Date Archives November 2012

Christmas Trees, Lights and Dr. Seuss in Charlottesville

It’s holiday time in Charlottesville. While the real estate market may be (somewhat) tapering down for the year, folks are wondering when houses come on the market in Charlottesville, many others are wondering where to get Christmas trees, look for Christmas lights and wonder about the connection between Dr. Seuss and Charlottesville (Whoville?)

Christmas Trees in and Around Charlottesville – an evolving list of pick-your-own and already-cut Christmas trees.

Some of the best Christmas lights in the Charlottesville area. (note: the Bethlehem Village in Afton won’t be happening this year.) 2015 Update – the Hebron Baptist Church will be doing their awesome Bethlehem Village.

– And one of my all-time favorite questions: Was Charlottesville the inspiration for Dr. Seuss’ Whoville? No. (but tell your friends it was –  they’ll think Charlottesville is all sorts of cool)

Image courtesy of .

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Albemarle County Continues Struggles with Urban Chickens

The City of Charlottesville allows them; the County of Albemarle neither allows nor disallows them (my personal preference).

I noted this for the first time in 2009, when the City of Charlottesville codified their allowance of chickens. The street on which the subject of the above story lives has some wooded lots ranging from .3 to .5 acres – probably plenty of room for a couple chickens to peacefully coexist with the neighbors.

I haven’t been around chickens consistently since I was a child enough to know whether they smell … do they?

From a real estate perspective, I’d say about 10% of my clients ask about keeping chickens in their backyards … a notable increase over the past several years.

A twist for homeowners’ associations: I’d wager that most of the HOAs in the Charlottesville area have similar language to this, copied from the HOA docs of a local neighborhood:

“No animals, livestock or poultry of any kind shall be raised, bred, or kept on any portion of … except that dogs, cats, or other usual and common household pets, may be permitted in a Lot.”

Good luck finding a newer home in a neighborhood in Charlottesville that lacks an HOA. (Some HOAs grant right to trespass and tell you to clean up your yard )

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5 Points on School Redistricting and Uncertainty when Buying a Home in Albemarle

Albemarle County

Albemarle County is HUGE (PDF)

One of the first posts written here was about redistricting schools in Albemarle County; sadly I hadn’t yet mastered the art of proper out-linking, so the stories to which I pointed are mostly dead. Today’s story by Aaron Richardson in the Daily Progress * succinctly describes the current state of some Albemarle County schools: “School redistricting is a headache for everyone, yet Albemarle County is at it again, considering a shuffle for a second time in as many years.”

High-quality schools are one of the more-cited reasons my buyer clients use when choosing to move to the Charlottesville – Albemarle area. I hope this acclaim is justified and continues to be the case.

In talking to a potential incoming client last week, we naturally discussed Albemarle County schools as part of a wider ranging conversation about whether this is the right place for his family. He’s looking for a rural property preferably, but also wants his kids to go to elementary school … and prefers to have a reasonable-length bus ride. How does one define “reasonable-length” in this context?

There really is not much to add to the Albemarle County Schools redistricting conversation than this:

– Read this from last year – Albemarle County Schools’ Populations Are Growing. Unexpectedly. ?!

– If you want 100% certainty that your kids will go to X school, that school better be private.

– Get involved in the process and the conversation. Schools matter, to our kids’ lives, our lives, our property values …

– The next meeting of the redistricting subcommittee is 27 November at Murray Elementary School.

– Always, always, always check your school district before you buy a home in Albemarle (or anywhere, really)

Some stories reflecting the ongoing uncertainty regarding some schools in Albemarle County:

Parents and neighbors in southern Albemarle County are getting more information about a plan to possibly shut down Yancey Elementary School in Esmont. NBC 29 – August 1 2012
Scottsville tells its supervisor it feels like ‘the redheaded stepchild‘ – Daily Progress – July 26 2012

One thing is true, the Meriwether Lewis parents are perhaps the best organized and mobilized parents in the community. For those in the Crozet district, I’d love to hear what the School Board representative, Barbara Massie Mouly, thinks about this; I haven’t seen word one from her in the press or any kind of outreach to the public.

* I’m glad to consistency in reporting from the Daily Progress; Aaron Richardson also wrote about redistricting last year. Having consistent knowledge is crucial when knowing about and reporting on local issues.

PS – I’m working on a story about growth areas in Albemarle County and their impact on livability and certainly of lifestyle.

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Low Housing Inventory Stinks – in Charlottesville – Albemarle

If you’re a buyer in the Charlottesville market, you know that right now, inventory is low. Quality inventory is lower. Depending on your market segment, much lower.

Be prepared to wait. And then, be prepared to move quickly when the right house comes on the market. Now is the time to start your education on and about the Charlottesville real estate market, so that when January comes, you’ll be ready. (Seriously; if you’re looking, ask me what the first steps are)

There are a lot of reasons for this low inventory, starting with time of year/seasonality of the market, number of transactions (broadly) are up – see the bottom of this post -, reduced foreclosures and a few other reasons, but I have a working theory on why we’re going to see this type of reduced inventory for a few years. Starting with an example that lends credibility to my hypothesis:

I was showing houses this weekend (I’m a real estate agent donchaknow) and we saw a house in Charlottesville.

Asking price is $550k, slightly reduced from its initial asking price nearly a year ago.

House sold in 1993 for $290k

Sold in 2001 for $380k

Sold in 2007 for $570k.

Worth (in my opinion) significantly less than what they paid in 2007.

Not many people have accrued ~ $50k – $100k to get out of a house. And this homeowner isn’t alone.

I propose that we still have a ways to go to get through the inventory of homes owned by those who still can’t afford to sell … and with the fact that getting a mortgage after foreclosure is easier than ever, the business decision of walking away still makes sense for some (many?)

In short, I think we’re going to see low levels of quality housing inventory – for homes that many buyers want to buy – at low levels for years to come. This low level is going to lead to some interesting trends I’m starting to see; more on this in another post.

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What Happened to the Daily Progress’ URLs?

In doing brief research for an upcoming post, I discovered that (sadly) the Charlottesville Tomorrow article displays a snippet and the “Read More” goes to the Daily Progess article, the URL of which is at best a scrambled-alphabet with do decipherable logic whatsoever.

I’m no coder, but I am a firm believer in simplicity and planning for longevity.

I might pay for a subscription if I could be assured that the Daily Progress wouldn’t delete their archives again, as they did in 2008.

Community newspapers provide a true service; they are an archive for the community’s history. Hopefully libraries are archiving the Daily Progress – on microfiche or whatever – so this history won’t be lost.


Update 18 November 2012: It’s not just the URLs; it’s the entire “new” site that’s changed for the worse. It’s like they have a strategy to drive readers to print.

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Walking the Crozet Trails

Did you know there’s a movement within Crozet (with help/leadership/guidance from Albemarle County) building trails throughout Crozet? My little one and I walked a section of them on Saturday and were a bit amazed at how great the trails were and by how quickly we were able to get between the Westhall neighborhood and the back of Foothills Crossing … and likely Western Ridge, too.

Naturally, I took a few photos … you’ll see a bunch of nature, the Crozet Trails Crew (if you join them, bring clippers … trails always need some tending), Dan Mahon, Jessica Mauzy – the volunteer coordinator of the Crozet Trails Crew … and my daughter, enjoying the walk.

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