Thursday, July 30, 2009

Michael Comer's Home in Wintergreen For Sale

That's right, it's property number three put up for sale in the past week by Glenmore's ex-Treasurer / Country Club President Michael Comer. See the other two here.

MLS 467879 - $348K
54 Firtree Drive
Wintergreen VA 22958
3 bedrooms /2 baths, 1,330 sq ft cabin
, ca. 1979.

The listing uses an unfortunate turn of phrase:

"Walk to the ski slopes in the winter, enjoy the activities of the summer resort. This chalet is ready for you to call your getaway home, furnished, with games and a Wii!! Great treetop views from the large deck and screened porch!!! Paved driveway. The WPI right of membership make this an attractive home for 'foot-in-the-door' ownership in Wintergreen Resort."

Offered, as are the other two, by Real Estate III, which is headed up by Comer's brother-in-law.

Related Reading:
Michael Comer Plans to Fight Embezzlement Charges
Michael Comer: The Unanswered Questions

Glenmore's Michael Comer Plans to Fight Embezzlement Charges

'For now,' says his lawyer, in today's Daily Progress. Is there a plausible explanation for what the Glenmore Community Association's external auditor discovered?

Related: Comer's Wintergreen Home Up For Sale

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Glenmore's Michael Comer: The Unanswered Questions

This mugshot is a sad picture, as most mugshots are.

The County is abuzz with the disappearance and return of Michael Comer. The "comments" sections are filling up wherever there's a story printed about the accused embezzler, ex-treasurer of the Homeowner's Association (GCA) and ex-President of Glenmore Country Club.

After nearly a month's absence, Comer apparently called wife Kandi Kessler from a payphone at Wintergreen resort in Nelson County, and was soon after arrested then remanded into the custody of the Albemarle County Police. He is now free on bail and at home. Comer's next court date is set for September 3.

Numerous questions remain about what has happened. The following are just some of the questions whose answers will unfold over the coming weeks and months.

As we're a real estate blog, we'll start with

The Houses. Are they really for sale?
2930 Milton Village Road & 3803 Richmond Road

1. Kandi Kessler Comer, apparently at the advice of REIII CEO & brother-in-law Jeff Gaffney, put the family home up for sale, as well as an additional investment property. Since Michael Comer was missing, how was the sale going to be completed in the event a buyer came forward? Had Comer previously signed a document consenting to the sale? Both party's names are on the County records.

2. Michael Comer seemed to disappear. In a similar way, were his houses actually for sale, or is it necessary to give the "appearance" of being for sale? If so, why? To indicate that restitution of "debt" is forthcoming? Or do these properties "seem" like they are for sale so some kind of LLC or somebody in the extended family may step up and "seem" to buy the properties--giving the Comers money as well as a place to live?

3. The prices don't reflect a need for quick sale. There's an enormous expectation of "profit." If they are actually for sale, the prices reflect a need for serious cash--ie, there was "overleveraging" going on in the form of Home Equity Line of Credit or cash-out re-fi's. The properties are not, arguably, competitivly priced for this market or this economy. To believe that, even with "improvements," either house has accrued so much in "value" is to believe that buyers lack the ability to educate themselves on the market or the economy. Local sales declines, and price declines, show otherwise. Additionally, higher priced properties are the slowest moving right now. Too, there are price reductions everywhere. On top of this, the properties are connected to scandal. "Scandal" typically reduces prices for "quick sale."

4. How were these properties funded? What kind of mortgages/liens are held? (A: this is answerable w/a trip to the County Courthouse.)

Where has Michael Comer been? What has he been doing?

1. How did he "disappear"?
2. Did he have any accomplices?
3. If he was camping up near Wintergreen, did he lay in supplies ahead of time?
4. If he was camping, or "on the run" in Nelson County, why did the Nelson County Sheriff's tracking dogs fail to pick up a scent?
5. WTH did he do all day?
6. Did Michael Comer leave the state or country?
7. Did he have help in coming back?
8. Have his cell phone number records been retrieved?
9. Has the OnStar nav system on his car been tracked?

The Money

1. The current Glenmore Community Association audit goes back to 2006. When will audits for earlier periods be conducted? Comer was Treasurer for 15 years.
2. Where did the Developer, Glenmore Associates, think all that cash was coming from?
3. The Developer, Glenmore Associates, doesn't currently have enough cash to refund the money to the GCA, which has agreed to a repayment schedule. Why doesn't the Developer have the money? If it wasn't part of expected or budgeted revenue, how could it have been spent?
4. Did any of Comer's business associates know or suspect what was happening?

The Family

1. What did the family know?
2. When did the family know it?

The Glenmore Community Association Board of Directors

1. What did the GCA know?
2. When did the GCA know it?
3. Why didn't the GCA know more?
4. What members of the community are going to hold the Directors liable?
5. Which members of the Board are going to resign?
6. Will there be individual or group law suits regarding the Board of Directors?
7. When will the GCA put into practice the recommendations of the auditors for greater "internal control"?

