Date Archives March 2013

Wednesday Reading – Growth #Hashtags & Construction Jobs

Last week ASAP had a panel discussion on growth, population growth and ramifications of said growth. It was an interesting conversation. I stand my my statement:

“We don’t want to restrict growth, and I think saying ‘no growth’ is absurd,” Duncan said. “I think saying ‘unbridled growth’ is equally absurd. Somewhere in the middle, between those two extremes, there has to be some sort of solution.

Buyer psychology and reading buyers – being able to read and guide buyers is a critical skill. This is one reason that I don’t know what my buyer clients want until we’ve gone out once or twice.

Housing has been booming! Construction jobs haven’t. Here’s why. – I’d be curious to see data this localized to the Charlottesville area market (and out of area contractors don’t count). The Charlottesville area didn’t seen larger construction companies laying off people so much as it saw a reduction in the number of construction companies – big and small.

Why Bitcoins Are Just Like Gold – an interesting concept in the face of Cyprus and the US’ insistence on printing “money” infinitely. And then this – Cypriot vending machine markets in everything?

– I’m really proud of the community that’s been built around RealCrozetVA (including RealCrozetVA on twitter & Facebook) – it hasn’t been deliberate other than I’ve wanted to build something for the good of Crozet. That said, this is an interesting post on how to build a community on a blog.

Hashtags considered #harmful – I’d argue that #hashtags are less harmful than #tinylinks – urls shortened by a service like,, etc – once those short links expire (of the service providing them expires) – those links are gone.

Home Value Highest Since ’07 as U.S. Houses Make Cash – Keep in mind, this is a national report.

– My outline for for April’s monthly note is taking shape … if you’re interested in reading a somewhat more personal, not-published-anywhere-else note from me, I’d be honored if you’d choose to read it.

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Some Segments of the Charlottesville – Albemarle Market Have Turned

At least, after showing dozens of houses over the past few days and seeing many desired homes go under contract before my clients could get to them, this is my conclusion: Some segments of the Charlottesville – Albemarle real estate market have turned.

Not all. Maybe not most, but several, possibly even many micro-segments of the Charlottesville real estate market are seeing remarkably low, unhealthily low levels of inventory.

For example:*

In the Baker-Buter and Hollymead elementary school districts:

There are currently 36 single family homes under contract.

– 26 of those have continuous days on market of less than 30.

– 19 have continuous days on market of less than 7!

In Crozet and Brownsville elementary school districts:

There are currently 63 single family homes under contract.

– 44 of those have continuous days on market of less than 30.

– 36 have continuous days on market of less than 7!

In the City of Charlottesville:

– There are currently 69 homes listed as being under contract.

– 32 have continuous days on market of less than 30.

– 17 have continuous days on market of less than 7!

For Charlottesville + Albemarle:
– There are currently 323 homes under contract.- 121 have continuous days on market under 7. Holy. Cow.– But. 68 of those 323 homes have days on market of at least 180. YOUR market will vary.

What does this mean?

For buyers – get ready. Be prepared (to be frustrated as well as ready to move fast). Be pre approved. Identify your target micro market, and be ready to act quickly. Bidding wars are happening. Houses are going under contract in days rather than weeks. Scheduling showings on Monday for a Saturday showing is no longer an option.

For sellers – now could be the best time in 7 years for you to sell. But … you might not have a place to move into.

* Excluding new construction. If you want new construction in Charlottesville or Albemarle, it’s everywhere; you can get it.

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Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in your Home?

Technology in and of itself isn’t the challenge, the challenge is how we as a society deal with it. This is the sort of thing that will likely take legislatures many years (after “privacy” has been eliminated) to sort out.

I highly encourage reading the whole thing – John Paul Titlow writes in Smart Homes: Our Next Digital Privacy Nightmare:

Every time we connect another one of our household appliances to the Internet, we’re going to be generating another set of data about our lives and storing it some company’s servers. That data can be incredibly useful to us, but it creates yet another digital trail of personal details that could become vulnerable to court subpoenas, law enforcement requests (with or without a warrant) or hackers. …

Of course, this has been the case for quite some time, but in the age of the smart home, a stolen or hacked phone isn’t just a repository of personal information: it’s a remote control for your entire house. If you’ve signed up for the remote surveillance service, it also contains live video feeds from every room in the house.

In-Home Video Surveillance: Fair Game For Authorities?

The video monitoring feature alone raises some serious questions about privacy, hackers aside. These videos are living on Comcast’s servers. If the police suspect me of being a drug lord and they ask Comcast for access for a live video feed into my house, will they comply? Would the police need a warrant?
As is often the case with digital privacy issues, there’s no clear legal precedent to draw from. Courts and legislative bodies tend to move considerably more slowly than the pace of technological innovation, so we end up with awkward grey areas like this.

We’ve gone from buyers asking whether a house has septic or public sewer, to asking if hard-wired internet access is available, to … is this home a smart home?

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Compromising When Buying a Home – Location, Location, Location

This beautiful graphic from Doorsteps simply demonstrates what homebuyers are willing to compromise.

