Local Lenders, Close Family, Googling Best Schools + the Charlottesville Market | Note from Jim

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Discussed: Local Lenders, Close Family, Googling Best Schools + the Charlottesville Market | Note from Jim


It’s been a busy first quarter. I’m late with this, so I’m diving right in. Thanks for reading. Feel free to respond with your thoughts or forward to a friend!

Keeping family close

What does close mean to you? Close to hiking, groceries, parks, schools, work … Closeness is one of the most important criteria I lay out for my clients and it takes on more relevance and importance for those who have, or plan to have, kids. What is close enough? What is too close?

I’ve written before (and say often) how kids ruin everything. “Understanding that kids fundamentally change the housing dynamic, and being able to effectively communicate that to clients who don’t (yet) have that life experience, are two critical skills in the always-evolving real estate equation.”Part of having kids is having support. Often (when lucky), that support is provided by parents. From personal experience, having a mom close by (~20 minutes) who can watch a kid with little notice is a fundamentally critical and beneficial part of life.

Words of advice for those moving to or within the Charlottesville area: Keep that proximity to support at under 25 minutes. Less than that could feel too close,although I know some who live next door to each other. More than that, and parental units may be less willing to come to your house and drive home late at night.

Food for thought when you’re defining your locational triangles.


Local Lenders. Good Lord, They Matter


I say, write, cajole, nudge, beg, clients to use local lenders. I make this recommendation based on experience. My clients come to me for guidance to assemble a trusted team. Who is on the team matters. A local attorney with whom I work sent this out recently – and I’m sharing with permission:


“On-time close rates have greater variance than ever among lenders. What I’m sharing below is not meant to endorse some or speak negatively about lenders…we track this now, and I am simply reporting numbers based off of our closings:

–      Who appears to close with the highest “on time” percentage rate? As a class, (these two local lenders) are well into the 90% on time close bracket which is the highest

–      Who doesn’t close on time? (Big national lenders) are perhaps the worst offenders at below 50%.

–      What’s the lesson/theme? If your lender has someone on the ground here, our stats show that makes a huge difference and drives a higher close-on-time rate. If we split our stats based on who has a local presence, then generally it’s 92% on time for those lenders versus about 40% for the others. We are truly blessed to have some excellent folks around here.

–      Internet lenders, when combined close on time 30% of the time. (ask me, I’ll tell you which one) is the “best”—but below 50%.


How do you Google “What’s the best school for my kid?”

Simple. You can’t. Reality and perception are often two different things.I’m working with a client now* who’s moving back to the Charlottesville area after many years away. They came in targeting the Western Albemarle School district, in large part because it’s “always” been the best school district. So we spent our time there, looking at houses, neighborhoods, areas… even wrote an offer on a house that fit their needs and wants.

As I learned more about them, and their kid, I got the feeling that WAHS may not be the best fit. (Note that all three Albemarle County high schools just got listed as being in the top 5% nationally) I suggested they look at the MESA (Math, Engineering & Science Academy) program at Albemarle High School, as it may be a better fit for them.

That afternoon, he called me, thanking me profusely, apologizing for the past few weeks, and announced that we were now looking only in the Albemarle High School district. A twenty minute conversation with the head of the program convinced him that MESA was a far better fit for his kid.

Moral to the story: There is way more to what a good Realtor does than opening lockboxes and searching for homes. Matching people to communities, families to neighborhoods, and kids to schools are some of the much more important aspects of what I do.

* client gave permission for me to write about his experience.What are you going to do?

Put your head down and do it.

The Market. Cooling? Or  Bubble?

I like efficiency. As such, I’m going to direct you to our just-released Nest report and then share a story.


This report is a broad market report, covering the Charlottesville MSA and individual localities. Market vary widely within localities, school districts, by acreage, house type and age, and so many more variables.

Pay attention to your micro market. 

For example – In the Charlottesville City market, sales are down 5%. What does that mea?

  • What about condos in the $200K – $280K range? Is financing available?
  • Single family homes – are there differences between North Downtown and Belmont? Rugby? Woolen Mills? (yes.)
  • Attached homes – our report doesn’t break out newer townhomes (3 years or newer), new townhomes, or older ones … I’d likely not use a brand new townhome as a comp in a market analysis for a client if I was seeking to determine value for a townhome built in 1995.
  • And so on.
All productive agents have buyers right now who cannot find what they are looking for, and can’t even find a reasonable backup. By the time they decide that, okay, they’ll compromise and make an offer …

As I’ve written for years, I’ll know in 18 months whether we’re in a bubble, so I’ll say just this: parts of our market are doing extremely well. Other parts are doing ok. And sometimes, the market is bad.

The Blogs

RealCentralVA (6 stories)

I wrote only a few stories on RealCentralVA last month, but I think they were more substantive ones.

RealCrozetVA (10 stories)

What I’m reading

Thanks, as always, for your time!

— Jim


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Jim Duncan, Nest Realty, 126 Garrett Street Suite D, Charlottesville, VA 22902. Licensed real estate agent in Commonwealth of VA.

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