Property Values in Glenmore

Will the scandal, the Board of Director's lack of oversight, the mishandling of money and the criminal acts of embezzlement on the part of Michael Comer have an impact on property values?

The Comer - Kessler - Gaffney Families

Will any member of these families continue to have any kind of leadership role at Glenmore?

Michael Comer

Why did he do it?
What made him come back?

What are other unanswered questions?

Related Reading
See readers' comments after these local stories: cvillenews. com here and here , NBC29, The Hook.
A recap of the latest up to Wednesday, July 29, via The DP.
The Glenmore Audit
Wife issues statement, but not reward

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Glenmore's Michael Comer Now on "Staycation" in His Home, After a Month in the "Unknown"

That's right, missing Glenmore ex-Treasurer, ex-Country Club President Michael Comer has come down from the wilds of Nelson County's Wintergreen Resort (...or the Virgin Islands...or wherever he was) and handed himself over to the Albemarle County Police.

Lots of unanswered questions.

After spending the night in the regional jail, today he was charged with five counts of embezzlement for allegedly misappropriating $666K in GCA's funds and giving "loans or advances" to Glenmore Associates, the planned community's Developer, overseen by his brother-in-law, Real Estate III CEO Jeff Gaffney.

Albemarle District Court Judge William G. Barkley allowed Comer, who appeared via video link, to go free on bail, despite the objections of Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford, who said the 'likelihood of his appearing' at his September 3rd preliminary hearing is 'slim at best.'

Comer is barred from setting foot on Glenmore property, but is free to "relax" at his nearby home in the County. That home, 2930 Milton Village Lane, MLS 467792, is for sale for $1,348,000. Which puts an awkward picture in one's mind, viz. "showings." Perhaps the listing will be withdrawn until things "settle down."

Bail for Mr. Comer was set at $50K. Was it paid in cash? Or was one of the Comers' properties, or one that they own with the wife's father, used as collateral for a local bail bond service?

Related Reading
The Hook's Coverage - Courtney Stewart
Kandi Kessler Comer Issues Statement, But Not Reward
Glenmore Community Association Audit
Developer Glenmore Associates Plans Audit

Newsplex coverage - NBC29 coverage

Friday, July 24, 2009

Glenmore, After Michael Comer: A New Era of Competence and Transparency?

Glenmore Associates, the Developer of the Glenmore subdivision in Keswick, has decided to pursue its own financial audit, according to The Daily Progress. Michael Comer, the missing Treasurer of the Glenmore Community Association, allegedly transferred monies to the Developer.

In what seems to be an admirable attempt at transparency and regaining a new sense of confidence by residents in the homeowner's association (Glenmore Community Association), the first audit by Robinson, Farmer & Cox has been posted online.

According to the audit:
  • There were "loans or advances" of $465K to Glenmore Associates during 2008
  • There were "loans or advances" of $160K during 2009
  • It is unclear whether GCA has paid Virginia Income Taxes since the year 2000
  • A Federal Income Tax return was prepared for 2008, but contains errors; other tax returns are not available
  • There is an issue with real estate taxes, as ownership of common areas has not been transferred from the Developer to the GCA
From The DP,

Glenmore Associates....does not suspect that it is missing money, according to Jeff Gaffney, Comer’s brother-in-law and one of the heads of Glenmore Associates. Instead, he said, the development firm is seeking to verify the amount owed the community association.

Jeff Gaffney is CEO of Real Estate III.

A copy of the audit may be found at the Glenmore Community Association welcome page. The PDF version is here.

While the FBI and Albemarle County Police have opened investigations, no charges have been filed against Michael Comer.

Related Reading:
Firm Tied to Comer Seeks Audit - Brandon Shuleeta, The DP
Comer Blamed For Missing Funds - Hawes Spencer, The Hook
Comer Won't Be Charged With Embezzlement? - Waldo Jaquith,
Missing Treasurer's Home For Sale
Kandi Kessler Comer Issues a Statement
Association Announces $666K Missing

Missing Glenmore Treasurer Michael Comer's Home For Sale

The props owned by the missing Glenmore ex-Treasurer / Country Club prez and his wife are newly listed this week. The representation is handled by agents from Real Estate III, where Comer's brother-in-law, Jeff Gaffney, is CEO.

The Comer's family residence is at 2930 Milton Village Lane--not in the Glenmore subdivision.

MLS 467792 - $1,348,000 - 4 bedrooms/3.5 baths 4,800 sq feet, built in 2005.

It's described as one of the "first Earth Craft homes in Cville" and "horse suitable w/5.28 acres." It's convenient to Stone Robinson Elementary, the Clifton Inn, Keswick Hall, and downtown Cville.

The house was purchased in '05 for $1,030,800. That's an expected return of $317K in a market where higher-priced sales are stagnating. Assessed at $1M.

Also offered is a single family home at 3803 Richmond Road in Keswick.

MLS 467873 - $425,000 - The house has 2 beds and 2 baths, 2081 sq. feet on 2 acres, built 1987. The house was purchased in '08 for $250,000, or an expected return of $175K.

