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3rd Quarter Market Report for Charlottesville MSA

The news and trends in the Charlottesville market are mostly good.

– Distressed sales are down (but they’re still out there)
– Well-priced homes that are turnkey are typically going under contract in under 60 days. Quality inventory remains a challenge.
– Prices seem to be up across the board.
– Note that these are broad overall trends. Long-time readers know my caveats that “single family homes in Charlottesville City” means all single family homes in the City of Charlottesville … those that are priced below $200k and those that are priced above $600k … and everything above, below and in between. See the chart below for a reasonable justification for questioning all data.

Listing stats.jpg

Download the full 3rd Quarter Market report here or click through to read an embedded version.

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Cash & FHA Transactions in Charlottesville MSA – Local Analysis Matters

The headline at Zero Hedge is a stunner. A Stunning 60% Of All Home Purchases Are “Cash Only” – A 200% Jump In Five Years

Naturally, I wondered what the numbers might look like for the Charlottesville area. Being curious, I thought I’d look at the numbers for FHA transactions – frequently used by first time homebuyers as the program requires only 3.5% downpayment. The FHA numbers were more interesting than the cash numbers.

Keep in mind that these numbers are for the extended Charlottesville MSA – Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Nelson plus Louisa. Data comes courtesy of the Charlottesville MLS. Timelines in the chart and data are from 1 January to 1 August for each year.

Short story:

– Cash transactions in the Charlottesville MSA are nowhere near the 60% in the numbers cited in the above story. 20% cash transactions seems high, too.
– FHA transactions fell and rose with the market. As the mortgage market became more restrictive and buyers had less cash, more turned to FHA loans. Now, as the market seems to maybe be recovering and FHA is less attractive. Think about it. 2006 – 2.3% of transactions in the Charlottesville MSA were FHA, increasing to a peak of 18.61% in 2009 and moving to 8.66% so far this year.

Cash and FHA Closings in Charlottesville MSA

The drop of FHA in 2007 shocked me, so I looked at 2006 … similar numbers … which tracked with what I had perceived in the market. Money was free, then it was harder to get, now FHA is less of a viable option. I asked Matt Hodges with Presidential for a deeper explanation about the FHA aspect.

A history of loan program availability as well as the mortgage meltdown starting in the 2007 range, lends explanation to seemingly odd data.  Locally, FHA historically has comprised a very small percentage of business – in fact many brokers chose not to do FHA loans due to the oversight, quality control costs, paperwork and most importantly, availability of lower cost options for borrowers.  That change, to now considering FHA as an appropriate loan product occurred when 100% and 97% loan-to-value (LTV) loan programs, many with no mortgage insurance, started to disappear. 

About the same time, banks stopped offering 95% combined LTV loans, due to the massive defaults – 2nd lien holders often lost everything in foreclosure.  So, FHA became popular and competitive and they allow lower credit score minimums.  Their popularity grew until… FHA started increasing the up-front mortgage insurance premiums (UFMIP) as well as the annual mortgage insurance premiums (MIP).  In October, 2010, while the UFMIP was lowered, the more important MIP increased by 64%!  In April, 2011, the MIP jumped 28% over the October revision and more than doubled the first nine months of 2009’s rate. 
Flash forward to today.  We now can offer our buyers an UFMIP 75% higher and MIP 136% higher than 2010.  FHA has clearly shown us that they do not want quality loans in their portfolio.  If at all possible, FHA wants you, the borrower, to get a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan.  But, US taxpayers, if you want to know how this affect you- well, FHA now only wants those deals that Fannie/Freddie won’t touch – you know credit dinged, minimal down payment, borrowed funds, more recently discharged from bankruptcy.  This isn’t a judgment, its merely fact of how FHA has positioned themselves.  FHA has their place in the mortgage world, but it’s a shrinking marketplace.

Click through to see the raw data, embedded below.

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November’s (Charlottesvile MSA) Real Estate Market Wasn’t So Bad

Charlottesville Nest Report - November 2012

Inventory is down (everywhere), contracts are up (broadly), sales are up (generally),


Quality inventory is still low.
– The fiscal cliff generated by the irrepressible idiots in Washington is creating uncertainty – something we don’t need.
– One month isn’t a trend, particularly as the numbers are so broadly skewed in some cases.
– As I noted yesterday, more foreclosures are needed in order to find a definable, sustainable recovery.
Your market – whatever that is – is part of this report, but for a true understanding of whether you can sell or should buy you need to seek out and find specific advice and insight to your situation.

