Sunday, August 30, 2009

August Vacation Reading

This blog has primarily been on vacation during August, in places where rents are down because inventory is high.*  This thing'll be back in force in September with  commentary, market watching, and colorful graphs. Until then, some reading to share, loosely arranged in categories, Local, Regional, Behavior, Mortgages & Foreclosures, Banking.


The Landmark Hotel Becomes Waste Transfer Station. We appreciate TheRutabaga's humor. An actual use for this eyesore may be vertical farming. Advantage? Saves water. And would be a real landmark on the Downtown Mall.

Swine Flu: today, there are 10 cases at UVA. There were many more documented cases over the summer. Get the facts.

Rural Tax Break: The deadline for revalidating County land as agricultural or under a "forest management" plan is Tuesday, September 1.

Ugly unemployment graph for Charlottesville area.


Federal regulators enter into agreement with Virginia Business Bank, based in Richmond. Only one other bank in the Commonwealth is in a formal agreement.

Massive land foreclosure auction in Loudon County.

Wal-Mart: Orange County supes OK the behemoth near The Wilderness.  Egregious.


If you can't buy or sell that house, shouldn't you buy a new couch?

A reluctance to spend may be the legacy of The Great Recession, so maybe no new couch.

Find out about Impulsive Behavior Disorder at Seattle Bubble.  Don't miss the comments.

What happens when you're  middle aged, male, used to make $225K a year in the financial services industry, and have been out of work for 18 months?  Read here.

The house of your dreams, and nightmares.

Buyer RemorseThis story is about Manhattan, but it happens everywhere.  

Housing Hypocrites, from Mish.   Is there a moral obligation to pay a mortgage? 

Whole Foods Alternative to Healthcare by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.  And the resulting Whole Foods Boycott.

The New American Real Estate Dream is Renting: Google this phrase, along with "WSJ" for a fascinating article.  

Defies Categorization ;0)

81% of Homeowners Think Their Houses Will Increase In Value In Next Six Months. 
What are they drinking thinking?

Mortgages and Foreclosures

Four Signs Your House Is About to Lose Value.
Mortgage deliquencies and Bankruptcy Filings by state.

What's an Option ARM, and how's it going to F up housing over the next couple years?  Locally, you may have read about this kind of risky product at C-VILLE and on this blog.  But read more on the coming recasts and resets, in this NYT article.

July foreclosures at record highs.

Mortgage and foreclosure crisis peaking in late 2010.

Once homeowners stop paying on the mortgage, they almost never go back.

The latest "Problem Bank List."

Banks "too big to fail" have grown even bigger--with the help of Government and taxpayer's money.

Meanwhile, the FDIC fund is getting drained by failing banks. The losses are actually higher than during the S&L crisis. Every Friday afternoon the FDIC takes over banks; here's a list YTD.

The Fed is Impotent.

$9 Trillion US Deficit

And finally, this has nothing to do with housing or the economy or banking or....

*(Wait a sec...coulda just staycationed out in the County...rats.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stony Point Mansion Owner Discusses Fire

The Hook chats with the owner of the Stony Point mansion that burned down to rubble on August 16. Writer Dave McNair discusses deactivated sprinkler systems, labors of love, and pesky neighbors.

The Albemarle County fire investigator says information won't be available for a few more days.

Though the house has been on and off the market for most of the 21st Century, owner Darren Kady says he is considering rebuilding 4595 Belle Vista Drive.

Read more here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Michael Comer Update: Prices Reduced on Houses Listed For Sale

Glenmore's bedeviled Ex-Country Club Prez and Ex-homeowner's association treasurer Michael Comer (et al) seems to be responding to current market conditions and slow sales.

After just about a month on the market, the asking prices have been lowered on two of the three properties held in his name.

Price Reduced $30k:

MLS 467879 - $318K from $348K

54 Firtree Drive, Wintergreen VA 22958
3 bedrooms /2 baths, 1,330 sq ft cabin, ca. 1979

Price Reduced $46K:

MLS 467873 - $379K from $425K
3803 Ric
hmond Road in Keswick
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 off original asking.)