The listing:

"This wonderful home is located just 5 minutes from town and is situated on 2 level and manicured acres of land. Spacious with an open floor plan, new carpet, freshly painted, new front porch, new laundry and large covered rear deck. Large two car garage has room for 4 vehicles."

$317K + 175K = $492K...not quite $666K.

Related Reading: Glenmore Associates, the subdivision developer, will now have their own audit.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Higher Priced Homes Sell at Snail's Pace - Newsflash!

The Daily Progress is witness to the local version of a national trend: higher-priced houses are having a hard time finding new owners.

The story even has a homeseller in Old Trail who has cut his price--more on this below.

First, the facts: in Charlottesville and Albemarle, there are 184 properties priced $750K or higher. Add in the Counties of Greene, Louisa, Nelson, and Orange and the figure rises to 253.

The problem? It's a phenomenon we've been commenting on for some time. Not only have area sales been declining since 2005, but without "creative financing," higher-priced homes don't move. Creative financing includes loans that have no income documentation or were "Option ARM" loans, which allowed buyers to begin at a lower interest rate. And nowadays, for a Jumbo loan, there's the expectation of 20% down payment. For a $750K house, that's $150K.

Additionally, there's a significant lack of "move-up buyers."
Local jobs or income streams do not support this Century's overbuilding of McMansions. But the whole concept of "move-up" buyer no longer exists the way it did in the past--or the way it did during the Bubble when the fake appreciation was in the double digits, annually, and fogging a mirror equaled qualifying for a loan.

A family who buys a house this year should consider themselves fortunate if they make enough to cover closing costs in five years. Forget about "profit." Buying today means committing to staying put--for quite some time.

And those who do have money and come from outside the area? With such a huge supply and ever-dwindling demand, combined with knowledge of national real estate trends, they expect local prices to "adjust" as has happened pretty much everywhere else--on the planet.

Just browsing local listings of lower-priced houses gives one a sense of the lack of move-up buyers. And taking a look at the higher-priced houses gives a sense of how many there are--and will be--for a long time to come.

The DP article, High Priced Homes Pose a Hard Sell For Most Areas, features the house pictured to the left, a 6 bedroom, multi bath house on Woodbourne in Old Trail in Crozet, over 4,000 sq feet. Priced at about $1M, the owner, a local builder, will lose money when he has to, once again, drop the Asking. “Every month that passes [we] assume that our house is worth less money,” Christopher Brement said. A smart man in an unfortunate position.

Of course, the article highlights one Realtor who thinks that the market will be better in a year. This idea is, literally, based only on optimism. No local, regional, or national forecast gives any buyer or seller any idea that housing values will do anything but continue to decline. In fact, values at the higher end are expected to drop even further, due to unsold properties sliding into forced or strategic foreclosure. The article also points out that "Homes can still move quickly...depending on price and amenities." Yup: and all it takes is one buyer. Such anecdotes serve only to instill optimism, not to assist in coming to terms with the reality of this "new market."

Sales in this area since 2003:

A reader submitted this graph of Central Virginia Sales, 2003-2009.

Click on image for larger version in new window.

Below is The DP's graphic showing sales for the Charlottesville Albemarle Area, based upon the Realtor's association mid-year report. "Area's Mid-Year Home Sales Reflect Continued Struggle:"

The sales indicate "all types," including condos, townhomes, and single family houses. The decline in sales of individual property types is actually higher.

Click on image for larger version in new window.

Related Reading
(some of these links are also embedded in post)
High Priced Homes Pose a Hard Sell For Most Areas - The DP
Next Segment of the Market to Crash: the $1M McMansion - Business Insider
The United States is Nowhere Near the Bottom of the Housing Crash - T2 Partners
The Economy Will Never Recover - Robert Reich
10 Reasons There Aren't More Move-Up Buyers
Graphs Showing Declining Sales 2003-2009
Median Prices
CAAR's Mid-Year Market Report

Wife of Missing Glenmore Treasurer Michael Comer Issues Partial Statement

Kandi Kessler Comer is Director of Golf at Glenmore Country Club.

What's missing from the statement?
Among other things:

*A reward for any information on the whereabouts of the Glenmore Community Association's disgraced ex-Treasurer / ex-Glenmore Country Club President

*An acknowledgment that an audit conducted by a third party, Robinson, Cox, and Farmer, identifies Comer as having control over the GCA funds since 1994 with no internal controls providing fiduciary accuracy;

*A recognition that there is now a necessity for more extensive audits;

*A recognition that the disappearance and missing funds have harmed, among others,
  • Individual Glenmore residents
  • The Glenmore subdivision
  • The Glenmore Community Association
  • Glenmore Associates, the Developer
  • The Board of Directors individually, and as a unit, of the GCA
  • Brother-in-law Jeff Gaffney, CEO of Real Estate III
  • Real Estate III
Of course, including several of the above points in a statement might have indicated prior knowledge of events or behavior.

What is included in the statement:

*Thanks to those supporting the family in this difficult time.

*A request that the media respect the family's privacy.

