Buffalo & NYC, Market Still Mostly Good, Walled Gardens | Monthly Note Archives

Archives of my subscription-only monthly notes. The blog is more searchable. Interested in not waiting a few months to read it? Learn more here.   For these posts, I don’t do much formatting/changing as I’m more concerned about simply having the content here forever (because I own the blog, and I don’t own Tinyletter)

September 2017.

First, if you’re thinking about buying or selling, please call or email me. New readers: Welcome. This note is for real estate consumers — those interested in the Charlottesville area and market — and explicitly not for real estate pros.

This month: Assuming markets’ similarities, walled gardens, smart data, what I’m reading, and the blogs.

Second, last month’s note. I don’t know what did it, but nearly 70% of you readers opened the note. Thanks! 


Buffalo ? New York City

Buffalo’s real estate market is different than New York City’s. Youprobably know this, I know this, but the waitress talking to my clients didn’t. Many years ago, I was representing some clients coming from Buffalo. The Charlottesville real estate market is expensive when compared to many other real estate markets. Often I hear buyer clients say that the house they sold (somewhere in the Midwest) for $200K is $450K in Charlottesville. Occasionally, I hear some say that our real estate is inexpensive, but the vast majority remark on how high prices are.

My clients were no different. We were driving around on the 3rd day of working together, and I looked in my rear view mirror and saw that she was crying. Not merely a tear or two, but sobbing. I struggled to ask what I’d said, what had happened, and she and her husband recounting the following:

They had been at dinner the night before, and had started talking to the waitress. Their discussion came around to why they were in Charlottesville, what they were doing … when my clients mentioned that they were moving from New York, the waitress wrongly assumed that “New York” = “New York City,” and said something to the effect, “Well, you must love looking for homes here! You can probably afford anything!”

Median price homes in Buffalo, NY are $159K, price per square foot is $111. In Charlottesville, those numbers are $279,900 and between $186 and $200/foot.  New York City is more – either $690K or $1.4M – either way, a lot more than Buffalo, NY.

You can see how this might be disheartening for a profoundly frustrated buyer to hear. They were being relocated from their home where life was pretty good and affordable, to a much more expensive foreign area, where they were getting a lesser house with a longer commute. And then were told by a stranger that they could probably definitely afford something amazing because they were from New York.

Lessons: Every market is different. Every person is different. Listening is good; assuming is usually less good. Expressing said assumptions can get you in trouble. (I just thought of a great story in which I wrongly assumed; I’ll be writing about that next month).

Interestingly, the median age in Buffalo is 32.8; median age in San Francisco is 38.

The Market

Not that much to say until next month. We released the 3rd Quarter Nest Report, and David and I did the Crozet market report (complete with transcript).

  • Sales are up and down, depending on where you are in the market
  • A friend told me this morning that his perception of the market was that houses in Crozet “sell themselves” and any ol’ real estate agent can do it. (I’ve seen this before … more next month)
  • Prices are up, existing homes that compete with new construction are getting killed.
    • When buying new, be aware of what you’re going to be competing with when you sell.
  • Spring 2018 Buyers and Sellers, start that conversation now. Ask me if you need assistance.
  • Based on the responses to my buyer intake survey, buyers across demographics recognize the value of hiring a professional to advise and guide them. Curious about my survey (and you’re not a real estate professional)? Reply to this note.
  • “Is the market going to crash?” is a question I hear with increasing frequency, asked by those who have owned for a couple years, and by those who have been priced out, and are hoping for a market correction. My answers: 1) Maybe. 2) Maybe not. 3) I’ll tell you in 18 months 4) If you’re buying or selling, do so with as much good and relevant information as you have available at the moment; predicting real estate markets is hard.

Walled Gardens ? the Internet

Walled Gardens:

I tried to find a good definition of a walled internet garden, came to thesetwo, and made up my own:

A part of the internet that is subscriptions only, not google-able, and not accessible to those without accounts.

I know, I know. Facebook, NextDoor, TBH, et al are great and useful. But … those sites aren’t the internet. I wrote about this on RealCrozetVA in context of people complaining about Comcast, Verizon, local water … on sites that the providers couldn’t access.

  1. Walled-gardens kill the internets. I like NextDoor; I was an early adopter of it in 2014, the Albemarle County Police are there now, and the site is a great thing. But it’s not the internet. It’s not open. It’s not searchable by outsiders. And that sucks.
    1. Recently in Crozet, there have been issues with water (ASCA), cable (Comcast and here), and Verizon and here.  Lots of discussions on NextDoor as well, but … Comcast, Verizon, and ASCA aren’t there … so … lots of information and complaints to an echo chamber. 
    2. If you have an issue, mention them on Twitter, @ me at RealCrozetVA   and I’ll retweet as necessary … or … call them so they have a record. If one person calls, one person tweets, and 19 people tell each other on a piece of the internet that the service provider can’t see … there are only two reports of an issue. End ranty advice.

Think about this concept in the context of Facebook offering “free internet” in Africa. Be careful when something is free.

But digital campaigners and internet freedom advocates argue that Facebook’s expansion is a thinly veiled marketing ploy that could end up undermining, rather than enhancing, mass efforts to get millions more people connected.

“Even if people are hungry, we shouldn’t be giving them half a loaf,” says Gbenga Sesan, whose organisation Paradigm Initiative Nigeria helps young people living in poverty get online.

“It’s difficult for me to argue against free internet,” he says. But he added that it is problematic to give people only part access to the internet, especially if they believe what they have is full access.

These private sites are not the internet. 

Smart Cville

I’ve been on the board of Smart C’Ville for a couple years, and I’ve been continually impressed with the work they are doing. November 8, I’m sitting on a panel discussion at Open Ground (on the Corner) talking about real estate and data. If you’re interested, let me know … I’m looking forward to listening to and learning from Charlottesville staff talk about how they use data. Part of the agenda:

7:00pm-7:15, Welcome and context for real estate data (Jim Duncan, Nest Realty)

7:15-7:30 Data deep dive – Real estate datasets (City of Charlottesville staff)

How is the data used by Charlottesville?
How it was created?
How often is it updated?
What do the individual field names mean
What values are found in the enumerated fields, i.e., what does 1H mean for LEAFRT?
What are the “quirks” in the data set?

As a subset of this conversation, I’m going to note that I think my prediction from 2012 is coming true, particularly in the context of this thinking – Big Data is our Generations’ Civil Rights Issue, and We Don’t Know It.

One of the most common questions I get from my buyer clients, in more words than this is “Will we fit in here?” Data can help, but it can also serve to lead to homogeneity. But, “it’s only data!” is dangerous. Data is one thing but what happens when we have bad, inaccurate, or incomplete data? America’s Census is In Trouble. And – 8 Reasons You Should Care a Lot About the 2020 Census.

This is a bipartisan issue. Everyone wants their neighborhood and state counted and wants accurate numbers; fire departments and schools want adequate counts; retailers want accurate estimates of residents before investing in a given community. Prewitt notes: “The business community wants good numbers. They don’t want to mis-locate a Wal-Mart because they misunderstood the population base. In some respects the commercial sector is one of the best defenders of a quality census.”

Good data matters. Good data interpretation matters, too.

What I’m Reading

On the Blogs



What I didn’t get to this month, + next month’s plan

  • Nazis. In short: FU. We don’t care why you’re here, only that you a full of hatred, and we don’t want you in Charlottesville.
  • Next Month: wallpaper assumptions, anyone can be an agent, the no-Facebook experiment continues.

Thanks for reading!

— Jim

Jim on: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn Subscribe to RealCentralVA | Jim’s Instagram

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

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