A Comment on Charlottesville’s Real Estate Market

All too often, the Charlottesville Reddit community has a good discussion.

The following comment is posted with permission; it came from a discussion predicated on the perception that the asking price was too high of a recent Charlottesville listing. As ever, many of the commenters lament that Charlottesville real estate is not worth asking (and notably, selling) prices, and that surely the bubble will pop, and they will be validated.

Charlottesville real estate is pricey; I know. I represent buyers and sellers every single day.

This comment stood out … 

 … not just because I agree with most of it, but because it’s salient, logical, and just makes sense. The only editing* I’ve made is for formatting or spelling. My thoughts are in italics. Bolding is mine, too

Some of the familiar posters have become like the old guys in the rocking chairs, saying the same old same old without any new information explaining what they are seeing.

1 – We never get stats on how many of these buyers ARE local and how many WFH transplants or climate migrants. — Amen; I wish we had this data. Anecdotally, I’m seeing a lot of both.

2 – Why here-(In the “don’t move here” responses -which could be avoided if mods provided tabs like in Asheville for “moving/visiting”- many explain the why of here). “Nature, climate, size, “vibe”, job, “better than where I have been””. — This, too. Would love to see similar tabs as I’ve seen in other localities like Charleston and Asheville, but that’s a Reddit thing.

3 – This week Cville Weekly had TWO tech gurus for Tom Tom saying they moved here from West tech hub because it is good start-up community. (If you have been in your rockers too long – they look for university locations with young talent/research money AND a community they want to live in themselves.)Years ago I stood in town with a tech wizard touting Cville as next tech hub at Tom Tom and I said- you are going to make this place as unaffordable as San Francisco and he waved his arm and said – “look at all this space, this will never be SF”. — see the recent Charlottesville Business Innovation Council’s State of Charlottesville Tech for some background as well as the Charlottesville Women in Tech community.

4 – Prices being “less than where we come from”- is the pandemic/WFH impact we were slower to see than many other places. (Our version of how the recession hit later here and with less impact on property value). AND for so many – post pandemic shifts, all are catching up to “smaller – whether East or West- no longer means more affordable. Except midWest. AND cash untethered to mortgages (since pandemic began) has created entire other market driver. — See this recent WSJ article, Americans Escaping Pricey Cities Bring Higher Housing Costs, Inflation With Them.

5 – If you want to live where climate is milder- ie- no snow- and you want to avoid majority of hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, drought, fire (in the present) – where do you go? Many are already coming from WA, OR, CA, AZ, FL and the North. If you don’t want a big city, South of DC and North of Florida- how many choices do you have? Prices in Asheville (and ripple effect to adjacent “sleepy” communities) continues on “insane” path of escalation (like Chapel Hill and surrounds). Even with all the violence downtown and terrible medical system in Asheville. Who and why.

6 – The “cash is king” piece means (and one poster used the word unharnessed) there is a large group of buyers unharnessed from mortgage rates/market forces. Not the fault of realtors or anyone observing that this is a fact. “Capitalism” and a stock market many are sitting out for now.

7 – For over a decade I asked folks- when are the 20-30 somethings moving over the mountain for less expensive homes. We know that has started. We know that Crozet is no longer the “if you want to be close to Cville but can’t afford” solution. AND- starter homes in Waynesboro are in the 4’s. It is interesting to watch the market in Staunton, Harrisonburg all the way down to Roanoke (you would have to do more than sit in your rocking chairs to pay attention, I know), there is not yet the level of demand that sweeps listings off mls. Why? What do people want and need in terms of work (when work is attached to geography) or a desirable place to retire or WFH. — This is a relevant post from a real estate consultant friend (and often doomsayer). He’s not that wrong.

8 – Geography. Besides factoring in cost of commute, it only takes our snowstorm at rush hour a few years ago, or the 2 huge traffic events this last week, to have newcomers realize how long their commute could be on a bad day AND that coming over the mountain means you end up stuck when there is an issue.

9 – Richmond is suffering the demand from all the groups moving in and still being one of “most affordable cities” nationally- though not for locals. One could say – why, with toxic clean-up sites, crime rates, parts of Richmond with gas smell (I could go on and on). Besides affordability and “better than northern VA” all are looking for “vibe”/things to do/community (coffee shops!). Even Asheville has a listing pointing to the coffee shop! (Dairy Market may not be what we hoped- but it IS a node for those small pleasures and a sense of place (for those from away)).

10 – Roanoke wants to be a region that attracts those who want livability and can’t afford here (they already have the bioresearch infrastructure). A big part of that is that industries want workers. What we know is the workers aren’t there. Those workers aren’t moving here finding it unaffordable. It is a segment of the population that has evaporated.

11 – Resources- If not in your rocking chair- locally you will learn that, like most of the country, we are hobbled on availability of construction workers and in private construction cost of labor and materials have gone thru the roof. The national absence of workers won’t fix itself.

12 – Much of our new construction in town and north of town is targeted to renters. If you speak to those renters (easy to do on reddit when you welcome them vs tell them not to come) many will say they hope to buy a house in a few years. They do not say they want to be in Madison or Greene or any place farther from Cville. They are at points in their lives they want to be around “the action”. That is even a comment from renters. (Not that there aren’t those wanting and choosing life in a more Northerly county.)

Only the insularity that is Cville allows the grandpas on their rockers not to know that every university town with a walkable downtown is suffering same escalation in prices, that people of all generations can want a small city “vibe” and that crime rates – as long as they are seen as hot spot generated, don’t deter when we don’t have choices in our country that aren’t suffering the same issue. Our failure as a country to create livable communities of scale has created the high demand in the few seeming vestiges that might offer “community”.

As astronomical insurance rates in Florida are forcing many to prepare to leave and recent hurricanes and hotter weather send another wave North to NC and VA, as those in the North who can choose want lower property taxes and a “gentler life without shoveling snow” – in print (except on reddit) we are one of the few options on the East coast NOT subject to extreme weather events (in general) or the radical sea level rise about to explode. In that way- we remain about location, location, location. WHILE also having an employer who will continue to hire more people for more new programs. UVA is a driver in creating more market rate rentals. This in no way helps those in all socio-economic brackets who want to be home owners.

Dear rocking chair critics, before posting on this topic, why not start from stating the feeling – I am sad, afraid, depressed, mystified, enraged- by these realities and the quality of life that has been lost here and promises it will degrade at an exponential rate going forward.

*(and I fixed the numbering of the points)

I like commenting on these posts, as I have to pull relevant data and facts in order to comment with some degree of awareness and intelligence.

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