The data’s not bad. Not bad at all.

Download the two-page report here or click through to see the embedded report.

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First Half 2012 – Charlottesville MSA Real Estate Market Report

So … the the first half of 2012 is over. Everyone is looking for signs of recovery in the Charlottesville – Albemarle real estate market – in large part because they want/need the answer to one of these questions:

1 – Can I sell my house/condo/townhouse now?
2 – Can I feel comfortable buying a house now?

The answer to both questions is (as long time readers know): it depends.

Spend some time digging in the data; ask questions, but understand that as localized as this report is, your market – your part of the county, neighborhood, street even is likely to be not be covered by this report. For a true understanding of how you fit into the market, seek professional help (full-time, not part-time/hobbyist advice). Seriously. I do this every. Single. Day. and I can’t imagine trying to make decision or give advice unless I was living and breathing real estate stuff.

– The Days on Market, while an unreliable data point, are down
– The shift to single family homes continues – buyers are buying for longer timeframes – they are buying homes in which to live for 5, 7, 10, 20 years. Smaller condos and attached homes frequently don’t meet those goals.
– Fluvanna was hot. But – Fluvanna has challenges beyond the real estate market that will continue to affect the market and the locality.
– Home prices are up in many segments in the Charlottesville MSA

Sales volume is up, inventory is down.

But … lower housing inventory is not necessarily a sign of recovery.

Lest we get too confident, keep in mind that lower inventory is not necessarily a sign of a recovery; there are a lot of upside-down homeowners who would love to sell but can’t. Until we see appreciation to the point where they can sell, we’re not going to see a true recovery.

In smarter words:

… in markets with unusually tight inventory, prices are being “goosed” higher, not because the housing market is improving, but because there are fewer houses in the game. Low mortgage rates are artificially creating excess demand, with those buyers fighting over the slim pickings of sellers who can actually sell.

But you know what? There’s nothing we can do about that; the market is what it is. We can acknowledge it and make the best decisions possible with the information, data and analysis available.


Brookings Institution’s Metro Monitor
Corelogic’s most recent negative equity report (4Q 2011) shows that Virginia has 23% negative equity and 6% “near negative equity.” Lamentably we don’t have more localized data to the Charlottesville MSA. These numbers feel about right (broadly) for Charlottesville though; Fluvanna’s going to be different than Charlottesville and some condos are different than single family …
Foreclosure Supply and the Housing Market

Mark Hanson makes some interesting points, and this raises the question again of why supply has fallen so sharply. There are probably several reasons for the decline in supply: 1) negative equity keeps people from selling (and buying as Hanson notes), 2) banks aren’t foreclosing quickly and are focusing more on modifications and short sales, 3) cash-flow investors have purchased a substantial number of houses, especially at the low end, and they will not be sellers for some time, and 4) seller price expectations (when sellers expect prices to stabilize, they no longer rush to sell).

My theory from January holds steady, but I may have to revise the percentages a bit to account for underwater homeowners as well.

If you believe these guys, The Housing Bust is Over.

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Case Shiller Doesn’t Track Charlottesville’s MSA – or – Nest Realty’s 4th Quarter Report

Five year trend of sales activity in the Charlottesville MSA

I’ve said it before. Case Shiller’s Perspective on the Charlottesville real estate market summed up in one phrase: it doesn’t exist.

As I said this morning on Google+

So we’re getting ready to widely release Nest Realty’s 4th Quarter 2012 Nest Report … there’s some interesting data and analysis in there.

Combined with the reports I’m hearing from agents about the massive traffic at open houses, I’m thinking that *pockets* of the Charlottesville – Albemarle real estate markets are likely to see some stability & even price increases this year.

As far as Case-Shiller and the NAR? They don’t track our market. They’re good insofar as they give insight into other markets and their respective psychological impacts are interesting but not particularly relevant to our local market.

Here’s Nest’s 4th Quarter report – (Download your copy of the PDF here)

What we’re seeing is this:

– Buyer activity is up. Way up, over the past few months and years

– Multiple offers on desirable properties are becoming almost common place

– Foreclosures and short sales are going to be with us for a long time

Buyers want to buy. They just don’t want to buy crap or overpriced homes.

– (some) Sellers are becoming more realistic.

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