Date Archives January 2014

Why Are Charlottesville Home Prices So Much More Expensive than Where I’m From?

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I hear this a lot. “Why are homes in Charlottesville so much more expensive than where I’m moving from

I hate to say this, but the answer starts with because. And expensive is relative – it depends on where you’re coming from. But yes, we tend to have higher housing costs than many other parts of the state and country. But we also offer a remarkable location – close to hiking and mountains, a short drive or train ride to DC, Richmond is less than an hour away.

But I also say this having represented buyers who have chosen to not relocate to the Charlottesville area because I showed them homes that just didn’t fit what they could get back home, I’ve represented buyers who have made compromises on what type, style, size home, and I’ve represented buyers who’ve found exactly what they were looking for.

– Because Charlottesville truly is a great place to live.

– Because of supply and demand – a lot of people choose to live here.

– Because quite a few people see Charlottesville as a destination location – they either move here and keep their jobs in Seattle or LA or Boston or – or they are retired or semi-retired. Many want to live in a college town where one of the biggest negatives is choosing between the things to do in your free time.

– Because CharlAlbemarle is always on some kind of best list .

– Because you can get most places in 20 minutes or less. (when I was a kid, it was 13-15 minutes, and today sometimes that 17 minute drive takes 40 – but still.)

Because. And I’m not the only one … Spend a few minutes reading the great comments and discussion we had about this topic on Twitter and Facebook. It’s truly a great conversation with insight from people who live here, grew up here who no longer live here and clients whom I’ve represented. Really. Read the comments.

If you’re curious, here’s some data I pulled – just for single family homes in Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene and Nelson Counties –

– Sales and Inventory history 2001 – 2004

– Sales and Inventory history 2005 – 2009

– Sales and Inventory history 2010 – 2014

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Wegmans Finally Coming to Charlottesville

Wegmans will be pushing dirt in March. The plan will go the to Albemarle County Architectural Review Board (never a non-daunting task) on Monday, Chris Stover at the Newsplex reports.

I’ve had clients tell me that they wanted to move to the south side of Charlottesville specifically because a Wegmans grocery store was coming there. Now it’s actually coming. I doubt I’ll go there other than to satiate my curiosity and to tell my clients that I’ve been there.

Is Wegmans better than Trader Joe’s? I went there a couple times after they opened but Stonefield isn’t my favorite place, and Trader Joe’s newness wore off quickly.

That said, being close to “stuff” that matters is important and this is a huge positive for all of the neighborhoods on that side of Charlottesville – Redfields, Mosby Mountain, the soon-to-break-ground Whittington, Mill Creek when the connector road is finished …

Two questions

Will the Food Lion survive?

Why will folks who live on this side of town go to 29 North now?

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Albemarle County Real Estate Assessments are Out (2014)

I figured the assessments would be released yesterday; I was trying to research a property for a client and the Albemarle County GIS site was down. It’s up now.

If you’re curious what real estate assessments mean, this is a good description from a couple years ago.

Assessments are not a reflection of market value. They are a backward-looking assessment of what the market value may have been at the time the assessor looked at the house (most likely online, and not in person). The assessor may or may not know the condition of the property, the condition of the property’s neighbors, may not consider the traffic noise, crime stats, proximity of sexual offenders, level of inventory, smell of the neighborhood, etc. etc. etc. Assessments are why you pay taxes on.

2013’s post on Albemarle County assessments in which I recounted the previous years’ posts on assessments. I won’t re-link them again today, but I will re-state what I wrote last year:

5 Reasons why real estate assessments matter:

1) The County bases their budget on property tax revenue.
2) The assessed value is the value upon which property owners pay taxes.
3) Buyers look at assessed values as a measure of market value … but really, it’s a point in the equation, but are neither a definitive point nor a necessarily accurate one.
4) Also – Virginia, unlike some other states, by Statute requires localities to assess property at 100% of fair market value, based on an objective analysis of the property’s fair market value.
5) Sellers look at assessed values and wonder if buyers will think that the assessment means their home is worth X (it doesn’t).

When the County sends out their press release describing the breakdowns of assessed value by region within Albemarle, I’ll post it.* My assessment is up 14%; I’m curious to see what the general trends county-wide turn out to be.

