Date Archives August 2013

C-Ville and The Western Bypass

Graelyn Brashear’s story in C-Ville on the Western Bypass is remarkable; its depth, range, imagery and clarity are outstanding. Take 30 minutes to read it.

Also notable is C-Ville’s presentation of the story; it’s useful and makes a subject of this breadth easier to digest. I particularly like the Medium-like commenting, which is particularly useful for a story of this length. Really, go see it and read it.

The Western Bypass debate/conversation/saga has been ongoing for so long that it’s often impossible for anyone – even long-time residents of Charlottesville (read: Charlottesville + Albemarle + Central Virginia) to fathom or comprehend the scope of both the proposed road and the political/business/transportation dynamics of the Western Bypass (and our region’s collective inability to efficiently solve transportation and planning challenges).

The C-Ville story is an outstanding summary.

I know this:

– Route 29 is a disaster. Hydraulic/29 and Rio/29

– For years, many of my clients target their home search locations as either “not North of Rio” or “not North of Hydraulic”

– The current termination of the Western Bypass is silly

… the current design of the northern terminus is flawed: Northbound traffic from the Bypass is dumped out onto Route 29 just before the light at Ashwood, where the highway narrows from three lanes to two.

I mean, really?

– I’ve told my clients for years that transportation is one of the Charlottesville-Albemarle area’s greatest detractors

– Charlottesville and Albemarle – and the entire region need to be involved in this conversation, not just “the City” or “the County”

Something has to be done, but it really needs to be done 25 years ago. The best solution? I don’t know, but I know that the flawed current proposal is severely flawed. If only our system allowed for a reasonable debate instead of politicians and interest groups fighting rather than compromising.

All this as another anti-Western Bypass group motivates.

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Charlottesville – Albemarle Transportation in 2040

What do you think transportation in Charlottesville – Albemarle should/will be in 2040?

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is proud to announce the launch the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) website at

Tonight between 5pm and 7pm would be a good time to start providing your input.

By 2040, maybe the Western Bypass extension will be close to being planned. And we’ll have thought about where the next growth areas will be.

Before we know it, 27 years will have passed. Better to get involved now.

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6 Things to Watch in 2013 – Confidence and Frustration

always looking for hindsight. Today.

In January two of the six things I noted to watch were:

More confidence in the market as unemployment stabilizes (underemployment is a different conversation). More stability is likely to mean more buyers

Frustration felt by buyers who are seeing prices rise (again). If prices do indeed start to rise again, many buyers will be kicking themselves for waiting. Some are predicting national home prices to rise by nearly 10% this year; if this happens (and I hope it doesn’t), expect to see more discussion about another bubble. But … if you’re confident you’re going to be in the Charlottesville area for the next 5-7 years, it might be worthwhile to have a conversation about buying a home.

Last week I looked back at Apartments.

Confidence. Buyer (and seller) confidence, consumer confidence, builder and real estate agent confidence … and frustration felt by buyers as the market turns.

Now that it’s August, I can say with confidence – We’re in an odd time right now. There is a great deal of (over) confidence and a seemingly balanced level of trepidation in the market. The Charlottesville real estate market recovered with a storm in early 2013 – the pace was rapid, bidding wars were common and sellers were justifiably optimistic. Things seem to have tempered a bit now.

Takeaways from this post:

– Builders are building a lot right now. Very few are building communities in addition to houses.
– Single family homes sales are up July to July – Albemarle is up 23%, Charlottesville is up 5% (really – 2 units), and other counties are mostly flat (click through to see the charts at the bottom).
– Interest rates are up – from the mid 3’s in early 2013 to mid-4’s now. (click through to see the 30 year chart for some perspective). Historically, interest rates are crazy low, but the jump from unreasonably low to more moderate has absolutely affected buyers’ buying ability, sellers’ ability to sell and confidence on both sides.

– If you’re considering buying or selling right now or in the next 6 months, ask questions (you could start by asking me) – there are a lot of moving parts in today’s market and every life situation is different. There is no one answer “buy now!” “sell now!”

– Confidence is an individual concern; market sentiment is one thing, but “will I be employed next year?” is something only you can answer. But … the Charlottesville MSA Unemployment Rate remains relatively low. The underemployment rate? Different conversation.

Charlottesville, Virginia Metropolitan Unemployment Rate and Total Unemployed | Department of Numbers.jpg

Cost of Buying a Home Affects Confidence & Purchasing Decisions


Think about this; as interest rates go up, so does the cost to buy (and own) a home, only for Principal and Interest (not including Taxes and Insurance):

– Loan amount of $300k. Interest rate of 3.5% = monthly payment of $1,347.13
– Loan amount of $300k. Interest rate of 4.5% = monthly payment of $1,520.06

A difference of $172.93 – That’s real money. Grocery money, gas money, vacation money.

On the confidence matter, the NAR succinctly states:

A confluence of factors tempered REALTOR® optimism: higher mortgage rates, rapid price gains amid a slow economic recovery, lack of inventory in many areas, and stringent credit conditions.

Well said.

Buyers are frustrated –

– Interest rates are rising

– Many are able to sell their existing homes, but those who want to buy (and have wanted to buy for a while) are finding that Quality Inventory remains low. (I’ll touch on inventory in my next post). Buyers aren’t buying property because they want to buy a property, they’re looking to buy homes.

– Sellers – if you want to sell, price right and make your home as close to perfect as possible.

Mortgage Rates - Today_s Home Loan Rates and Trends | Zillow

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Looking Back at 6 Things in Charlottesville – #6 – Apartments

Crane at West Main Plaze in City of Charlottesville

In January I mentioned 6 things that we should watch in 2013 – inventory, home prices, distressed sales, confidence, buyer frustration and apartments. Being nearly September, I figured it a good time to look back at where these things stand. I’m going to be looking at these six things over the next few weeks. Starting with Apartments.

Apartments – there are going to be a lot more available in 2013 and 2014. A few of the new complexes: Arden Place (Rio Road), The Pavilion at North Grounds (Millmont/UVA), Stonefield Commons (Hydraulic & 29), The Reserve at Belvedere (Rio), the Plaza on West Main (UVA), City Walk (Downtown – more on the Coal Tower). As I said, a lot more apartments will be coming on the market soon.

City Walk is taking shape, the Plaza on West Main is moving fast, The Pavilion at North Grounds has people moving in (and presumably Sedona Taphouse is loving life), Arden Place and Stonefield Commons are leasing.

And …

Another 192 apartments will be coming to West Main Street directly across from the Plaza on West Main – called “The Standard” :

“We’re proposing a new multifamily apartment complex and we’re working now on a design that will cater to the surrounding uses of the university and the hospital,” said Jason Doornbos, vice president of development for Georgia-based Landmark Properties.

And …

Another 56 units are proposed for 10th and Market Streets Downtown:

In all, the developers have proposed 56 units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground and first floors. A structured parking garage with 100 spaces is also planned underneath the building.


The ramifications for bringing all of these are apartments at pretty much the same time … staggering. The first few thoughts and questions that come to mind:

– To my mind, this is confirmation that the 0-5 Buyer is GONE. The buyer who would move to Charlottesville, buy and then sell in under 5 years: thing of the past. (really, read that story if you’re interested in this trend)

– If you’re looking to buy an investment property in the City, you would probably be advised to think about the competition against which you’ll be renting.

– Transportation. I really hope these new developments actively promote bicycling and walking as opposed to being purely car-centric. Adding about 1,000 new apartment units in the City of Charlottesville will presumably add a commensurate number of vehicle/pedestrian/bicycle trips.

– Where are these people working? UVA? Startups? Restaurants?

– Will any be designated “affordable”? And whose definition of “affordable” applies?

