Friday, January 29, 2010

In What Will Become An Annual Occurence for the Next Few Years, Charlottesville Announces Decline in Property Values

The City of Charlottesville announced a  decline in property tax assessments, just hours after Albemarle County shared its pain.  
This is the first decline since the City began keeping detailed records in 1976.

The DP has some details:
“It’s pretty much all dictated by sales,” said [City Assessor Roosevelt] Barbour, adding that the city saw 21 percent fewer sales in 2009 than the year before. “We just interpret the market. We don’t make the market.”

The city government has been keeping track of assessment growth since 1976. Values peaked in 2006, when there was a 15.34 percent average increase among existing residential and commercial properties.

Bernard Wray, Charlottesville’s finance director, said that based on the most recent figures, the city would garner roughly $175,000 less in real-estate taxes than budgeted if the tax rate remains steady. The city had assumed, for budget planning purposes, that overall real-estate assessments would remain flat.

Some numbers via The DP:
  • Of Charlottesville’s 43 neighborhoods
  • 21 saw their residential assessments decline
  • 18 remained flat
  • Largest decrease was in Orangedale, which saw values decline by -26 percent. 
  • Ix/Belmont: -13.8 percent decrease
  • Carlton/Belmont  -11.9 percent decrease
  • Four neighborhoods saw small growth: Greenbrier, Rose Hill, Johnson Village and Little High Street/East Jefferson Street, "despite the suffering residential real-estate market."
  • No commercial properties saw growth in values.
Read The DP story here. 
Albemarle County Assessments declined on average nearly 4%: click here.

Image copyright/courtesy tzpictures at flickr.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Glenmore's Michael Comer Due Back in Court Thursday 1/28/10

Glenmore's ex-Country Club President and ex-Homeowner Association Treasurer, indicted on five counts of embezzlement, is still currently scheduled to be in Albemarle County Circuit Court.  Click this link for coverage of the case to date.

Update: rescheduled for Monday, February 1.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Picture's Worth 1,000 Words. But What Does This Picture Mean?

This image was on the cover of a recent Real Estate Weekly, the free newsprint advertiser distributed across Central Virginia by the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors. 

What does that red arrow, on an erratic trajectory toward "up," mean? 

It can't be pricing, because according to the CAAR, prices are now back at 2004 levels. 

And it can't be historic sales, as sales are down dramatically since the peak of the bubble in 2005 ('06 for Cville) to 2009:
  • Louisa.................. down 27%
  • Greene..................down 38%
  • Charlottesville........down 41%
  • Albemarle............. down 47%
  • Orange..................down 49%
  • Fluvanna...............down 58%
  • Nelson..................down 65%
Below are the total sales numbers (condo, townhouse, single-family home) that the above percentages refer to, from the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors, for 2005-2009: click for larger image in new window

And here's the comparison of the numbers for 2009 Sales vs. 2008 Sales:

There were 2,730 homes sold in the Charlottesville area in 2009.

2009 sales overall were down 8.7% (-261) from 2008.  

In individual locations, there was much more fluctuation:
Albemarle  +5.7
Greene +11.7
Charlottesville -19.9%
Fluvanna -15.4%
Louisa - 15.8%
Nelson -12%
Orange -20%. 

So it's not sales, and it's not prices.   Could the image be indicating a slight upturn in year-end sales that came from rushing to get the $8k First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit?  Could be.  But that makes little sense, as that kind of sales spike is temporary, not a market 'recovery' or indicator of the way 2010 will go once the  Homebuyer Tax Cred expires, again, on April 30.

Data and images Copyright CAAR.

Graphs of Sales, Price, Appreciation 

Existing Home Sales Have Biggest Monthly Drop in 40 Years

2008 was a terrible year in housing here.  In the Cville Area, sales were the slowest in a decade.  But 2009 ended with even lower sales than 2008--8% lower overall when all areas sales were combined (and while Albemarle sales ended 5% up over 2008, most other areas were negative, in the double digits).

Here, as nationwide, however, there was a flurry of activity in the second half of the year as buyers rushed to qualify for the $8K tax cred that was scheduled to expire Nov. 30.  Thus sales in the second half of the year had stronger results than would otherwise have been expected, given season, pricing, and the ongoing Recession. 

