Tag Archives: 22901

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?

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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)

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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

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Charlottesville is Brainy – For Everyone & For Those Under 35

water_st_maples [Explored 10/18/2012]

No, really, Charlottesville is the 15th brainiest metro area in the US.

From the Atlantic Cities article:

Lumosity data scientist Daniel Sternberg explains the prominence of college towns this way:

College towns tend to do well because education is correlated with cognitive performance. We’ve seen in our other research that those with advanced degrees tend to perform better cognitively throughout the lifespan. When we looked at some trends based on American Community Survey data, we found that the percentage of individuals within a metro area with advanced degrees, and the percentage of individuals within a CBSA pursuing advanced degrees were both strong predictors of the cognitive performance score for that metro area.

Not bad. The ancillary effects of the University of Virginia are well known, but this is the first time I’ve seen the Charlottesville area as being noted for the under-35 demographic – I’ll take that as a very good thing for the future of our area, should it be a reasonably accurate conclusion.

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What’s a Pocket Listing? And Why Should Consumers Care?

I’ve been a real estate agent in Charlottesville since 2001 and I’ve never seen this volume of pocket listings. Is it due to the ubiquity of the internet, the sellers’ market (for some segments) or both?* As a consumer, how does this matter to you?

Pocket listing: pocket |ˈpäkət| listing |ˈlistiNG|


A listing for a property that is held by an agent in his or her pocket, marketed quietly (but not surreptitiously), usually within his sphere or brokerage.

Quality homes for sale in some segments of the Charlottesville market remain in very high demand and seemingly equal low supply, and sales in some micro-market segments are up.

A brief look at inventory levels and sales in the City of Charlottesville and County of Albemarle, year-over-year -

Inventory Levels for Charlottesville and Albemarle

Some insight into what I’m seeing with respect to pocket listings in Charlottesville:

- I get at least one email every other day either marketing a pocket listing or seeking a specific home type for sale from an agent within my firm or from an agent from another brokerage
- I pitch a short-term pocket listing process to many of my seller clients when we deem it appropriate

- More and more, pocket listings – at least for a short period of time – make sense. In other words, they’re working.

- I like how Steve Harney lays out some of the advantages and disadvantages of pocket listings.

Advantages to pocket listings that I tell my clients:

- Sellers can test the market – as in, if you put the house on the pocket market for $450,000 and initial feedback reveals that $425,000 is where the price should be, then we’re able to list the house in the MLS for $425k and the wider market doesn’t see that price reduction.

- Often, the seller doesn’t have to have the full “list of things that need to be done” completely finished – a room or two can be left unpainted or in-process – as the listing agent can vet and prep the agents showing the house during the pocket listing period.

- Don’t have to go through the full invasive experience of having your house shown. (selling a house usually sucks; it’s invasive, sellers need to keep the house spotless and it alters schedules remarkably). In other words, how does one quantify sanity and quality of life through the home sale process? I can see some sellers valuing not having to their home open to the public, as it were, at $10k, others $50k, some notsomuch. There is rarely a one-size-fits all answer.

- For the seller – this is an opportunity to test drive the selling process.

- For the buyer – they get access to a property that other buyers don’t.

Disadvantages -

- Seller doesn’t get full exposure to the market by not listing in the MLS. By not exposing the house to the entire market, the seller might realize a lower sales price.
- The MLS is a less accurate thing if the sales aren’t entered into the MLS – less accurate for searching for homes for sale as well as researching prices for comps and sold homes.

- This practice could be a means by which cooperative compensation’s usefulness is minimized.
- The risk for single agent dual agency may be greater. (only one party benefits in this situation – it’s not the client)

- Buyers – may pay a higher than market value as the market is so small and the demand is (artificially(?)) higher.

- More closed markets – some neighborhoods and price points seem to be more amenable to the pocket listing route – with seemingly few agents who have access to what’s going on in this sub-market.

So … what’s a consumer to do?

- Buyer or seller – Understand the inefficiency of the market.
- When interviewing your buyer’s agent (you do that, right?) – ask how tapped into the quiet market they are.
- If you’re a seller – have the conversation with your prospective representative about single agent dual agency, and discuss what happens if the agent procures a buyer. (my answer: I’d either have the buyer be unrepresented or have send them to another competent agent)

- If you’re a buyer – determine what it is that you’re looking for. “I’m looking for a four bedroom home in Crozet or Brownsville between $450k and $500k on less than an acre” is a better email to send to agents than “I need a house in Albemarle that my clients will like” :)

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Question – What Modern Homes Would Sell in Charlottesville?

What do you think?

I think there’s a real, untapped market for modern homes in Charlottesville. Latitude 38′s homes tend to look great and sell very well, for example.

I really like this home; this one, too. (not taking a photos from their site as I don’t have permission … despite it’s being “on the internet”).

The very first RoehrSchmitt Architecture creation, the Wall House is a 2,000 square foot urban infill home that was a great collaboration between the owners, architect and builder. The budget was tight and the expectations high, but working closely together the team was able to achieve the owners’ objectives in a crisp, modern package for less than $150 per square foot. The design is efficient and easily adaptable to other sites and contexts. We see it as a prototype for an affordable modern house on a typical urban lot – a loft with a yard.

As my research has evolved, I’ve finally found a reason to use Pinterest. Really. I’m saving my favorites both in Pinterest and Evernote, but Pinterest just offers a simple, efficient, clean way to save and display these homes.

I’m thinking a modern home like this would be more desirable …


… than something like this (although I am sure that this type of home would sell here – to the right buyer)

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Home Sales in Charlottesville Down, Contracts Up, Market Turning?

YOUR market will vary.

Even though this is what we believe to be an extremely accurate market report, it’s still a broad-brush report.

