Date Archives May 2012

Zillow’s Offering Blogs and Real Estate Search. So What?

Not much has changed since 2007 – real estate search is *still* fragmented. And if you’re searching for homes for sale in Charlottesville, read this first.

In 2007 and 2008, not many real estate agents (relatively) had blogs or real estate search; now, seemingly everyone does – and the battle between the big three –, Zillow and Trulia remains as fierce as ever. So today’s news that Zillow is going to be offering cheap wordpress sites with real estate search is yet another sign that real estate listings are a commodity, accessible by almost everyone … and when something is everywhere, its value is diminished.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is that real estate agents are always looking for the next silver bullet that will make them successful and profitable without having to work. Hard. Zillow’s going for the masses – good for them.

My first reaction to reading this news was, “thank goodness I have something on my site besides listings.” Everyone and every product is seeking to differentiate itself. If everyone has real estate search, that differentiation is going to be harder to achieve.

So, my reaction to the “Zillow is offering blogs with real estate search” news is a combination of “so what” and “good for them.”

I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and represent my clients to the best of my ability. With or without listings on my blog.

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Meadowcreek Parkway Takes another Step to Completion

Charlottesville Tomorrow reports that Judge Moon has dismissed the most recent lawsuit seeking to prevent the Meadow Creek Parkway’s completion.

Judge Norman K. Moon of the U.S. Western District Court has dismissed a lawsuit from the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park that claimed the Federal Highway Administration unlawfully split three components of the roadway in order to evade environmental scrutiny.

Anyone up for a bet as to when the Meadowcreek Parkway will be completed? I’m thinking 2015.

I’d love to know when the Meadowcreek Parkway was first proposed; that’d be an interesting addition to CvillePedia. For newcomers, it’s been discussed since well before 2005 when I first started this blog. I believe it’s been in the works for at least 40 years, but I can’t find that cited anywhere.

I do know this – whether it’s one word (Meadowcreek) or two words (Meadow Creek) – in true CharlAlbemarle fashion, we’re going to have another road that goes from Point A to Point B that has (at least) two names: the County section is now the “John Warner Parkway” and the City’s section will likely be something else.*

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Six Questions about Albemarle County’s Neighborhood Model

You can have the most walkable neighborhood in the world, but if the only places you can walk to are your neighbors’, the neighborhood is not truly walkable; this seems to be something lost on Albemarle County, whether intentionally or circumstantially.

Now the County seems to be grasping this disconnect –

Charlottesville Tomorrow reports that the County is debating the Neighborhood Model.

Having islands (neighborhoods) unto themselves does not provide what homebuyers – or home owners – are looking for if they are seeking to live in a walkable community. I could rattle off the number of subdivisions in Albemarle County that are very walkable – but to do anything other than walk to friends’ houses (even that’s not allowed due to today’s fear-centric society!)

The number of neighborhoods in Albemarle County from which residents can get to stuff – stores, coffee shops, schools, work – without having to resort to a car is much smaller. Further, the number of neighborhoods built since 2001 that meet even two thirds of the 12 tenets can likely be counted on one hand.

Six questions:

1 – What does one say to those who buy in a neighborhood who don’t know that interconnectivity is pine of the 12 tenets of the Neighborhood Model? (hint: this is part of the buyer agent’s role – to help educate as best possible that if they don’t own it it’s going to change)

2 – Should developers be required to put in infrastructure from the beginning?

3 – Who should pay for the infrastructure – developers, homebuyers (see previous choice), all property owners (via property taxes)?

4 – How are walkability and access defined?

5 – Has the Neighborhood Model been successfully implemented?

6 – Which are the most “successful” neighborhoods? How is “success defined”?

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Chloramines in Drinking Water – Debate Heating Up in Charlottesville and Albemarle

What’s a chloramine? You’d better find out. Charlottesville Tomorrow reports:

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority will hold a public information session on June 21 regarding the proposed use of chloramines as a secondary water disinfectant in the urban water supply starting in 2014.

I’m just starting my research on chloramines and don’t know enough yet to make an informed decision (one of the reasons I’m writing this post – to force myself to read and research chloramines. I know my clients will be interested; drinking water contributes to quality of life, and “quality of life” is one of the most important reasons people move to and stay in Charlottesville-Albemarle.

The EPA says that chloramines are safe, unless you’re a fish or plumbing.

Other concerns with chloramines in drinking water

Chloramines, like chlorine, are toxic to fish and amphibians at levels used for drinking water. Unlike chlorine, chloramines do not rapidly dissipate on standing. Neither do they dissipate by boiling. Fish owners must neutralize or remove chloramines from water used in aquariums or ponds. Treatment products are readily available at aquarium supply stores. Chloramines react with certain types of rubber hoses and gaskets, such as those on washing machines and hot water heaters. Black or greasy particles may appear as these materials degrade. Replacement materials are commonly available at hardware and plumber supply stores.

What types of rubber hoses and gaskets?

Drinking water is relatively cheap in Charlottesville and Albemarle (pdf).

How much would these rates increase if they were to choose the carbon filtration system instead of adding chloramines?

Chlormines in Charlottesville’s drinking water are yet another reason to live in Crozet:

Starting in 2014, the RWSA intends to replace chlorine with chloramines as the second step in the water treatment process, a project with capital costs of $5 million. The water treatment plants in Crozet and Scottsville, however, are recommended to receive a carbon filtration system with continued use of chlorine.

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April 2012 Charlottesville Real Estate Market Report


– Days on Market (an inherently flawed data point) are down in Charlottesville, Albemarle and Fluvanna.

– Average Sales prices are down (not surprising)

– Total sales across the MSA are down (not surprising)

Thoughts/initial conclusions:

– More buyers are looking to be closer in/closer to stuff

– Good properties are selling and selling quickly

– Interest rates remain low – a good thing for buyers.

– I think we may have pulled the spring market forward a bit; the early spring may have pulled transactions into the earlier months of the year.

Dead simple Takeaways:

– Buyers: do your due diligence, don’t let emotion enter the equation and make sound, rationale decisions with the intent of holding the property for at least five to seven years

– Sellers: do your due diligence and realize that buyers most often don’t have to buy, but want to buy – it’s your job to make them want to buy your house. This means: price, presentation, perfection … and a great location and setting.

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Commuting and Traffic in Charlottesville

I noted five years ago that Charlottesville’s traffic’s perspective wasn’t that bad, when put into the appropriate perspective.

In the years since I wrote that article, traffic hasn’t gotten any more tolerable and the City and County continue to demonstrate an astonishing capability to do nothing – expensively. (see: Places 29)

That said:

One of the most important things to note to those moving to Charlottesville is that the region is becoming more and more segmented – if you live in the 29 North area, there’s usually little reason to leave 29 North except for work – same with Crozet, Pantops, City of Charlottesville, etc. Urban Cores matter.

But – if you live and work in the City of Charlottesville or the urban ring (or really, any part of) Albemarle County, your commute is likely to be not beyond 25 or 30 minutes. The following infographic* shows some useful data points about the value of a short commute.

For now, I’d like to think that the Charlottesville area offers a reasonably high quality of life, and the commuting isn’t that bad.

Five years from now – we’ll see.

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