Date Archives December 2012

Merry Holidays

This time of year I tend to (try to) take a much-needed hiatus from writing here. January 5 will be RealCentralVA’s 8-year anniversary; nearly 4,000 posts written in that time warrants a few days’ break. So, enjoy this little video we did at Nest.

As always though, if you have questions – about the market, prepping your house to put it on the market, wondering when homes come on the market in Charlottesville, or if you’re looking for guidance as you start your path to consider buying a home in Charlottesville, please contact me anytime.

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A New Way to Determine if You’ll Like the People in your New Neighborhood – Sitegeist

“Will I fit in” this neighborhood? – I’ve mentioned this twice in the past two years – once this year and once last year (and probably a time or two before in the past nearly eight years of writing here). Enter Sitegeist – a new app from the Sunlight Foundation.

What is it? Just a lot of what buyers are interested in when evaluating where to live (particularly when relocating to a new location). Now, in addition to telling buyer clients that I can’t tell them if there are kids in a neighborhood, that they should visit a location multiple times at various times before making an offer … download Sitegeist.

I’m going to be testing the app over the next few days to verify its accuracy. After a few initial tests it seems pretty accurate – albeit a bit broad – it doesn’t seem to (at least in Crozet) pull neighborhood data, but zip code. (so far in my test)

Are there kids in this neighborhood?

Where are the Democrats and Republicans?

From their site:

Sitegeist is a mobile application that helps you to learn more about your surroundings in seconds. Drawing on publicly available information, the app presents solid data in a simple at-a-glance format to help you tap into the pulse of your location. From demographics about people and housing to the latest popular spots or weather, Sitegeist presents localized information visually so you can get back to enjoying the neighborhood. The application draws on free APIs such as the U.S. Census, Yelp! and others to showcase what’s possible with access to data.

And …

Some of the data you’ll learn about a location includes:
• Age Distribution
• Political Contributions
• Average Rent
• Popular Local Spots
• Recommended Restaurants
• How People Commute
• Record Temperatures
• Housing Units Over Time

Update 3 January 2012: I asked them on Facebook:

“How localized is the data? Zip code? Is there a way to specify a radius?”

They answered:

Average rent is data collected by the US Census and is based on 2010 data for each census tract.

Each of the various data sources we use have slightly different geographic areas:

  • Census uses census tracts
  • Political contributions use ZIP codes
  • Everything else is based on a relevant geographic radius from the current location

We wanted to simplify the user experience by not bombarding folks with a bunch of geo errata, but this is something we’ve heard from a lot of people. We’ll be looking into ways to provide this information in a uncluttered, easy to understand way.

Thanks for your feedback and for using Sitegeist!

So … it’s good for very general information, but notosmuch for neighborhood information.

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November’s (Charlottesvile MSA) Real Estate Market Wasn’t So Bad

Charlottesville Nest Report - November 2012

Inventory is down (everywhere), contracts are up (broadly), sales are up (generally),


Quality inventory is still low.
– The fiscal cliff generated by the irrepressible idiots in Washington is creating uncertainty – something we don’t need.
– One month isn’t a trend, particularly as the numbers are so broadly skewed in some cases.
– As I noted yesterday, more foreclosures are needed in order to find a definable, sustainable recovery.
Your market – whatever that is – is part of this report, but for a true understanding of whether you can sell or should buy you need to seek out and find specific advice and insight to your situation.

The data’s not bad. Not bad at all.

Download the two-page report here or click through to see the embedded report.

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Redistricting Albemarle’s Schools, APFs and Proffers – Take 2


Redistricting, by its very nature tears families and communities apart. And that sucks. But it is what it is.

There’s quite a conversation happening in Albemarle County right now as many school districts are undergoing redistricting discussions – evaluating current, past and projected enrollment numbers. I’ve been writing about the proposed redistricting a lot in part because schools matter. Better schools = better housing prices. (and better educated kids, too, presumably)

As I’ve told my clients for years:

1 – The only way to be assured that your kid is going to go to that school is if that school is private.

2 – Always. Always. Always. Check your school district – yourself – before you buy a home.

Albemarle is going to grow. There will be more people here. In Albemarle: 115k in 2020, 134k in 2030, 155k in 2040. (see: Weldon Cooper Center) Schools will need to grow. (so will roads, bike lanes, taxes).

We need to accept and deal with the growth, no matter our internal struggles with the ramifications of growth.

Now (really, 10 years ago) is the time to plan for such things.

A few ideas:

Adequate Public Facilities legislation. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, so the localities can’t do anything without the General Assembly’s blessing. Learn who your legislators are. Find out who funds them. Get organized. Understand that getting such legislation is likely going to take longer to enact than your kids are going to be in elementary (and probably middle, maybe high) school.

Proffers. Each new family costs money. Each student (new or old) costs money. I’m somewhat making this number up, but if a student costs $10k to educate at a public school (really, why no vouchers to allow choice?), and the home brings in between $1500 per year for a $200k home to $4500 for a $600k home … these homes are not paying for themselves. The bulk of school funding comes from property taxes.

Special Tax District. I know other areas of the country have school taxes (and fire taxes, etc) – would you consider paying a school tax if you could be assured that the money would be spent wisely and only for schools (not increased bureaucracy or unnecessary administrators)?

Limit population : Now that you’re here, would you want a cap on how many people are permitted to live in Albemarle County? (see: ASAP)

Make no mistake; there are social and economic demographic idiosyncrasies in each of these schools that distinguish each school.

Neighborhoods may be split; the biggest target is Old Trail, but other neighborhoods are likely to face splits … does it have to be this way?

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