City of Charlottesville would like to see, why are they approving them?

And finally, how do these all fit into the just-adopted Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan?

Posted in Albemarle, Charlottesville, General Real Estate | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Paying More for Walkable Homes in Charlottesville?

That's the theory put forth by the Piedmont Environmental Council and reported on at Bacon's Rebellion.

The conclusions apparently found in their study of 120 homes aren't a surprise to readers of RealCentralVA (see links at the end of this post), but I wanted to differ with one of the conclusions with three points:

Many people continue to prefer living in the suburbs. But Werner’s divergent trend lines make it clear that supply-side of “walkable urbanism” housing is severely under-served.

-- With a reference to a story I wrote in January (and will be revisiting soon)

Apartments - there are going to be a lot more available in 2013 and 2014. A few of the new complexes: Arden Place (Rio Road), The Pavilion at North Grounds (Millmont/UVA), Stonefield Commons (Hydraulic & 29), The Reserve at Belvedere (Rio), the Plaza on West Main (UVA), City Walk (Downtown - more on the Coal Tower). As I said, a lot more apartments will be coming on the market soon.

-- And also point out that there are quite a few new construction neighborhoods in the City of Charlottesville that offer true walkability for those wiling to live that urban lifestyle (and can afford to do so).

-- And that buying a car just isn't a desired option for a lot of millennials; many of them want the urban lifestyle (and often that means renting rather than buying):
Economic realities: The costs of owning a car just keep increasing. A 2012 AAA study found the expense of having a car totaled $8,946 annually on average, nearly 2 percent more than the previous year. As transportation alternatives increase, the desire to own your own car diminishes. You've got I-Gocar sharing and Zipcar. I love Zipcar's slogan — it says it all for this generation: "The car for people who don't want one." There are also shared ride programs, company-provided transportation plans and the old reliables: biking and walking. The Gen Y stats (16- to 34-year-olds) are pretty impressive: Driving was down from 2001 to 2009 (23 percent), biking was up (24 percent) and walking was up (16 percent), according to the National Household Travel Survey.

Related reading:

- Where Are the Walkable Neighborhoods in Charlottesville/Albemarle? (2008)
- Charlottesville is the 3rd Most Walkable City in Virginia (2010)
- Choosing Where you Want to Live in Charlottesville – Walkability and Safety Top the List (2013)
- Walkability=Affordability= Profitability=Livability (2009)

Posted in Charlottesville, General Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two Upcoming Bicycling Events in Charlottesville + a Thought about Community

Update 5 July 2013 -

One way to commit myself is by signing up for a 100 mile bicycling challenge. Which I just did. Feel like supporting the Boys and Girls Club? (Please click through to the bottom of this post.)

Charlottesville is known to be a great bicycling community … a community I'm just starting to discover.

Years ago someone described the Charlottesville community as being lots of circles that never touch - a not-quite-venn-diagram if you will.

Concentric Circles

Funny how these things work. Start a new sport, and a new community emerges. People I know and see in one community are people I'm starting to see in the bicycling community. There are lots of ways to connect to Charlottesville; biking is but another.

As my foray continues I'm starting to pay attention to the bicycling news and world and have found a couple challenges -

The Boys and Girls Club Challenge - 15 September 2013 - 25, 50, 75 and 100 mile options are available.

Gran Fondo Virginia - 8 September 2013 - 22, 52 and 104 mile challenges from which to choose.

So far, some of the best resources I've found as I start this new adventure:

Blue Ridge Cyclery - (where I bought my bike) at least three of my friends/clients either spoke highly of, and/or I've seen them wearing Blue Ridge Cyclery's jerseys.

Charlottesville Bike Club - I haven't interacted yet with these folks, but the information has proven useful

Strava and Mapmyride.com - sites/apps, both of which seem to have particular strengths I'm still discovering and exploring.

Bike Charlottesville - information and advocacy group

Posted in Albemarle, Charlottesville | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments