Date Archives August 2013

Cash & FHA Transactions in Charlottesville MSA – Local Analysis Matters

The headline at Zero Hedge is a stunner. A Stunning 60% Of All Home Purchases Are “Cash Only” – A 200% Jump In Five Years

Naturally, I wondered what the numbers might look like for the Charlottesville area. Being curious, I thought I’d look at the numbers for FHA transactions – frequently used by first time homebuyers as the program requires only 3.5% downpayment. The FHA numbers were more interesting than the cash numbers.

Keep in mind that these numbers are for the extended Charlottesville MSA – Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Nelson plus Louisa. Data comes courtesy of the Charlottesville MLS. Timelines in the chart and data are from 1 January to 1 August for each year.

Short story:

– Cash transactions in the Charlottesville MSA are nowhere near the 60% in the numbers cited in the above story. 20% cash transactions seems high, too.
– FHA transactions fell and rose with the market. As the mortgage market became more restrictive and buyers had less cash, more turned to FHA loans. Now, as the market seems to maybe be recovering and FHA is less attractive. Think about it. 2006 – 2.3% of transactions in the Charlottesville MSA were FHA, increasing to a peak of 18.61% in 2009 and moving to 8.66% so far this year.

Cash and FHA Closings in Charlottesville MSA

The drop of FHA in 2007 shocked me, so I looked at 2006 … similar numbers … which tracked with what I had perceived in the market. Money was free, then it was harder to get, now FHA is less of a viable option. I asked Matt Hodges with Presidential for a deeper explanation about the FHA aspect.

A history of loan program availability as well as the mortgage meltdown starting in the 2007 range, lends explanation to seemingly odd data.  Locally, FHA historically has comprised a very small percentage of business – in fact many brokers chose not to do FHA loans due to the oversight, quality control costs, paperwork and most importantly, availability of lower cost options for borrowers.  That change, to now considering FHA as an appropriate loan product occurred when 100% and 97% loan-to-value (LTV) loan programs, many with no mortgage insurance, started to disappear. 

About the same time, banks stopped offering 95% combined LTV loans, due to the massive defaults – 2nd lien holders often lost everything in foreclosure.  So, FHA became popular and competitive and they allow lower credit score minimums.  Their popularity grew until… FHA started increasing the up-front mortgage insurance premiums (UFMIP) as well as the annual mortgage insurance premiums (MIP).  In October, 2010, while the UFMIP was lowered, the more important MIP increased by 64%!  In April, 2011, the MIP jumped 28% over the October revision and more than doubled the first nine months of 2009’s rate. 
Flash forward to today.  We now can offer our buyers an UFMIP 75% higher and MIP 136% higher than 2010.  FHA has clearly shown us that they do not want quality loans in their portfolio.  If at all possible, FHA wants you, the borrower, to get a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan.  But, US taxpayers, if you want to know how this affect you- well, FHA now only wants those deals that Fannie/Freddie won’t touch – you know credit dinged, minimal down payment, borrowed funds, more recently discharged from bankruptcy.  This isn’t a judgment, its merely fact of how FHA has positioned themselves.  FHA has their place in the mortgage world, but it’s a shrinking marketplace.

Click through to see the raw data, embedded below.

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Hollymead HOA Missing $73k

Buyers: Always study the homeowners association package. I’m not sure you’d be able to discern embezzlement, but at least you’d have done your due diligence.

It seems Hollymead is joining the Glenmore (2010) and Mill Creek (2010) homeowners’ associations in the “we’ve had money stolen from us” camp.

J. Reynolds Hutchins reports for Media General:

Albemarle County Police are investigating the misappropriation of more than $73,000 from a local homeowners association in northern Albemarle.
The Hollymead Citizens Association Board of Directors informed residents last month that a slew of unauthorized charges had been made to the association’s bank account.

According to a June audit, Charlottesville accounting firm Wills & Associates identified $73,183.48 in unauthorized transactions between 2008 and 2012 gleaned from monthly bank statements, copies of canceled checks, online records and Internal Revenue Service payroll notices.

Update 14 August: Their former treasurer has been charged.

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Paying More for Walkable Homes in Charlottesville?

That’s the theory put forth by the Piedmont Environmental Council and reported on at Bacon’s Rebellion.

The conclusions apparently found in their study of 120 homes aren’t a surprise to readers of RealCentralVA (see links at the end of this post), but I wanted to differ with one of the conclusions with three points:

Many people continue to prefer living in the suburbs. But Werner’s divergent trend lines make it clear that supply-side of “walkable urbanism” housing is severely under-served.

— With a reference to a story I wrote in January (and will be revisiting soon)

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.