The First Time Homebuyer frenzy drew to a halt nationally when the $8K tax credit was extended to April 30, 2010.  "Existing Homes" = condos, townhouses, detached.

From The AP, via NPR:
  • December's sales fell 16.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.45 million
  • First-timers accounted for about 43% of December's sales
  • The inventory of unsold homes on the market fell about 7 percent to 3.3 million. That's a 7.2 month supply at the current sales pace, close to a healthy level of about 6 months.
*And what happened with buyers in the Cville Area, from November to December?  Here are  single family homes (not adding in condos, which are down 30+% '09 over '08):
  • Charlottesville dropped 60% (22 in Nov, 9 in Dec)
  • Albemarle increased 12% (50 in Nov, 63 Dec)
  • Fluvanna dropped 45% (27 in Nov, 15 Dec)
  • Greene unchanged (15/16)
  • Louisa unchanged (13/14)
(Link to Cville/Alb graphs here.)

*In all of 2009, "homes" under $300K, considered the realm of First-Timers, accounted for nearly 70% of total sales.

*The current inventory (including existing and new) stands at more than 16 months, and grows weekly, if not daily.  More than 450 MLS listings expired on January 1, 2010.  Market watching shows that most of these properties will show up again this addition to sellers who have been trying to "wait out the market" in listing their properties.

Graphs of Sales, Pricing, Appreciation for Charlottesville MSA 
Existing Home Sales Charts from CalculatedRISK
Existing Home Sales Worse Than Expected - The Big Picture

Monday, January 25, 2010

Federal Government Planning to Exit Mortgage Market in Two Months

What's going to happen when mortgage rates are no longer subsidized?  WaPo offers various scenarios.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Another Comer-Kessler Property Offered For Sale: 1000 Glenmore Way, Keswick, $2.75M

The Mother-in-Law of Glenmore's indicted felon, Michael Comer, is listing her estate for sale.

The widow of Glenmore founder Frank Kessler, Peggy Kessler is mother of Comer's wife, golf pro Kandi Kessler Comer.  Kandi Kessler Comer's sister, Motana, is married to Real Estate III CEO Jeff Gaffney.

 Jeff Gaffney also heads up Glenmore Associates, the Developer of the gated community, which made a an out-of-court agreement with the Glenmore Homeowners Association to pay back the monies allegedly embezzled by Comer. 

1000 Glenmore Way is a 4,300+ sq ft historic manor house,  parts of which date back to 1724.  It was purchased in 1995 for $500K, and sits on 10 acres.  The current asking price is $2,750,000.00

The property includes a 2000' driveway, multiple gardens, an in-ground pool, a detached office building, kennel and dog runs, a log cabin play house, and several storage buildings.

SEE all details here.

Michael Comer is scheduled to next appear in Albemarle County Circuit Court on Thursday, January 28 (barring a plea agreement before that time).

MLS #472878 Click for larger image in new window

This is not a property most folks would want to leave their family...except....

The other Comer-Kessler houses for sale include:
2930 Milton Village Lane - Primary residence, with asking price below purchase price. 
54 Firtree Drive - Wintergreen retreat, price reduced $50K, now $299K.
3808 Richmond Road - Price reduced to $325K, then increased to $429K with a 6 acre lot - however, the property no longer appears on the MLS.

Photos via/copyright CAAR.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to Walk Away From A Mortgage - Unless "Honor Bound" Was Part of That Contract

The US ended 2009 with enormous housing problems, including 25% of all US mortgageholders owing more than the house is worth, and 50% of mortgageholders expected to be underwater by 2011.  And RealtyTrac projects up to 3.5 Million foreclosures in 2010.

Homeowners are starting to act like banks and "strategic default" aka "walking away" from a mortgage is becoming more frequent. 

The phenomenon picked up steam last November when Arizona Professor Brent White published a paper whose conclusion was that homeowners should be walking away in droves.

In the past week, the issue hit the mainstream big time.  An article in the New York Times exhorted underwater mortgage holders: Go Ahead!  Walk Away From Your Mortgage!

