Sniffing Winter College Demise | August 2020 Note from Jim

Archives of my subscription-only monthly notes. This is for August 2020. Interested in not waiting a few months to read it, and want it straight to your email? Subscribe here.   For the re-posts here on the blog, 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). If you’re interested, these are all the monthly notes I have written.

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“Looking to Winter” Market Update

It feels like making any prediction as to what next quarter’s real estate market is going to do would be presumptuous or naïve, as things are changing so frequently in our world. With a disclaimer, here are my quick thoughts.

I think we’re going to see continued increased buyer activity, particularly in light of the reduced housing inventory. I’m thinking that low interest rates + low inventory are causing buyers to make decisions that will lead them to stay for longer periods of time. More people choosing to stay in their homes for longer may end up benefiting social constructs and connections, but may in turn cause housing prices to continue to rise, as that will lead to less inventory on the market.

I’m going to pull a bunch of data around 10 September for my next note; any data points you’d like me to address directly, please let me know.

Sniffing basements

I sniff basements. Hear me out. I do a lot of video for my clients, often 15-20 minute walkthroughs of houses, One client told me, after the fourth or fifth video, that she found my “sniffing basements” habit amusing. I replied that it’s not a habit, but a learned and honed skill. If a basement smells musty, even a hint, that’s something that my buyers need to know – particularly my buyers who are not able to visit the house in person before deciding to make an offer. Or preferably, make the decision to fly or drive to Charlottesville to see the house for themselves.

So yes, I sniff basements. You should too.

PiVideo – Rerun

In 2018, I noted that I thought the vaunted “pivot to video” was unwise My reasoning:

  • Because for a lot of people, pivoting means “doing only video.” Doing video in conjunction with creating valuable written content is a far better option than doing solely video.
  • Video is unskimmable. When a video pops up, I would much prefer skimming bullet points than watch a video,  unless I specifically want to watch a video that I have sought out.
  • Until self-driving cars become a thing, people can’t multi-task with video. Texting and driving? Maybe. Listening to a podcast?* Yes.

I’m holding to this. Yes, we’re doing more video, necessarily. Yes, I know that stats show that people like video. But, there is only so much time in the day, and people are getting Zoomed out.

Two more notes on video:

  • Years ago, when Charlottesville Tomorrow tested providing video of public hearings, I said on a blog somewhere that now, citizens had no excuse to not be informed. A friend quickly responded that the videos didn’t help her because she was hearing impaired.
  • The one time I want/need video is when I need to see how to do something, like when we shoved too much rice down the drain, clogging the disposal. A blog post would not have sufficed in telling me how to take apart the PVC pipes nearly as well as did the video.

I think blogs are having a second coming in the advent of people being home, having more time, and wanting more of a break from video on screens, I see words mattering more. Through the lens of a lot of my clients and readers, the ability to link to provide context and deep background are things that video is not yet doing effectively or efficiently. In time, sure, but for now, here’s to blogs.

How do you determine the “best” schools?

This question has taken on a different context and dimension as we are evaluating race in every facet of our society, from policing, to housing, to schools, and everything in between. (Look for a great podcast recommendation below.)

A lot of the “best schools” are perceived to be “the best” due not to the best scores or the best fields or the best teachers but because of inertia. Look beyond the test scores.

I advise my clients to rent first when they’re moving to the area so that they can learn the area and their habits, as well as make friends who will help them understand the schools and help them find a rhythm of life.

What does “best school” mean to you?

  • Best standardized test scores?
  • Diversity?
  • Special education?
  • Sports?
  • Proximity to your house?
  • Walkability?

Do your own due diligence and do more than follow. Heck, COVID might get rid of school districts altogether.

Urban Flight and University Demise

I don’t have much yet to say on these, as the data isn’t there. Two trends I’m trying to watch are people moving out of big cities, i.e. San Francisco, NYC, Seattle, Washington D.C, to smaller areas now that so many can work from home. We will see what that trend does, if it holds, to the Charlottesville area real estate market.

  • Will we see more buyers escaping big cities? Yes.
  • Will we see people leaving Charlottesville as they are priced out of our market? Yes.
  • Will the University of Virginia, which employs 28,000 people, have an impact in some form of fashion? Yes.
  • What’s going to happen to colleges and universities? How many will cease operation? NB: VMI is categorized as a “thrive,” as is UVA. Of course, UVA got an A+ on the student life score, while VMI got a B- which makes me question the whole dataset.

I don’t know. No one knows.

I think Charlottesville is ultimately going to do just fine in the long run, but I also think that we are going to continue to have a bifurcated (to put it mildly) region of those who can afford to live here and those who cannot.

New Hikes

I said last month how my wife, daughter, dog, and I have been doing more pandemic hiking. As such, I’ve discovered (hey, it’s new to me!) a new app, AllTrails. If you’re hiking, check it out.

There’s more to hiking than just being with the family; there’s the silence, the conversation, the avoidance of other people, and the adventure. This time is time I’ll never get back, and I’m thankful for it each and every day.

What I’m Reading

(I’m reading a lot in the pandemic)

Next month:

  • Hurdles
  • Nearing the end of 2020’s market
  • What if … the American birth and immigration rates continue to decline?


Welcome, all. Reminder: this note is intended and written for clients and consumers, and decidedly not real estate people. 😉

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

Yes. I hope you read this far. You’re one of the few. Thank you for that.

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