No Price Change on the Comer-Kessler family residence:

MLS 467792 - 2930 Milton Village Lane - $1,348,000

4 bedrooms/3.5 baths 4,800 sq feet, built in 2005

Michael Comer
, charged with embezzling $666+k from the Glenmore homeowner's association, disappeared for nearly a month on the day he was to meet with auditors, is scheduled to appear in court on September 3. He will reportedly fight the embezzlement charges.

Related Reading:
The Glenmore Audit
Kandi Kessler Comer Issues Partial Statement But No Reward

Prices Reduced...Again

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Price Reduced. Again. And Again. And....

We've all heard of "chasing down the market." But then there's being chased down by the economy, the fact that it's 2009--and the lack of buyers. Today, a peek at recent price reductions. Several of these properties have had several price cuts.
  • Is it true that every house will find a buyer at the right price? Probably not. There's just too many houses vs. buyers, especially in Albemarle County and some of the more rural areas of the MLS.
  • RE ain't what it used to be: buying and holding for 5-7 is the "safe" and the new norm.
  • There's a lack of lateral ("Why bother?") buyers and move-up buyers.
  • The mid- to high-end of this market will remain slow for years to come.
  • And finally, going forward, the area's unemployement and underemployment are the big Unkowns. Consider UVA's coming distress and the monthly closings (sometimes weekly) of area stores and small businesses, and the latest in the Commonwealth's woes...and then there's GE Fanuc....
And recent sales? The Charlottesville MLS had the second lowest pending sales in Virginia in 2009 Q2, behind Danville, which has a 14.4% unemployment rate.

Additionally, pending sales in July were less than in May and June, which means that going forward, closed sales will be even fewer. HOWEVER, in the lower price range, things are still moving: which is a nationwide phenomenon, as the pent-up demand for lower-priced housing is now achieving something of a "feeding frenzy" as folks scramble to find something to buy in order to qualify for the up-to-$8k tax credit.

This federal tax credit expires on November 30, 2009. In order to hit that deadline, a buyer must have a house under contract (in most cases) by around September 30. Just six weeks away. (See REALCentralVA's nifty countdown widget.)

Below are some sellers who are cutting their prices, again and again. Are they cutting enough?

106 Minor Road - $775K (includes an "additional lot" (aka "the yard").
$825K to $775K
What with President John Casteen leaving and preparing everybody for job cuts as the budget is pared by millions, this Lewis Mountain Road neighborhood house, which is basically on Grounds, may not tempt any UVA profs or administrators even with the "discount."
Assessed at $531.6K; no purchase price recorded.

Below, two houses on Hilltop Road, which runs near to Dairy and Barracks Road, hilly and with the feeling of seclusion. A neighborhood with some of the most bubbly prices in the City. Consider the following ca. first half of 20th Century 3-4 bedroom cottages:

MLS 462629 - 1308 Hilltop Road - $749K
$839.9K to $749.9K
Listing says: "HOME WAS APPRAISED FOR $7770K IN JUNE 2009." That's right, screaming in caps. Ouch.
20+ year owners; appraised at $736K.

MLS 462928 - 1403 Hilltop Road - $749.9K
Two Price changes, $839 to $749.9
Longtime owners; assessed at $666K

MLS 451057 - 464 Ragged Mountain Road - $6,900,000
3 price changes = -$1.6 Million since 1/09
Off Dick Woods Road in Ivy, western County.
Owner is RE agent with other estate properties that have also been for sale for the past couple years. Interestingly, at 5932 Blenheim Road: price recently went up to $6M, from $750K less in 10/08; in Scottsville, southern County.

MLS 464923 - 1613 St Annes Road - $589K
Two price reductions in the past year, one recently of -$90K; $729K to $585K
This blog first looked at the house in September 2008.This house is across the 250 Bypass from the Rugby Road area, in Greenbrier, City.