Unfortunately, the latter request is moot as Michael Comer seems to have engaged in an act that will generate the interest of the Albemarle County Police, the FBI, the IRS, the Commonwealth's Attorney, and numerous civil and criminal lawyers, plus accounting firms and accountants with forensic expertise, for months to come.

Statement From Kandi Comer

I cannot begin to describe how difficult Mike's disappearance has been on our family. The worst part is that we do not know where Mike is or whether he is dead or alive. Our children who are 12 and 14 are understandably devastated. Life has not been the same for any of us since July 1st. Over the past 20 years I have only known Mike to be honest and hard working. He is a wonderful husband and a devoted father who truly adores his kids. Neither the kids nor Mike's parents or I saw anything in the days and weeks preceding Mike's disappearance that seemed suspicious or out of the ordinary. We are all just at a loss.

It is frustrating because we are thinking and worrying about Mike 24 hours a day and want to do something to help find him, but all we can do at this point is continue to pray that he is safe and will come home. I am grateful to the Wintergreen and Nelson County police departments who have been working hard to locate Mike and who have been keeping me up to date on the investigation. I know they will continue to be diligent in their search. I am hopeful that we will have some answers to our questions in the near future. In the meantime, I am trying to remain positive and focus on caring for my kids.

I want to thank everyone in the Glenmore community and in Charlottesville for the support they have shown to me and my children during the last 3 weeks. We appreciate your continued prayers for Mike and our family and ask that the media respect our privacy.

Related Reading: an earlier update.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Map of Layoffs in Virginia

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello has announced that it will cut three positions, and Region 10, the area's not-for-profit mental health and substance abuse servicer, will do away with 11 jobs after a 10% state budget cut.

The map to the right shows layoffs in Virginia since July, 2007. At the Richmond Times-Dispatch data link, company names, number of positions, and so forth, may be accessed.

The map doesn't show furloughs, such as those at the Daily Progress, nor does it show different kinds of employment cuts like those that are or will be felt by UVA employees: hourly cuts, jobs lost due to attrition, wage and hiring freezes.

The Charlottesville MSA unemployment rate has nearly doubled in the past year. Virginia's unemployment rate is at 7.2%. The national unemployment rate is 9.5%.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fed Chair Ben Bernanke Addresses Congress

Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke made his Semiannual Policy Report to the Congress. He opined as how economic conditions are likely to warrant maintaining the federal funds rate at exceptionally low levels for an extended period.

The statement discusses monetary and fiscal policies, regulatory reform, transparency and know, all the things that should be undergoing serious scrutiny and reinvention, but are not.

“Prompt attention to questions of fiscal sustainability is particularly critical,”
Bernanke said. “Addressing the country’s fiscal problems will require difficult choices, but postponing those choices will only make them more difficult.”

Wait a sec. Isn't "postponing choices" what America's all about? TARP bailing out toobigtofail Wall Street Banks, the flailing mortgage mod program Making Home Affordable, overseeing auto makers, rescuing insurer AIG, managing bank mergers--etc etc etc. Postpone everything and call dead brown weeds "green shoots."

18 Virginia Rest Areas Close Today

You might want to keep some of these handy.

Due to state budget shortfalls and plummeting revenues, 18 Interstate rest areas will no longer be available for that pit stop. Make sure your next trip doesn't depend on one of the Commonwealth's facilities.

Watergate Hotel Foreclosure Auction

The auction of the famed and historic hotel failed to find a new owner for the once-luxe DC landmark. The auction had attracted 10 international qualified bidders, but none who wanted to pay $25M for the complex, which needs an estimated $100M facelift. Now the bank owns it.

Michael Comer Update: Glenmore Community Association Announces $666K Missing Along With Ex-Treasurer

The mark of the Beast hits Keswick's Glenmore Community Association in the form of missing funds. Treasurer Michael Comer disappeared about three weeks ago on the day he was due to meet with auditors to discuss accounting irregularities.

NBC29 reports that Association Prez Trevor Joscelyne opines, "The impression may be that Mike was trying to borrow from the association to help out Glenmore Associates." Glenmore Associates is the development arm of the Glenmore subdivision.

Comer's disappearance was a surprise and mystery to the subdivision and in the region. Resident Suzanne Schade said, "Everybody has kind of pretty much accepted the fact that he doesn't want to be found. That nothing did happen to him."

Apparently Albemarle County police are aware of the situation, but right now criminal charges have not been filed.

The Glenmore Community Association issued this:

Press Release 7/20/09

Glenmore Community Association - Financial Audit and Mike Comer

Glenmore Community Association has received the results of the financial audit being undertaken by Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates. The original scope of the audit was to review 2008, but following concerns around the recent disappearance of our Treasurer, Mike Comer, the audit was extended to include the first six months of 2009, as well as a review of the balance sheets and some transactions during the previous three years.

We have confirmed that sufficient funds are available to continue ongoing operations and maintenance, and for payment of all bills. However, the audit has revealed that a total of $666,446 is missing from our operating and reserve accounts due to apparently unauthorized activity by Mr. Comer over the last four years. Unauthorized checks were issued from the association to Glenmore Associates, and incoming payments from Glenmore Country Club were recorded, but not in fact received. (Glenmore Country Club is wholly owned by Glenmore Associates).