As promised, the County’s press release:

Albemarle County is sending 2014 reassessment notices to taxpayers this week reflecting changes in property values resulting from the County’s recently completed annual reassessment. The 2014 reassessments show changes in property values resulting from stabilization of the real estate market being experienced locally as well as nationwide. The change in the County’s total “Fair Market Value” base has increased by 1.28% over the 2013 base. Reassessment changes by property type are:

–  residential (less than 1 acre)- up +1.98%
–  residential (1 acre to 19.99 acres) – up +0.40%
– rural (20 to 99.99 acres) – down -0.14%
– rural (100 acres and over) – down -0.29%
– commercial property  – up +3.64%
– multi-family  – up +0.99%

As indicated above, results for different property types may vary significantly from the overall percentage decline. The reassessment figure reflects the values of existing properties and does not include the value of new construction. New construction is valued at $100,000,000 for the reassessment period.

Virginia by Statute requires localities to assess property at 100% of fair market value, based on an objective analysis of the property’s fair market value, independent of any influence on the part of the County or the County Board of Supervisors. Albemarle County continues to consistently rank among the most accurate jurisdictions in statewide Assessment/Sales Ratio studies conducted by the Virginia Department of Taxation.

The average annual reassessment changes for the magisterial districts are as follows:

Rio – +1.75%
Jack Jouett – +3.64 %
Rivanna – +2.85 %
Samuel Miller – +1.58 %
Scottsville – +0.27 %
White Hall – +0.49 %
Town of Scottsville – +1.49 %

The new assessments will be reflected in the real estate bills which will be mailed in late April, 2014. County officials recommend that anyone who would like more information or who wishes a review of their assessment to contact the Office of the County Assessor at(434) 296-5856. Real estate assessment information can be found on the County’s Website,, under Online Services, GIS-Web.  Among information available are property descriptions, maps and sales information. The Assessor’s Office provides computers that can be used by the public during normal business hours.

There is a process in place to appeal disputed reassessments. As a first step, taxpayers are encouraged to contact the Assessor’s Office to insure the correctness of County records and to receive an explanation of the basis upon which the valuation was made. The deadline for requesting a review with the Assessor’s Office is February 28, 2014. The Assessor’s Office recommends that citizens make an appointment as walk-in are handled on a first come first serve basis. If a property owner does not receive satisfaction with this step, further appeal may be directed to the Board of Equalization appointed by the Board of Supervisors, which is comprised of Albemarle County citizens who have completed training by the Virginia Department of Taxation and who meet on a regular basis. All appeals to the Board of Equalization must be filed by March 17, 2014.

Applications for properties qualifying for land use assessments will be accepted until March 1, 2014. A new application, per parcel, is needed to enroll in the program or when a property enrolled has a change of use of acreage from that previously qualified. A new application is not needed if your property is currently qualified in the land use assessment program.

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Who Wants to Hear an Hour of Real Estate Radio? – 26 January 2014

If you’re thinking about buying or selling in the Charlottesville area or curious or interested in the Charlottesville (and regional/national) real estate market, you might find some value in listening to this Sunday’s WNRN Wake-Up Call.

Matt Hodges and I will discuss the current state of the Charlottesville area real estate market, mortgages, tips for buyers and sellers, etc. We’ve done this every year for the past six years and every year each time has produced conversations. If you’re interested in us talking about something specific, please leave a comment or let me know.

Matt’s initial notes of stuff to talk about:

– Ability-to-Repay and Qualified Mortgages
– Recent Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll releases, 2/6 release and what it means to borrowers out there + Federal Reserves tapering decision and what it means
– Predicted increases in rates to 5 – 5.5% and how that affects ability to purchase vis a vis today’s rates

My initial notes of stuff to talk about:

– Brief market update
– How new mortgage laws may impact buyers’ and sellers’ decisions
– Current massive growth and density in the City of Charlottesville
– What buyers should be doing right now who are planning to buy this year
– What sellers should be doing right now who are planning/hoping to sell this year
– Inventory levels in the Charlottesville MSA

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An Easy Way to Track if Your Foundation is Moving

Home inspections. I love them. I love being there with my clients, asking the leading questions that I know they should ask, crawling through crawlspaces (yes, I do that), climbing across trusses in attics (I do that, too) and listening. I like to listen to the questions from the buyers and the explanations from the home inspectors; I learn something almost every time.

Recently I had such a learning opportunity, and I asked Robert Foster with Trebor Home Inspections to answer it again – this time on video.

Come on, tell me you didn’t just learn something!

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