MLS 461691 - 1121 Pheasant Xing - $449
6 price changes since Feburary, starting at $529K
Owners paid $291K in 2000; assessed at $419K
Newer Subdivision in Carrsbrook area, County.

MLS 457293- 1101 Little High Street - $495K
1 change this month, -$100K, since listing 9/08
Last sold for $226.5K in 2000; assessed $359.7K
Near Downtown Charlottesville.

MLS 463882 - 106 Cannon Place - $465K
4 changes = -$100K since 4/09
Owners paid $262K in 1998; assessed at $421.9K
Hessian Hills, off Barracks Road. City close, County taxes.

MLS 464447 - 1833 Fendall - $595k
Priced at $742K in 4/08; appraised at $570K
Owner is a RE agent.
In Rugby Road/Venable neighborhood in City.

MLS 464503 - 1008 Calhoun Street - $445K
4 price changes, $510K to $445K
This house is on a street that "T's" off Locust, which has some grand houses. Problem: the little street has a number of low-end rentals, and is such a popular cut-through that it has speed bumps.

MLS 465225 - 309 Monte Vista - $285K
Just one cut However, an adjacent empty house was listed for foreclosure auction last Fall; prospective buyers may want to look into ownership and future plans on this property.
Owners paid $227K in 2003; assessed at $290K
Fry's Spring in Charlottesville.

Various land parcels from 4-40 acres (here's one example) at "Ivy Estates" in the "heart of Ivy" have recently been dropped 20-25%, in the hopes of attracting buyers for homes in the $850K-$1M range. Western Albemarle County.

Need a condo? Prices are dropping in the -$25K range at Glenwood Station on Rio Road, but they're still in the mid-300's. (Hmmmm....Who owns that place?) Lots of condo short sales and foreclosures and plummeting prices, as well, in the City and County.

Related Reading:
Sales Listings Indicate Lack of Move-Up Buyers
The VHDA August 2009 Forecast
Cville MLS Compared to Rest of Virginia in Sales
Half of All Mortgages Underwater by 2011

Budget Shortfall: Virginia Revenues Projected to Decline $1.2 Billion

The DP reports the Commonwealth continues to face revenue shortfalls and will consequently face further large budget cuts. Governor Timothy Kaine today projected a $1.2 Billion decline for the fiscal year ending next June 30. This is the first time in state history that revenues have declined for two consecutive years.

The new cuts will be in addition to the $6 Billion in reductions to the $77 Billion 2008-10 budget.

The DP notes "Kaine will not say what, who, or how many state employees he proposes to cut until September, but he is almost certain to propose job cuts, furloughs, and reductions in travel and other expenditures."

Additionally, UVA and Piedmont VA Comm College have already been instructed to do--again--the "5-10-15 % budgets. " That is, they must create three budgets based on cuts of this size.

UVA already has its own budget headaches, in addition to the long-term pain that still may face UVIMCO, the endowment's investment arm.

See DP article here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Commercial Real Estate Developer Owns Stony Point Mansion Destroyed By Fire

Title to the vacant Stony Point mansion that was destroyed by fire on Sunday, August 16 is held by Darren Kady, who has some commercial RE concerns outside the Commonwealth.

The Newsplex reports that the fire, which reduced "Southwind Manor" to rubble, is still under investigation. The blaze required more than 50 firefighters and took more than 6 hours to bring under control.

Darren Kady and his wife, Deborah, listed 4595 Belle Vista Drive, a 4 bed, 4 bath, 7,000 sq feet mansion, and 115 acres, for sale for $3.8 million. The land is assessed at about $1,4M, as was the house, for a total of $2.8M; there is no information available on previous sales prices.

According to, the property has been listed for 623 days with MLS# 447134 through "The Land Office" and agent Jim Bonner, brokered by Roy Wheeler Realty (where periodic blog commenter Michael Guthrie is CEO). Smaller parcels of land are also available for sale.

