Date Archives May 2014

What Would you Change about the Real Estate Process – Conveying Space

“You asked in your monthly note about what’s typically missing from real estate listings that you’d most like to see included.”

For me, the answer is easy: practical information about the space. Most real estate photos – even the non-terrible ones – try to show off the space aesthetically. You rarely get photos that show off the space functionally. But on a day to day basis, the functionality of the space matters as much or more than the aesthetics. And that’s especially true if you have any sort of accessibility requirements. How narrow are the hallways? How wide are the doorways? How steep are the stairs going down to the basement? Would there be enough space to add a rail on the wall next to the toilet? Etc. These kind of things really matter to me when I’m looking at houses – they matter a lot more than granite countertops or crown molding – but I can almost *never* get information about them from looking at MLS listings.

Read More

The 29 Saga Continues


Decades and decades of planning and fighting about what to do about Route 29 and I’d argue that our region is worse off because nothing substantive has been done other than widening 29 and adding stop lights.

Anyone stepping into the morass that is the evolution of the 29 Corridor would be hard-pressed to make sense of what the County is trying to accomplish. Sean Tubbs at Charlottesville Tomorrow does a good job breaking down where we are right now in the 29 planning process.

A $203 million package of solutions to ease traffic congestion on U.S. 29 through Albemarle andCharlottesville includes one new road, a grade-separated intersection at Rio Road, study of a similar facility at Hydraulic Road, and a down payment on a second daily Amtrak train.

Pictures are worth 1000 words; this concept of what the grade-separated interchanges look like is a start.

There is a public hearing about these 29 alternatives on 27 May. Hopefully people will show up.

I know this; my younger daughter will be driving by the time this thing is halfway started.

Read More

30+ Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

This week I had the opportunity to talk to a small group of first time homebuyers. In preparing, I asked social media, “What one piece of advice would you give a first-time homebuyer?”

The answers – from clients (recent and not), friends, and good real estate professionals – were outstanding. I’m grateful for their sharing. I thought about highlighting one or two or ranking them in order from best to not-quite-best, but each is the best piece in its own category.

How does one rank these? They’re all really important – and these aren’t even a third of the great advice offered.

– Buy below your means

– Profits are made when purchasing a house not selling

– ignore HGTV

– Pay attention to the things that really matter (layout, size, neighborhood, etc.); don’t focus on aesthetics like paint color and appliances that can be changed.

Have savings after you close; cash solves a lot of future problems

– Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you’re worried they’ll make you sound dumb.

There are a lot more after the break.

Some of the notes I used to prepare and speak: (naturally, in writing this post, I was able to find and references stories I’ve written over the past 9 years)

– When to start? I’d say to engage with a good Realtor and lender about 9-18 months before you’re aiming to close. Take time to learn the area, the market, your life patterns, growth and development patterns. Read all that you can.

Rent first.

Always visit the area around your house before you buy – at multiple times of day on multiple days.

Questions a Realtor can’t answer (related: Big data and civil rights. Also:

Questions to ask your prospective Buyers Agent (My advice: don’t hire a part-timer) Also: Why hiring family may be a bad idea.

How to search for homes without a Realtor (in Charlottesville)

Assembling the team. How your Realtor helps assemble the necessary A-Team.

Work with a local lender. These are the two I tend to recommend the most.

How to choose the right buyers agent (hint: it’s sort of like dating)

– I highly recommend reading RealCentralVA and, if you’re interested in Crozet, RealCrozetVA. But at the very least, please do subscribe to my monthly note, in which I summarize the best posts from the previous month, among other original stories. In fact, the quote I read during the talk from a buyer client was published in my monthly note.

And because I’m writing this post purely as advice from a real estate professional, my name is Jim Duncan. I’m a real estate agent. I’m a partner at Nest Realty in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Call or email me anytime with questions – even ones you think are dumb.

Read More

Costco Coming to Charlottesville, Bringing Traffic With It

Who woulda thunk that dropping 150,000 square feet of retail would bring traffic with it? The Stonefield shopping center is challenging at best to navigate – from Trader Joe’s to Pasture, for example, and is remarkably so for a pedestrian (I haven’t yet tried to bicycle there as 29 is scary).

If you’re curious to read some of the background, these are some of the stories I was writing in 2006 about Stonefield, which was originally called Albemarle Place.

Read More

Friday Reading – 7 May 2014

Nice soccer fields, Albemarle County. A solution has to exist to create more fields in Albemarle. I’m not yet sure what those are.

The employment situation is … complicated.

“Everybody says they want your opinion, but no one’s really listening.” The 29 Corridor conversation in 11 words.

Theories on why the housing market is stalled.

Barry Ritholtz at Bloomberg View adds two more potential factors on why buyers aren’t showing up. One is simple psychology: Mr. Ritholtz argues that the housing crash of 2006 to 2010 was so deep that it scarred potential buyers, leaving them convinced housing was fundamentally risky.

A second argument from Mr. Ritholtz is more subtle: The number of homeowners with low or even negative equity in their houses is significant enough to gum up the normal ebb and flow of the housing market. When people owe more on a house than they can sell it for, the normal churn in the market dries up

Mr. Ritholz goes on to describe the chain of homebuyers that’s required for a healthy, sustainable real estate market … definitely worth a read.

A Builder with a sense of humor.

Regarding bicyclists and bicycle-friendly infrastructure, visibility matters

One way to encourage more dense urban development .

Read More

Evolving West Main Street

West Main Street is changing. If you haven’t driven down it recently, you might want to do so soon, for no reason other than when all the new apartment buildings are built, driving on West Main in a car may be darn near impossible.

This is from Estes Street (the street parallel to West Main Street leading to the Walker Square condos).

Click through for a video of West Main Street. I took the video for a prospective client who hasn’t been to Charlottesville in a while; I thought it would be useful to send him a video and then thought it’d be useful for others who may not have been to Charlottesville in a while.

Read More