The cash-flow statements and balance sheets issued each month by Mr. Comer showed no record of these transfers, which were discovered during the auditor's detailed examination of the association's bank account statements. It appears that Mr. Comer acted alone in these matters, without the knowledge of any other individuals within the Country Club, Glenmore Associates, or the GCA.

We have been in discussions with representatives of Glenmore Associates, who have shared their concern with us, and who have offered to provide restitution of the missing funds, though some of this will not be immediately available. Legally binding arrangements will be made to secure the repayment.

The audit also identified various procedures which we plan to introduce to improve internal control of the recording and approval of the association's transactions.

Other actions taken by the Board of Directors of the Glenmore Community Association include:

  • The appointment of a new Treasurer (W.A. Pace)
  • The appointment of a new Secretary (Betsy Gohdes-Baten)
  • The appointment of a resident CPA as book-keeper
  • The closing of all previous bank accounts
  • The temporary postponement of major capital expenditures such as road resurfacing

Mike Comer was a well-liked and trusted member of the board for 15 years, acting as a representative of the developer, and we are all dismayed by current events. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family

Related Reading

NBC29 story - Newsplex story - Michael Comer Goes Missing - Local Ponzi Schemer: John Donnelly

Monday, July 20, 2009

Price Increase: 935 Monticello Avenue, Belmont

The future of Belmont is the above-the-fold story in today's Daily Progress. And price reductions are now a daily occurence in this market.

But here's an interesting Belmont story: 935 Monticello has had a price increase. After failing to sell for a couple years, and languishing at $149.9K for months, it's up more than $100K to $257K. MLS 461713.

Nothing has changed--wait a second, except that area sales have declined, along with prices. But not on this plat! Even the listing is the same: "With paint, carpet, and some cosmetic upgrades, this could be the deal of the summer!....Home is being sold "as is."

Related Reading:
Belmont Prices Reduced - Uninhabitable Houses
Median Home Prices Cville MLS
Sales 2003-2009
What Did That House Sell For?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Price Reductions...Everywhere

The real estate website Trulia reports that sellers have cut $27.1 Billion off their asking prices. As the slow Spring selling season draws to a close, price reductions are proliferating in this area.

Below are just a few recent price reductions pulled from Trulia. You may search the area's properties, if listed on Trulia, by "Price Reduction" by selecting this in the menu on the left side of your screen. A local search may be conducted at RealCentralVA. The IDX function will give info on pricing history--but only if the MLS # has not been changed during a re-listing.

NOTE price per square foot. The CAAR mid-year report indicated: Average price of unsold homes is $203 compared to $143 for homes that have sold in the first 6 months of 2009.

705 Ingleside Lane MLS 466638 Reduced $250K, $1,645,000. $274 sq. ft.
Off Garth near Farmington.

3250 Barracks Road MLS 462661 Reduced $100K to $795K . $154 sq.ft.

1711 Solomon Road MLS 466301 Reduced $25,100 to $339K. $104 sq ft.
County close to City amenities.

620 Mockingbird Way
MLS 462104 Reduced 30K to $249K, $171 sq. ft.

130 Observatory Ave MLS 465398 $395K from $449K (more than 1 reduction). $149 sq ft. Near Scott Stadium.

708 page st MLS 459841 $137.5K from $174,9K. $80 sq.ft $80. Sales are stalled and prices are dropping in the 10th & Page Street neighborhood; it never became the next Belmont.

1607 Farm Brook Place
MLS 463913. Five price changes since April...started at $339K now down to $279K. $119 sq.ft.

Related Reading:
Homesellers Cut $27.1 Billion Off Listing Prices - Housing Wire
Housing Woes: Price Reductions Are Proliferating - Time
Median Home Prices Charlottesville MLS
Graphs: Declining RE Sales
CAAR's Mid-Year Market Report

Monday, July 13, 2009

Graph: Median Home Prices Charlottesville MLS 2001 - 2009

Below is a graph of median prices for all types of sales in the entire Charlottesville MLS from 2001 - 2009. "All" means exactly that, a combination: condos, detached houses, estates, townhouses, in the City and Counties covered by CAAR.

Click on graph for larger image in new window.

The prices (rounded on the graph) come from the Virginia Association of Realtors. The graph is courtesy of SLR, who provided the Q2 graphs in this post. In the comments after the same post, Debaser said:

The drop in prices over the first half of this year is still much less than the steep increase in prices during the bubble years.

Michael Guthrie, CAAR Pres, notes:

If you look at the 1st half market report ( you will see the rise in prices vs the decrease forms almost a perfect bell curve. One might think that prices haven't gone down as fast as they have gone up but in reality, median prices rose significantly from
2005-2007 and have fallen almost at the same rate from 2007 to today.

While this is accurate, looking further back in pricing history gives the broader picture.

Prices rose 50% between the years of 2001 and 2007.