A quick search on the net will show owner Darren Kady as (former?) "CEO" of "Bay/Max Commercial Properties" a company that has business concerns in NC and KY. The Manta listing describes this as a "private company" using the same mailing address as the owners of "Southwind Manor," with an annual revenue of $500K- $1M, employing a staff of 5-9 people. Among the modest projects searchable on the 'net, last December, Kady and his wife received a grant from the City of Louisville, Kentucky, to redevelop an old K-Mart on Beulah Church Road. More current RE transaction info is unavailable.

The listing for 4595 Belle Vista Drive no longer appears on the local MLS at, though the website still lists it as "active" (and shows the listing was "refreshed" in the early a.m. of Monday, August 17).

The Hook reports that the property was for sale years ago, and gives details of the 2001 listing, which was lauded by Forbes Magazine as one of the "Best Houses in the Safest Places." (Note that the earlier listing had a similar price, but much more acreage.)

Photo: After the fire, from The Newsplex.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Economy Nobody Wants: Eventually, It Will Be Here

But for now, the Obama Admin is delaying its arrival. Nassim Taleb, aka "The Black Swan," explains why the US economy can't recover: "incompetent leadership."

While the country may be pulling out of Recession, "Recovery" will be slow, painful, and the economy won't be like the "good old days" of the early 21st Century.

Business Insider bullets the issues from the CNBC video:
  • We're all in denial
  • We're replacing private debt with public debt.
  • We're not dealing with the cancer in our banking system.
  • We're not making the structural changes we need to make.
  • We're not being aggressive enough about restructuring debt (debt for equity swaps).
  • Bernanke is a wimpy Greenspan sycophant
  • Obama's rewarding the fools who got us here (Summers, Bernanke, Geithner)
  • The banksters are taking over again

It was fun while it lasted.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The VHDA's Latest Forecast for the Charlottesville MLS

Senior Virginia Housing Development Authority pundit Barry Merchant was back to talk to the CAAR, and RealCentralVA has the slide show and Sribd link. Some highlights and add'l commentary will be forthcoming on this blog.

Google Maps Now Shows Local Homes in the Foreclosure Process

The Healdsburg Housing Bubble, which covers California's Sonoma Valley (in some ways similar to Albemarle County), gave Calculated Risk the heads up on this feature.

You may type in any location to see houses at various stages of the foreclosure process.

Some of the data is old, though. For instance, locally, the site lists a City house on Keith Valley Road, which was available in February, and sold in March. Another house, in the County but near Barracks Road Shopping Center, is listed as "Middlesex Drive." It recently had its fourth price reduction, which is not yet reflected by the map's data source.

Additionally, clicking on a map point often redirects you to a subscriber content site.

But if you're interested in foreclosures, and/or dig RE maps and graphics, check it out.

Other places to find foreclosures and short sales: the search function at RealCentralVA,,,, and (type in the location plus search term REO or short sale or foreclosure in the search box).

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Charlottesville Area Real Estate Market Compared to the Rest of the State

We've had the local reports of how the Cville area RE market did in Q2 and the first half of the year, via the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors and Jim Duncan of Nest Realty.

But what about the bigger picture? Sure, there's the saying that all RE is local--even "neighborhoody." But that idea only goes so far, especially when the rest of the State, and the Nation, are having more significant readjustments to Post-Bubble Reality...and having them faster.

The graphs below compare the Second Quarter of 2009 to the Second Quarter of 2008
for sales, median prices, average prices, and so forth, for Charlottesville as compared to the rest of the Commonwealth. The graphs are from the Virginia Association of Realtors.

The basic take away? Sales are way down--some would say tanking. Yet prices haven't dropped as significantly as buyers might expect. What's with the "stickiness?" And will it last?