The Business Insider weighed in with Yes, It's Ok to Walk Away From Your Mortgage and gave a step-by-step guide to Walking Away From A Mortgage.

And then there's the Colbert Report, looking at "Honor Bound."

The Colbert Report
Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Honor Bound

Colbert Report Full Episodes
Political Humor

Friday, January 15, 2010

Help Haiti Via TM

“Text HAITI to 90999 to donate $10 to @RedCross relief.”  Read NYT article.
See the Red Cross efforts on Twitter: @RedCross

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The DP Peeks at CAAR's 2009 Year-End Report on Charlottesville Area Housing Market

The lack of hard data in the article just might leave your head spinning. ;0) Read.

The report itself, which will be available here (Th/14th) will have more data...and this blog will have an overview of the data, putting it in the context of the past few years, in due time.

Low Pending Sales & the Shrinking Pool of Local Buyers 
 To Buy or Not to Buy
DP on Homebuyer's Tax Cred
Higher-Priced Homes Sell at Snail's Pace

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Latest on Foreclosures - "No End in Sight" - Up to 3.5 Million in 2010

Previously, at least 2.4 Million foreclosures were expected in 2010, but RealtyTrac expects 3 - 3.5 Million, and  says that new records are being set. 21% higher since last year, 120% higher since 2008. Watch the Senior VP of RealtyTrac comment on the three waves of foreclosures, the impact on the economy, Obama Mods, and what the future holds.

Friday, January 8, 2010

December Sales and Contracts in Charlottesville, Albemarle Real Estate - And the Local Shrinking Pool of Buyers

This week brought the news of the 16% decline in national pending home sales, which is leading to fears that housing will lead the US to a double-dip recession.

Below are some graphs with local numbers for single family homes, Q4 2009, for Charlottesville and Albemarle County via (and copyright) real estate agent Pam Dent.  

December is always slow, and this area may be more tied to the school year than some, but one might still have expected more contracts due to expanded tax credits and historically low interest rates.  

Locally, the pool of buyers, however, is shrinking: not only is there a lack of "move-up" buyers (a nation-wide problem) but those moving to the area for the short term, 1-5 years for University, hospital, or military programs / positions - may no longer be able to buy without expecting to lose money.

According to the Virginia Housing Development Authority, prices are going to continue to drop locally through 2010.  With mortgage, closing, and agent fees, declining home values may put short-term buyers immediately "under water," like the one in four American mortgage-holders already owing more than the home is worth.  

And inventory remains high: see today's post from RealCentralVA. 

Click for larger image in new window.

Click for larger image in new window.

To see these graphs in their original format, go here.

As a recap, according to CAAR, total sales as of Q3 2009:

Albemarle County sales down 50% from 2005 peak
Charlottesville sales down 48% from 2006 peak
Fluvanna County sales down 63% from 2005 peak
Greene County sales down 45% from 2005 peak
Louisa  County sales down 36% from 2005 peak
Nelson County sales down 71% from 2005 peak
Orange County sales down 55% from 2005 peak

Those sales volumes in '05 and '06 were a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Virginia Housing Development Authority Forecast

Sales and Prices of Single Family Homes Through November 2009
Graphs and Charts of Area Appreciation, Sales, Unemployment, more

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: Time to Resign

Enough already. And here's why:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Recession, Demise of Printed Word = 61 Layoffs in C'ville Printing Plant Closure

The DP has the story.
Map of Layoffs in Virginia

Mark Hanson Explains "Why Pending Home Sales Are a Bigger Disaster Than You Realize"

The mortgage guru / housing analyst quickly and clearly dissects the 16% drop in national pending home sales...a portent of closings in the near future, despite massive government intervention in the housing market. He looks at 2009 sales, which were comprised of nearly 40% foreclosures, compares '08 to '09 and shows why that's moot, compares Oct. to Nov. 09 and gets here. 

2.4 Million Houses Will Be Added to Housing Inventory in 2010 via Foreclosure (h_t RealCentralVA)
Fed Govt Acknowledges Housing Crisis is Deepening
2009 Housing Market at Years End