2001: 139,000
2002: 166,900 +16.5%
2003: 186,750 +11.9%
2004: 218,950 +17.2%
2005: 240,000 +9.6%
2006: 271,790 +13.2%
2007: 274,000 +0.8%
2008: 268,159 -2.1%
2009: 247,000 -7.9%

And even while the above graph for the entire area says "bubble"--prices far exceeded inflation, income capability, and historic annual home appreciation-- the graph actually falls significantly short of telling the entire story of what's happened to prices in this area.

A higher measure of bubble valuation is to be found in the prices for single family (detached) homes for individual communities. You know the saying? "All real estate is local." Combining the pricing for the City and five counties necessarily lowers the prices in the more expensive areas. Each place--City of Charlottesville, the County of Albemarle County, and the other Counties that make up either the Charlottesville MSA or the CAAR MLS (the MSA is a Census Bureau designation, the MLS is the trade association designation) needs its own sales graphs to show actual valuation histories--and current declines.

Buyers and sellers will have a more accurate picture of the market with this information.

In his Charlottesville Market Report - First Half 2009, Realtor Jim Duncan at RealCentralVA has inventory level graphs. He's also stated that he has median price graphs forthcoming. Additionally, the bubble blog has some enthusiastic graphmakers :0). So more data will appear in the next few days either here or RealCentralVA or both. BTW...don't miss Jim's educated guess (as opposed to "prediction") for "bottom" of the market in the above-linked post.

Friday, July 10, 2009

CAAR's Mid-Year Market Report 2009

Yesterday, we posted graphs showing declining sales in the City, the County, the MSA, and the Region.

Today, The Daily Progress has a summary of the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtor's Second Quarter 2009 report. The article is entitled "Area's Mid-Year Home Sales Reflect Continued Struggle." And it again answers the question posed by last year's article, from July 11, 2008: "Is This the Bottom?" The answer to that question was, of course, "No."

Michael Guthrie, President of CAAR and CEO of Roy Wheeler Realty, says the market "...will not truly improve until maybe the end of the next year. He doubts that there will be any measurable appreciation in price before the end of 2010 or 2011."

And most likely before that time, there will be more significant price drops. As we discussed yesterday, there's little to prevent further price declines in this area.

Below is a graphic from the DP article, showing home sales for the first six months of each year, 2005-2009. Click on image for larger version in new window.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Graphs: Declining Real Estate Sales in Charlottesville, Albemarle, Central Virginia

Real Estate sales have been declining in Central Virginia since 2005, even with upticks during Spring selling season. Inventory, however, remains consistently high; and pricing is just starting to enter the double digits in declines.

A picture can be worth more than a thousand words--a truism several readers recently embraced by submitting the following graphs.
These are pictorial representations of RE sales in:

  1. All of Central Virginia, 2003-2009
  2. The Charlottesville MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area), 2005-2009
  3. Second Quarter Detached (single family) home sales in Charlottesville and Albemarle, 2006-2009
1. Sales in Central Virginia, 2003- 2009

This graph shows sales for the entire Central Virginia area since 2003. These figures are for all types of sales: detached, condo, townhome, farm, estate.

The Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors covers the Charlottesville MSA (City, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Nelson), but the website publishes inventory and sales for the entire region. As of Wednesday, July 8, there were 3,606 properties for sale.

The sales figures for each six month period appear in a second image below this graph. The graph's creator added an observation in lieu of label at the top of the graph.

Click on graph for larger image in new window.

To reiterate, below are the numbers plotted by the caret points on the graph:

Click on numbers for larger image in new window.

2. Sales in the Charlottesville Metropolitan Statistical Area, June 2005 - May 2009

Commenter Debaser sent the graph below, which shows sales in the Charlottesville Metropolitan Statistical Area. Sales are down about -45% from the peak in June 2006. These figures are for all types of sales: detached, condo, townhome, farm, estate.

Debaser used the sales data from market reports at RealCentralVA (click under "market data" at that site for a comprehensive list of reports).

There are currently 2,189 properties for sale in the Charlottesville MSA. This figure does not include "proposed" unbuilt properties that are searchable on the MLS.

The maroon line = sales.
The green lines = YOY changes.
The broken line = 12 months moving average.
Click on graph for larger image in new window.

The graph ends with the seasonal sales uptick in May. Notice each Spring there's a seasonal uptick in sales--but then there's the three season drop. And each consecutive year has significantly fewer sales than the last.

3. City of Charlottesville, County of Albemarle - Single Family Home Sales - Second Quarter 2009

SLR sent three graphs for the Second Quarter 2009, of single family, detached home sales in Charlottesville and Albemarle combined (that is, no other Counties in the MSA), for June, May, and April 2009.

Current Inventory:
201 houses in City of Charlottesville
665 houses in Albemarle County.
This does not include "proposed" unbuilt properties that are searchable on the MLS.
  • Second Quarter sales for 2009, at 244, are just slightly higher than sales for the month of June in 2006.
  • Q2 sales 2009 are down from Q2 sales 2006 by -48%; down -30% from 2008.
Click on graph for larger image in new window.

Above: June '09 sales are down -55% from 2006, down -32% from 2008.

