Date Archives November 2011

Case Shiller’s Perspective on the Charlottesville Real Estate Market

Case Shiller doesn’t track the Charlottesville real estate market. Nor Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Nelson, Waynesboro, Augusta … Case Schiller doesn’t track Charlottesville.

I wrote in early 2008 that The Charlottesville/Central Virginia/Shenandoah Valley markets are not covered by the Case-Shiller index. Real estate is local; while trends may be drawn from this type of research, and while the proverbial turned-corner may still be just over the horizon, it’s important to put his study in the appropriate context.

Crap. That “horizon” to which I referred is still a ways off. But … what I said remains true. Case Schiller doesn’t track our market.


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What is Walking Distance to You? (in Charlottesville)

“Walkable houses in Charlottesville” – one of the more frequent requests I get both from buyer clients and from visitors to this site.

But “walkable” means different things to different people.

Clarifying and pulling out buyers’ true intents is one of the most useful skills a good real estate agent brings to the table. For example, when a new buyer client tells me that he wants to be within “walking distance” of the Downtown Mall, I always follow up with:

“What is walking distance to you?”

Your response of “less than 30 minute walking distance” is why I asked … my non-American-based clients have a much more liberal definition of close (usually less than 30 minutes or 2 miles) than do my American clients (less than 10 minutes or 5 blocks).

So the question is – what does walkable mean to you?

As I do with a lot of the stories that make it to this here real estate blog, I started by asking on the social networks – Twitter, Facebook and Google+

The City of Charlottesville has a lot of highly “walkable” homes, using Walkscore as the guide, and there are an awful lot of condos in the City of Charlottesville that offer walkability.

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The Waterhouse Met its Deadline for the Tax Credit

C-Ville reports that the Waterhouse in downtown Charlottesville met its deadline, and Downtown Charlottesville is nearing its welcome of Worldstrides. I suspect that bringing a couple hundred new employees downtown is going to make things a bit busier – lunch, happy hour, parking(?)

New commercial and new residential condos coming to Charlottesville*

(If you were to circle me on Google+, you’d have seen the following pictures of the views from the Waterhouse condos last week!)

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UVA Continuing to Grow – Adding Stability to Charlottesville’s Economy

One of the brightest spots in the Charlottesville area economy is the University of Virginia. Love ’em or hate ’em, they provide stability and opportunity.

Charlottesville Tomorrow reports:

Noticeable at the Planning and Coordination Council meeting was the contrast between the scale and ambition of a university angling to become “the premier undergraduate experience of the Americas” and those of the county government, which has had to cut back construction plans due to ongoing revenue shortfalls.

The university is primarily pursuing infill development within the current grounds, but is still aggressively expanding capacity. This is largely due to an agreement with the state government to increase undergraduate enrollment by 1,400 students by 2018, which is in addition to an increase of 271 outstanding from a previous plan.

While the University grows, the City and County continue to struggle.

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One Way that Real Estate Agents are Like Lawyers

The New York Times notes this regarding law schools:

“The fundamental issue is that law schools are producing people who are not capable of being counselors,” says Jeffrey W. Carr, the general counsel of FMC Technologies, a Houston company that makes oil drilling equipment. They are lawyers in the sense that they have law degrees, but they aren’t ready to be a provider of services.

The same holds true in the real estate profession – except in Virginia, it takes a bit less than three years (try less than 100 hours of “education”) to get your real estate license. And the state-mandated real estate exam (and Broker’s exam, too) is so mind-numbingly easy and irrelevant as to be farcical.

Expertise comes with practice, time, production and learning from mistakes. More from the NYTimes:

And they have each spent three years and as much as $150,000 for a legal degree.

What they did not get, for all that time and money, was much practical training. Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of property law in post-feudal England. Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship, like law review articles with titles like “A Future Foretold: Neo-Aristotelian Praise of Postmodern Legal Theory.”

So, for decades, clients have essentially underwritten the training of new lawyers, paying as much as $300 an hour for the time of associates learning on the job.

The answer is: apprenticeship. No classroom can effectively replicate practical experience. I’m still working on devising a practical apprenticeship for real estate … I’m sure it’s doable, but everything would have to change – compensation of agents, most of whom currently work on 100% commission, real estate office business models, education requirements, hiring salaried mentors? – suggestions welcomed.

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