Not much has changed over the past couple years – homebuyers still refuse to compromise on schools, and remain willing to compromise on home price and size. I’ve had buyers choose to buy homes that are bigger than they wanted, smaller than they wanted – they’ve taken on more of a “project” house than they intended or even bought a home that was on a smaller or larger or inferior lot than they had wanted .

But rarely, if ever have I had a client buy a home in a school district that was not on one of their top two desired school districts. (have I mentioned before that school quality matters?)

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Goodbye Charlottesville Bubble Blogger(s) – for Now

Goodbye, Charlottesville Bubble Bloggers. Today marks their final post . Thanks for the insight, the forced introspection and for bringing some life to the Charlottesville real estate conversation. Please don’t let your blog become yet another abandoned internet place feeding dead links.*

Mid-2008 brought the advent of the Charlottesville Bubble Bloggers. Much consternation followed in the Charlottesville real estate agent community. They brought candor, some snark, brutal analysis and anonymity to the Charlottesville real estate conversation.

I, for one, welcomed them – engaged them thoughtfully and I’d like to think earned their respect (and they mine).

Late 2008 I interviewed them – all three of them – Jane, John and Snarky Doe – in a two-part email interview. Part One. Part Two.

Late 2009 they reviewed a bunch of houses (something I think a whole bunch of buyers would like to see more of).

And then in 2011 they interviewed some of the Charlottesville real estate agents who had engaged them** on their blog (as an aside, that image remains one of my all-time favorites).

Late 2012 they put together their thoughts on the Charlottesville market.

And so now, they are moving on … and have been so kind as to answer a few of my questions.

1 – Who are you? (don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone)

In the beginning “we” were several people who were interested in/shocked by prices/obsessed with real estate in Charlottesville and Albemarle. Though in ’08 and ’09 there was lot of blog snark (which was true across the Internets), we actually did and *do* love Charlottesville. It’s a fantastic place to live, and it’s too bad the secret is out. This makes the traffic truly awful; sometimes it seems very crowded; and RE prices are up, for good. (More on how that is true, and not true, in the final post on the C’ville Bubble Blog).

2009 and 2010 were awful years for the American Economy, home owners, savers, and millions of workers. Our belief system turned to Econogeddon and Prepper, and we became hand-wringers over the control Too Big to Jail Banks  had and have over the US Government and political parties, property-owners, and potential buyers. We chronicled this in terms of the local and national.

It remains a fact that many people will never recover their standard of living and neither would have the rest of us w/out the kick-the-can-down-the-road heroics of money-printing Fed Chair Ben Bernanke and Treasury Sec Tim Geithner.

Along the way, through life-changes and the improving economy, “we” morphed into “I”…around the time the blog took to Twitter. Tweeting is a lot more efficient than blogging, though certainly not less time-consuming. 2011 was a busy year of blogging–but mostly because there was a lot going on.

There were signs that housing was entering a new phase by early 2012, with the National Fraudclosure Settlement, though it ultimately was to provide not much relief for home owners. There was a New Year’s resolution to wrap up the blog…which got derailed. But the last blogger standing did manage to generate 80% less content than previous years :0).

2a. Okayfine. Could you have written as you have had you not been anonymous?
Now that it’s 2013, an anonymous blogger or internet entity might need to be explained. The Internet now is Nice. But back when the blog started, mid-2008, ‘anonymity’ on the web was still a viable, if not preferable, option. Many people still had funny little names as email addresses, and blogged, or commented on blogs, with wacky monikers.

Locally, there was an extremely popular website / gossip extravaganza called The Cvillain, which was up-to-the second, in-the-know, controversial, snarky, anonymous. Nationally, there were a number of housing and econ blogs that were widely read and anonymous: Zero Hedge with lead blogger Tyler Durden; Dr. Housing Bubble; Calculated Risk, who was known as CR (but is now known as Bill McBride), who co-blogged with one of the best writers about mortgages and the bubble, called Tanta, whose identity was only revealed after she died in 2009. There was precedence.

Could we have written the same if we had not been anonymous? Probably not. People would have looked at our current or previous jobs or pursuits or financial status or owner status, rather than the data on the blog.

What’s equally interesting as our own (and my own) anonymity is the kind of people who rejected it or accepted it. There’s one particular TV station in town that wouldn’t have anything to do with the blog, at least publicly. But NBC29 and Daily Progress, The Hook, and C-VILLE reporters were savvy enough to use it as a resource and interact via Twitter.

Too, the blog had long-term private email and Twitter correspondence with a number of area RE agents, home buyers and sellers, finance guys, UVA profs. None of the correspondents spent too much time pondering the anonymous question.

2 – Do you think the bottom is here?  The end of 2011, and the Q1 of 2012 was, anecdotally, the bottom of the bust.   I believe the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County have seen their price bottoms, especially in the “First Time Homebuyer” category of under $300k. It’s a question of very low inventory. Here’s a national chart on pricing which confirms pricing ideas.

But the most convincing bit of data for Q4 2011/ Q1 2012 being the bottom is that several of the blog’s long-term commenters / correspondents bought houses: “Serious Buyer,” “Craigger,” “Anonymous,” among them.
These folks tracked the local and nat’l markets closely for years and independently decided to finally buy, deciding if it wasn’t “the” bottom, it was close enough. And with mortgage interest rates solidly under 4%, they were all happy.

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