Below: May
'09 sales down -40% from 2006; down -23% from 2008.

Click on graph for larger image in new window.

Below: April 2009 sales down -51% from 2006; down -34% from 2008.

Click on graph for larger image in new window.

(NB: number of recorded June 2009 closed sales may be a more variable figure than any of the other figures)

Last year we opined that this market might bottom in 2010. Is this possible? Consider:
  • The amount of additional inventory built or converted to sales properties in the past 8 years is out of line with population growth and buyer demand
  • Plus inventory keeps rising by sellers who bought 2002-2007 and have to sell
  • Plus inventory keeps rising by Boomers who want to downsize or retire
  • Plus inventory keeps rising by those who are leaving town due to lack of jobs (GenY) or being finished w/job at UVA
  • Combined with selling prices that only now show declines in the teen%s
  • Mixed with tanking national/global economy
  • Toss in fact that home prices far outpaced wages, years ago
  • And let's not forget there will be no new "career" paying jobs in the area for years
  • And everywhere suffers from a lack of qualified buyers, especially at the jumbo loan level
= Doesn't seem possible. Unless, of course, mortgage rates suddenly go down to 1% and area prices go back to 1999. LOL!

Related Reading:
The United States is Nowhere Near the Bottom of the Housing Crash - T2
Forecast For the Central Virginia Market - Virginia Housing Development Authority
Cville MSA Contracts January - June 2009 Via CAAR
What Did That House Sell For?
July 1 - Where Are We?

Gen Y Priced Out of Cville Market
Lack of "Move Up" Buyers in Cville Market

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Whatever Happened To...These Properties in the Rugby Road Area?

What happened to these City properties, which this blog looked at in April?

1841 Fendall Avenue, sold 6/26 $490K. Asking: $500K. Previous owner paid $900K in 12/08.

Still Available
1833 Fendall Avenue - MLS 464447 - Price Reduced $100K: Now $645K from $697K (late April) from $742K (mid April). Owner paid $227K in '97.

809 Winston Terrace - MLS 461693 - $795K. Paid $515K in 5/06.

Foreclosure Auction
1810 Winston Road - Was scheduled for auction afternoon of 4/29 Charlottesville Courthouse steps. Owing: $333.7K. Owner paid $460K in 2004. Property has not transferred, according to City records.

Related: What Did That House Sell For?

1605 Keith Valley Road - Bank Buys For $570K, Resells for $300K

We looked at 1605 Keith Valley Road, in Meadowbrook Heights, after it was featured in the "On the Block" column of The Hook and the price dropped. It went for $300K in March '09.

Related: What Did That House Sell For?

Whatever Happened To...These Listings With March Open Houses?

A March 2009 post looked at five listings:

3009 Indigo Road, Crozet, Parkside Village. Asking: $360k; Selling: $358K.
Previously sold in October 2004 for $355,967K.

No longer on the MLS:
But there's no "sold" data in County or City records:

763 Belvedere Blvd, MLS 449160 in the troubled Belvedere Development, had at that point been on the market for 400+ days, after Church Hill Homes, a builder, lost it in Foreclosure. The house was originally listed at $499K, then dropped to $375K.

6 Riverside Avenue, MLS 425529, $535K, Woolen Mills neighborhood next to Riverside Park, "Green construction."

Still Available:
2303 Greenbrier Drive, MLS 462975, Charlottesville, Greenbrier neighborhood off Rio Road, no price change, $335K.

919 Club Drive, MLS 457987, Keswick Estates, Keswick, Price Reduced
Original Asking: $2.1M
March Asking: $1.9M
July Asking: $1,790,000

Related Reading: What Did That House Sell For?

128 Goodman St. Sells: $135K / 24% Below Asking of $575K

128 Goodman Street, an over/under duplex w/ backyard cottage in Belmont, was previously owned by an investor/landlord, sold for $440K. Assessed: $362.9K.

Related Reading:
What Did It Sell For?

751 Park Street Sells: $168K / 22% Below Asking of $769K

751 Park Street, a historic house near downtown, was on and off the market for one year, and sold for $601K.

Related Reading:
What Did That House Sell For?

120 Overlook Drive - FDIC Owned - Make Offer

...And you can have this 4,000 sq ft, 5 bedroom, 3 bath house w/in-law suite and storage, ca. 1965, on 2 1/2 acres just south of town, with "quick negotiations" and a $75.00 document fee.

MLS 467436, $285K. FDIC repo'd in late April for $267K. In 2007, tax man assessed at $412K; now it's at $375K.

Overlook Dr. is off Teel Rd, which connects to 29 just south of the I-64 interchange.

Missing Glenmore Development Associate Michael Comer - Update

There's no update on Comer's whereabouts, but there's some more info in the press. Sadly, this is going to end badly, no matter what the details turn out to be.

Hawes Spencer at The Hook writes about the circumstances surrounding the disappearance, and The DP has more commentary from the Nelson County Sheriff.

From The Hook:

The case of the missing hiker is quickly becoming the case of the missing treasurer, as the homeowner association for Glenmore, the plush golf community, reveals that country club president Michael D. Comer went missing shortly before a key meeting about a financial audit. After his disappearance, the association replaced him as treasurer.