Mill Creek will have different inventory levels and absorption rates than will Old Trail, or the Gleason condos. As will different price points. i.e. – low absorption rate at $1 million + , high absorption rate in the $300k – $400k price point.

Dig in, get educated, ask questions, either in the comments below or email or call me anytime.

This is an example of how saying “sales are up” or “sales are down” doesn’t tell the whole picture.

For all residential sales year to date in the Charlottesville MSA:

Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® © 2013 LIST-IT-1.jpg

Very broad takeaways -

- Inventory levels across the MSA are up, sales are down.

- Quality inventory is anecdotally way down

- In some market segments, multiple offers are common place.

- New construction is going to be a huge market segment – for better or worse.

- Being prepared to act fast – whether as a buyer or seller – is crucial.

The full report is embedded below, or download it here.

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Goodbye Charlottesville Bubble Blogger(s) – for Now

Goodbye, Charlottesville Bubble Bloggers. Today marks their final post . Thanks for the insight, the forced introspection and for bringing some life to the Charlottesville real estate conversation. Please don’t let your blog become yet another abandoned internet place feeding dead links.*

Mid-2008 brought the advent of the Charlottesville Bubble Bloggers. Much consternation followed in the Charlottesville real estate agent community. They brought candor, some snark, brutal analysis and anonymity to the Charlottesville real estate conversation.

I, for one, welcomed them – engaged them thoughtfully and I’d like to think earned their respect (and they mine).

Late 2008 I interviewed them – all three of them – Jane, John and Snarky Doe – in a two-part email interview. Part One. Part Two.

Late 2009 they reviewed a bunch of houses (something I think a whole bunch of buyers would like to see more of).

And then in 2011 they interviewed some of the Charlottesville real estate agents who had engaged them** on their blog (as an aside, that image remains one of my all-time favorites).

Late 2012 they put together their thoughts on the Charlottesville market.

And so now, they are moving on … and have been so kind as to answer a few of my questions.

1 – Who are you? (don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone)

In the beginning “we” were several people who were interested in/shocked by prices/obsessed with real estate in Charlottesville and Albemarle. Though in ’08 and ’09 there was lot of blog snark (which was true across the Internets), we actually did and *do* love Charlottesville. It’s a fantastic place to live, and it’s too bad the secret is out. This makes the traffic truly awful; sometimes it seems very crowded; and RE prices are up, for good. (More on how that is true, and not true, in the final post on the C’ville Bubble Blog).

2009 and 2010 were awful years for the American Economy, home owners, savers, and millions of workers. Our belief system turned to Econogeddon and Prepper, and we became hand-wringers over the control Too Big to Jail Banks  had and have over the US Government and political parties, property-owners, and potential buyers. We chronicled this in terms of the local and national.

It remains a fact that many people will never recover their standard of living and neither would have the rest of us w/out the kick-the-can-down-the-road heroics of money-printing Fed Chair Ben Bernanke and Treasury Sec Tim Geithner.

Along the way, through life-changes and the improving economy, “we” morphed into “I”…around the time the blog took to Twitter. Tweeting is a lot more efficient than blogging, though certainly not less time-consuming. 2011 was a busy year of blogging–but mostly because there was a lot going on.

There were signs that housing was entering a new phase by early 2012, with the National Fraudclosure Settlement, though it ultimately was to provide not much relief for home owners. There was a New Year’s resolution to wrap up the blog…which got derailed. But the last blogger standing did manage to generate 80% less content than previous years :0).

2a. Okayfine. Could you have written as you have had you not been anonymous?
Now that it’s 2013, an anonymous blogger or internet entity might need to be explained. The Internet now is Nice. But back when the blog started, mid-2008, ‘anonymity’ on the web was still a viable, if not preferable, option. Many people still had funny little names as email addresses, and blogged, or commented on blogs, with wacky monikers.

Locally, there was an extremely popular website / gossip extravaganza called The Cvillain, which was up-to-the second, in-the-know, controversial, snarky, anonymous. Nationally, there were a number of housing and econ blogs that were widely read and anonymous: Zero Hedge with lead blogger Tyler Durden; Dr. Housing Bubble; Calculated Risk, who was known as CR (but is now known as Bill McBride), who co-blogged with one of the best writers about mortgages and the bubble, called Tanta, whose identity was only revealed after she died in 2009. There was precedence.

Could we have written the same if we had not been anonymous? Probably not. People would have looked at our current or previous jobs or pursuits or financial status or owner status, rather than the data on the blog.

What’s equally interesting as our own (and my own) anonymity is the kind of people who rejected it or accepted it. There’s one particular TV station in town that wouldn’t have anything to do with the blog, at least publicly. But NBC29 and Daily Progress, The Hook, and C-VILLE reporters were savvy enough to use it as a resource and interact via Twitter.

Too, the blog had long-term private email and Twitter correspondence with a number of area RE agents, home buyers and sellers, finance guys, UVA profs. None of the correspondents spent too much time pondering the anonymous question.

2 – Do you think the bottom is here?  The end of 2011, and the Q1 of 2012 was, anecdotally, the bottom of the bust.   I believe the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County have seen their price bottoms, especially in the “First Time Homebuyer” category of under $300k. It’s a question of very low inventory. Here’s a national chart on pricing which confirms pricing ideas.

But the most convincing bit of data for Q4 2011/ Q1 2012 being the bottom is that several of the blog’s long-term commenters / correspondents bought houses: “Serious Buyer,” “Craigger,” “Anonymous,” among them.
These folks tracked the local and nat’l markets closely for years and independently decided to finally buy, deciding if it wasn’t “the” bottom, it was close enough. And with mortgage interest rates solidly under 4%, they were all happy.

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