— And also point out that there are quite a few new construction neighborhoods in the City of Charlottesville that offer true walkability for those wiling to live that urban lifestyle (and can afford to do so).

— And that buying a car just isn’t a desired option for a lot of millennials; many of them want the urban lifestyle (and often that means renting rather than buying):

Economic realities: The costs of owning a car just keep increasing. A 2012 AAA study found the expense of having a car totaled $8,946 annually on average, nearly 2 percent more than the previous year. As transportation alternatives increase, the desire to own your own car diminishes. You’ve got I-Gocar sharing and Zipcar. I love Zipcar’s slogan — it says it all for this generation: “The car for people who don’t want one.” There are also shared ride programs, company-provided transportation plans and the old reliables: biking and walking. The Gen Y stats (16- to 34-year-olds) are pretty impressive: Driving was down from 2001 to 2009 (23 percent), biking was up (24 percent) and walking was up (16 percent), according to the National Household Travel Survey.

Related reading:

Where Are the Walkable Neighborhoods in Charlottesville/Albemarle? (2008)
Charlottesville is the 3rd Most Walkable City in Virginia (2010)
Choosing Where you Want to Live in Charlottesville – Walkability and Safety Top the List (2013)
Walkability=Affordability= Profitability=Livability (2009)

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August’s Note – Disrupting Real Estate and More

I’m finalizing this month’s note and in doing so am realizing just how fast 2013 is flying by.

Last month I talked about the market, the #1 question homebuyers should ask themselves, a life shift and a few other topics (and the note was very well received, based on responses). This month the outline’s looking to cover the Charlottesville real estate market (a consistent feature), disrupting real estate and a recap of some of last month’s more popular stories on RealCentralVA and RealCrozetVA.

If you sign up now, I’ll send you last month’s note to catch you up as well as this month’s note. That’s it. No more. No less.

I rarely publish the note stories here on the blog … so if you’re interested, please sign up to read.

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Costco Going to Stonefield?

I’d heard about this a few months ago but now it’s looking mighty real – the Newsplex reports that Costco may be going into Stonefield.   

The ARB must approve a final site plan and architecture before construction can begin. The Stonefield developer said he hopes to begin construction by early 2014.

Charlottesville folks may recall that Costco was thought to be going into the yet-to-come 5th Street shopping center with the Wegmans grocery store. Maybe a Home Depot will come to that location after all.

Charlottesville Tomorrow has more information:

Costco is expected to open a store and gas station in the second phase of the Stonefield development.

Another question – Costcos are typically massive; what else, if anything, will be able to fit into the next phase of Stonefield?

Note to buyers: do as much research as possible on adjacent parcels and areas … these things will affect your quality of life and resale.

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Can Native Species provide “Real Estate” Curb Appeal?



“Curb appeal is a concept introduced by real estate agents,” Tallamy told the 30th annual Cullowhee Native Plant Conference in Cullowhee, N.C., in July. “In the real estate view, curb appeal seems to be a full view of the front of the house, which by default is an open lawn.

This is like saying real estate agents set the prices for homes (we don’t). Good agents interpret the market and advise accordingly.

Meh. I’m going to give the professor of entomology and wildlife ecology the benefit of the doubt and re-write his sentence for him. “Curb appeal is a concept introduced by consumers and interpreted by real estate agents. In the real estate consumers’ view, curb appeal usually seems to be a full view of the front of the house, which by default is an open lawn.”

That said, I agree with this –

“The problem with yards that are mostly grass is that they are “dead landscapes” that lack plants, specifically plants native to a homeowner’s region of the country, that support the web of plant, insect and animal life, Tallamy contends.”

Most front yards are rarely used for anything other than using a lawn mower.

I’m curious though – what native grasses and species would be best in the Charlottesville/Central Virginia area that would provide a good balance between buyers’ expectations and sellers’ needs to present great curb appeal?

Lonnie points out the Thomas Jefferson Soil & Conservation District’s “Turf to Natives” program

The District, in partnership with four other Districts, is initiating a “Conservation Assistance Program” to assist non-agricultural landowners to reduce their stormwater footprint and improve water quality. Currently four practices have funding available to landowners – conversion of turf grass to native plants, installation of community pet waste stations, installing rain gardens, and rain water harvesting using cisterns 250 gallons and greater. Applications are currently being accepted, please click here to download the form. All applications should be accompanied by a preliminary plan of the practice describing the site, objectives of the practice, square footage, and location.


The incentive payment rate for this practice has two levels. For converting turf grass to a meadow like setting, with only grasses and forbs, the rate is $75 per 1000 square feet. For converting turf grass areas to a landscaped bed  setting with trees, shrubs, and ground cover/mulch, the rate is $750 per 1000 square feet.

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