– Parking. Each of the two new proposed developments above seem to have about a 2 to 1 ratio for spots to units; presumably the commercial development will use some of these spaces as well.

Maybe this is a sign that we’re in the midst of a more mobile economy …

Or maybe it’s a reaction to the trend that driving isn’t cool (if you’re a millennial).

Maybe it’s a reaction to the forthcoming “renter nation” many have discussed for so long.

But really the number of new apartments in Charlottesville is a reaction to the better economy. Financing is available and developers are obviously confident that there is demand for these products – commercial and residential. Who is the market for these apartments? If it’s not the “families” some in the City of Charlottesville would like to see, why are they approving them?

And finally, how do these all fit into the just-adopted Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan?

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Charlottesville’s 2013 Comprehensive Plan Adopted

Charlottesville Tomorrow reports that the City of Charlottesville has adopted their comprehensive plan.

The most substantial revisions were made to the city’s housing chapter. To help the city meet its goal of having 15 percent of housing units classified as “affordable” by 2025, an emphasis will be placed on rehabilitating existing housing, and partnerships will be encouraged to promote workforce housing.

Looks like I have some reading to do on how the Plan will/might affect my clients.

In good news:

Shortly before adoption, the council held a final debate about language in the plan. Smith called for a goal that said the city should “consider the effect of housing decisions when considering the proximity of existing units and the effects of unit location on schools, neighborhood demographics and associated infrastructure.”

Councilor Dave Norris made a motion to move that language to a separate goal calling for an inventory where affordable housing current exists and where future opportunities lie.

“I don’t want to have anything in our plan that enshrines the possibility of redlining affordable housing in the community,” Norris said.  He added his suggested amendment would better connect low-income residents with opportunities in the rest of the city”

Good. Government really need not be in the practice of identifying who will live where.

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Nest Realty in the Inc 5000


You may have seen the news yesterday that we at Nest were named one of the fastest growing private companies in Charlottesville.

Our rankings in Inc Magazines Annual Inc 5000 show:
• Overall, Nest Realty ranked 884th with 504% growth over the past three years  
• Top 5 in Charlottesville (#2)  
• Top 5 in National Real Estate Brokerages (#5)  
• Top 30 in National Real Estate (#27)  
• Top 50 in Virginia (#44)

But what does that mean to what really matters – our clients? As I noted yesterday on Google Plus – this notice is validation of sorts that our incessant client focus is working … and we still have a ways to go.

One of the things that has differentiated Nest from the beginning has been our focus on the client, innovation and implementing technology effectively for the benefit of the client.

We do not do things simply because we can. We do things because we can and they benefit our clients and that in turn benefits our business and our practice.

In short, we are building a brand that means something and resonates with our agents and our clients and the public.

So, humbly, thanks. Thanks for those who’ve supported us (and me) from the beginning. Thank you for keeping us moving forward, innovating and trying to be the best at what we do.

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Checking Cell Coverage in Charlottesville – Open Signal

3G and 4G LTE Cell Coverage Map for Charlottesville, Virginia - OpenSignal

Last year I noted cell coverage in Charlottesville.

In 2006, the best cell provider in Charlottesville was Alltel. Times have changed.

Those moving to Charlottesville are often surprised that we don’t have 100% cell coverage in the entire region, much less LTE/4G. When showing rural (and sometimes not-so-rural) properties, I try to remind my clients to check their cell phones … sometimes the cell phone data connection is the only high speed internet available.

I haven’t tested Open Signal yet in multiple areas of Charlottesville, but Open Signal looks to be a useful solution to determining cell coverage. They have an app, too.

Another thought – wouldn’t it be cool if you could search for homes by cell phone coverage and high-speed internet speeds?

Yet another thought – I wonder how Albemarle County’s 4G feasibility study is coming.

Charlottesville Tomorrow reports that “The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has voted to pay a consultant to determine if the county’s existing policy on cell towers will impede implementation of the next generation of wireless communications services.”

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