Date Archives January 2012

Charlottesville Really is a Great Place to Live

No we didn’t make another list (that I’m aware of), but this weekend my family went to a town in another state for my older daughter’s soccer tournament.

The contrasts between that town and ours are remarkable – ours is green, vibrant, thriving, with contrasts between city, country, mountains and flat land. Theirs is none of those. It’s interesting here, the topography, the culture, the things to do …

On the days where I read about a story about the stunning ineptitude of our politicians systems bureaucracy, the perspective of going to a place that is desolate, boring, depressed and uninteresting is immensely valuable.

For all of Charlottesville’s* faults and shortcomings (I’ll identify a few in a forthcoming story), we live in a pretty nice place and I count myself as damn lucky to live here.

Spend a few minutes browsing James Marshall’s photo stream on Flickr and tell me that Charlottesville’s not an awesome place to live. Seriously.

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Best Buy Ramp Still Delayed

Charlottesville Tomorrow reports that the Best Buy ramp project is still delayed.

Is anyone surprised that the advice VDOT is offering is this?

Rich suggested that acceptance might be the best response to distant construction dates.

This seems par for the course in the Charlottesville – Albemarle area, when one of the three conditions set forth by the City of Charlottesville is to “have more meetings.”

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Building a (Concrete) Home in Less than a Day

Concrete + 3D Printing =

How cool is this?

It can take anywhere from six weeks to six months to build a 2,800-square-foot, two-story house in the U.S., mostly because human beings do all the work. Within the next five years, chances are that 3D printing (also known by the less catchy but more inclusive term additive manufacturing) will have become so advanced that we will be able to upload design specifications to a massive robot, press print, and watch as it spits out a concrete house in less than a day. Plenty of humans will be there, but just to ogle.


So I might want to invest in concrete stocks.

As noted earlier today, this technology may one day become “normal” or the “new normal” or simply “what we’re building with now.”

It might take less than a week to build a concrete house using this technology, but I’d wager it would take at least three to five years to get approval from Albemarle’s Architectural Review Board. 🙂

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There is No “New Normal” in the Real Estate Market

“Normal” is “now”.

Homeownership Rates - via Calculated Risk

– Human settlement patterns (where people are living and working)

– Gas prices

– Expectation of permanence/transience

– Interest rates

– Property tax rates

– Monetary supply

– The internet’s availability and impact

Those are just a few of the ways that 1999 differs from 2011, and makes application of “normal” challenging.

Here’s something that hasn’t changed – people need homes. Buying a house is a choice, and one that comes with greater responsibility than renting – you’re accepting on the maintenance, the permanence, the mortgage, the community, the risk. If you’re not ready for those, don’t buy a house. If you’re ready to buy a home, do your due diligence and consider it.

“New normal” is a shifting term, applicable to virtually every evolving industry.

Heck, I’ve been seeking “new normal” for years.

But I thought I’d look at the data and briefly compare the 1999 Charlottesville area real estate market with the 2011 one … keeping in mind that so many things are different, thus negating in a lot of ways the comparisons.

1999 to 2011 - all home types

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Determining Broadband Availability in the Charlottesville MSA

For many of my clients, particularly those who work at home, internet is a more important service that water or electricity. The internet is mission- and life- critical for many people

A reader asks –

Hi, Jim: I’m amazed and annoyed that most listings do not mention internet service, nor do RE sites include that information as a search parameter. Knowing the availability – and speed – of internet connection is especially necessary when seeking a home outside Charlottesville. Short of investigating through local ISP’s for particular addresses or neighborhoods, do you have any suggestion? I do not trust sellers or, frankly, seller’s agents, to know or tell the truth.

In the Charlottesville area, the City of Charlottesville and the urban ring definitely* have broadband connectivity, as do many (most?) of the more densely-populated areas of Greene, Louisa, Louisa. * Definitely = 99% sure.

My suggestions and insight to ascertain broadband connectivity in the Charlottesville area:

1a – Ask your buyer broker. A good one is going to know with reasonable accuracy whether an area is likely to have internet service.

1b – If you’re really interested, the only way to ensure there is broadband service is to contact the service provider. In the Charlottesville MSA, we have Comcast, Embarq, Blue Ridge Internetworks, Verizon in some of the outlying areas, and a couple smaller fiber providers. *Nelson County just lost some broadband connectivity.

2 – A note to listing agents: when a buyer asks, “does this house have internet?” they aren’t asking about Wildblue or dial-up.

3 – I’ve asked the fine folks who power the “search for homes” feature of my site to add internet availability as a search option, but here’s the problem: GIGO. Just last year, the Charlottesville MLS added “internet availability” to the list of features listing agents can select, joining the ranks of # of bedrooms, # of bathrooms, acreage, etc.
But … As “internet availability” isn’t a required field in the MLS, it’s liable to be left out. And as we all know – if it’s blank, it’s not searchable. Thus, the search and results will be inaccurate, not useful, frustrating and bad for everyone – buyers searching, sellers trying to sell and agents running real estate blogs. 🙂

4 – To the trust aspect – get a good buyer broker who you can trust. I’ll address this aspect in more detail with clients. As clients said recently about the photos some realtors take to market their properties – “All pictures tell a story, and some aren’t true.”

5 – I wish that the internet service providers would offer maps and overlays to let people determine where service is, but presumably that information is a competitive thing for them.

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