“The behind-the-scenes view of this is that he staged this thing and ran off,” says Tommy Stafford of Nelson County Life, the first local publication to notice the identity of the missing man. “They can’t be 100 percent sure,” says Stafford, who has conferred with several top law enforcement officers, “but things are certainly looking that way.”

And from today's (Wednesday, July 8) DP:

The Nelson County sheriff David Brooks:

“There’s not a lot you can do, especially when you don’t have a criminal act,” Brooks said. “I can’t go into your background — if there’s not a criminal act — and get the paperwork signed off, just to see where you’re at, if you’re an adult.”

“I mean, a person of age has a right to be missing,” Brooks said. “There’s not a crime against it.”

And Comer's brother-in-law, Realtor Jeff Gaffney said,

“I would tell him that there’s a lot of people [who have] prayed for him and his return,” Gaffney said, “and that the whole Glenmore community has kind of rallied around this and is hoping for the best for him, hoping that he’ll come home.”

“And here’s the important part,” Gaffney said, “if he could see the look in the eyes of his children and his wife, he’d want to get back home.”

Read The Hook article here.
Read The DP article here.
Earlier material here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

What Did That House Sell For? Where's the Data?

There are currently 1,304 properties listed for sale in the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle. In Fluvanna, Greene, and Nelson Counties (the rest of the Charlottesville MSA) there are 884 properties, for a total of 2,188. (This does not include "proposed" or unbuilt properties that appear on the MLS.) In all of Central Virginia, there are 3,587 properties available.

This is the busiest RE time of year, even in a downturn. So where does a buyer or seller find "sold" data?

Via these sources:

1. City of Charlottesville:
2. Albemarle County:
3. A Realtor, with whom you are ostensibly working to buy or sell a house, has access to the information before it is made publicly available, if the house was listed on the MLS (as most still are in this area).
4. List of tax assessors in other Cities and Counties: click here.

Issues with data access:

1. City of Charlottesville - It is only possible to access one property at a time on your own computer. There's no downloading of any information onto a desktop. Additionally, there is a lag time (obviously) between a property going under contract, closing, and then being recorded (all times are variable).

At the City Tax Assessor's, using the public computer in the office, it is possible to access neighborhood data.

2. Albemarle County - has a more sophisticated system. It is possible to download not only information for an individual property, but also for subdivisions, and for particular dates, in Excel. The "lag time" issues are the same as for the City. However, the County's interface has an FAQ that will tell users when the data was last updated.

3. Realtor: A Realtor can access the data for any property, including those recently under contract, before the sales data becomes a matter of public record.

What if you're a buyer or seller who wants/needs to track the market, but you haven't hired (or have access to) a Realtor?

You will encounter some difficulties. And it is likely you will not have a clear picture of the market, especially in terms of downward pricing trends, such as they are.

In other real estate markets it can be easier to discover information about completed property sales, plus info on short sales and foreclosures. Example: the Washington DC metro area, where sales info and tax assessments are available via The Washington Post: click here.

A frequent blog commenter describes a standard experience in this area. "Serious Buyer" lives in another MSA, but is planning a move to this area. This individual did a search of the County records mid-June 2009, and then told of the experience:

I don't have access to a dump of transfer records from the City online system. I did, however, dump all public records from the Albermarle online system with a code of "single family" that had transferred between 1/1/09-6/1/09. This is an example of the data integrity we are dealing with and the resultant questions for further investigation:

Total of 703 records exported.
387 contained a transfer price.
416 with price of $0.

Why is there no transfer price and when will the prices be added? I expect the answer is some are invalid transfers, delay in data entry, change in status, etc.

Transfer records only went through 5/20/09 although pulled through 6/1. That is 4 weeks lag from today. When are the records entered into the system? How long is the delay generally?

387 records containing transfer price equaled an average of $445.3K, and the median as $290K. The transfer prices ranged from $4,750,000 to $34,000.

This data is for all of Albermarle County and so does not give a good picture of neighborhoods in close proximity to C'ville. Is this data of any use to somebody not familiar with the area?

It is almost impossible for anyone to really get a good view of what is going on independently of the Realtors. They have the most data, but how accurate is it and who enters it? Most sales forces keep terrible records and the Realtor offices don't have adequate or trained staff to keep data clean and consistent.

County and City governments are notorious for terrible records. Often the tax assessor is behind in collections because his office is behind in data entry and can't keep up with property transfer data.

The empirical evidence I rely on in this fractured industry is observation. When the list prices are down in aggregate, we may have a market that is moving once again.

The last comment addresses the fact that sales have been declining steadily not just in the City, the County, the Charlottesville MSA, but the entire Central Virginia area...since 2006.

The upshot? There's not a 'crystal clear' picture, for buyers and sellers, of what's happening in this market. Even with the sales data posted on this blog (in the form of contracts written, generously provided by Realtor Greg Slater) and the market updates from other Realtors (especially RealCentralVA), it can still be difficult for individuals to gain access to hard data.