We suspect not, when considering what will Q3 and Q4 bring:
  • The last few days of the selling season are already here.
  • Higher priced home sales, locally, are already struggling here, as they are nationwide.
  • And the "First Time Homebuyers Tax Credit," up to $8K, expires Nov. 30, which means the sale has to close by then.
  • A home going under contract in September may even be cutting itself to the bone to get itself closed.
  • Inventory will shrink, as sellers hallucinate--oops--pull their properties off the market to wait out the Winter. Then it will rise again.
  • But foreclosures, here and elsewhere, will rise--for higher priced properties whose owners expected their values to keep rising--and/or to be able to easily sell the property before the Option ARM reset/recast.
  • As will unemployment.
  • And with the darker days of Fall and Winter will come a more thrifty mood--so that $500K will start to seem really expensive--what $899K seemed like a couple years ago. That $229k starter home? Ouch. More affordable at $169K--and more in line with the National median.
But the basic truism here? 200o-2007 were anomalous. Those years, and the double-digit annual percentage increases, aren't likely to come around again--in our lifetime.

But to the graphs!

Click on graph for larger, sharper image in new window.

The Charlottesville MLS is rivaling rural areas, and areas with double digit unemployment, for declines in sales.

The Southern Piedmont, Martinsville, Henry, Patrick, aka "The Boonies," have more severe changes than here in Nirvana.

The Cville area rivals Harrisonburg/Rockingham, aka "The Sticks," in declines.

And yet, the percentage change in average sales price tells an interesting story:

Check out the Greater Piedmont.

Check out Martinsville, et al: But the average sales price was already low.

This area had the second worst decline in pending sales for the entire state:

Only the Dan River area, which has been decimated by job losses, had a bigger decline.

Look at that teeny tiny little blue blip, indicating percentage change in median sales price:

The high-end farmetttes and estates, and McMansions at $750K and above, have few sales, leaving the median steady.

Last, but certainly foremost, is the Virginia Home Sales and Price Summary by Area, Q2 - 2009 vs. Q2 - 2008.

Click on chart for larger, sharper image in new window.

Related Reading
Higher Priced Homes Sell At Snail's Pace
Lack of Move-Up Buyers in This Area
Cville MLS Sales Graphs: Declining Steadily
Cville Area Contracts Jan - Jun 09
US Housing Market: Nowhere Near the Bottom - T2 Partners
Half of American Homeowners Underwater by 2011 - Business Insider
Sell Your Home Now! - Charles Hugh Smith

Half of All Home Mortages "Underwater" By 2011

Uh-oh. From Reuters:

The percentage of U.S. homeowners that owe more than their house is worth will nearly double to 48 percent in 2011 from 26 percent at the end of March as home prices continue to fall, Deutsche Bank said on Wednesday.

Deutsche's dire assessment comes amid a bolt of evidence in recent months that point to stabilization in the U.S. housing market after three years of price drops. This week, the National Association of Realtors said pending home sales rose for a fifth straight month in June.

Covering 100 U.S. metropolitan areas, Deutsche Bank in June forecast home prices would fall 14 percent through the first quarter of 2011, for a total drop of 41.7 percent.

Of option adjustable-rate mortgages -- which cut payments by allowing principal balances to rise -- 89 percent will be underwater in 2011, up from 77 percent, the report said.

Option ARMs were a popular loan product in this area during the Bubble years....

Read the whole dang thing.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Daily Show Looks at the Treasury Secretary's Unsold House

Higher-priced homes are having trouble getting themselves sold in this area. But it's a nationwide phenomenon. FDIC head Sheila Bair can't sell her house, nor can Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; both are now "accidental landlords."

John Oliver takes a look at Tim Geithner's house, and interviews economist Robert Shiller, of Case Shiller Index Fame, on the issue. Funny, unfortunate, and enlightening simultaneously.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Home Crisis Investigation
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

Slide Show - High End Hits Hard Times - WSJ
To access the related WSJ article, which is subscriber content, go to and enter "High End Homes Frozen Out of Budding Housing Rebound - WSJ"