Monday, March 1, 2010

Top 10 Homebuyer FAQ for the Charlottesville Albemarle Area

10.  Why are there so few job prospects in this area? 
9.  How's the economy reflected in the Downtown Mall, and how do residents feel about the local economy?
8.  How are the schools in Albemarle County?  How are the schools in Charlottesville?
7. How's the fiscal health of Albemarle County and its services?
6.  What about the libraries? 
5.  Is there support for the arts and humanities?
4.  What's the nicest hotel?
3.  What's fun to do in Charlottesville?
2.  What's going on over at UVA?

1.  Why is the Charlottesville Albemarle area "the least affordable real estate market in Virginia"?

Related Reading
Mid-February News in the Local Economic Downturn
Budget Woes Everywhere Ya Look
To Buy or Not to Buy? 


Anonymous said...

Got a kindergardener in Albemarle Cty? 99 Teachers and 45 Staff - these positions *aren't* going to be rehired when the County $upe$ have to raise taxes in two years to just break even. That kid is going to be in schools that get worse over the next decade.

The libraries aren't going to reopen, either.

Stan said...

Price INCREASE: 907 Bolling Ave Relisting $70,000 more than last Fall. Then it was $250, now it's $319,000. Being sold "as is." Very mixed messages.

downtownenvy said...

Stan. I think the message is loud and clear-" Suckers Wanted - apply within". Good catch too by the way. They must pour happy pills in the water here. Nothing else accounts for the crazy optimism.

Anonymous said...

Charlottesville's a great place. It's one thing to talk about real estate problems, it's another to crap on the city with glee.

Anonymous said...

'Amazing' price

Anonymous said...

How is this "crapping" on the City? There AREN'T a lot of job prospects here, the Mall IS shockingly empty (and filled with bums), the schools ARE having incredible budget crises etc etc etc

All of these things impact home values. In many cases the prices here reflect desperate people trying to find new suckers to correct their financial mistakes. The prices reflect fantasy. And suckers.

Anonymous said...

Name a place that's so much better off... didn't think so.

Real C'ville - The Bubble Blog said...

Anonymous 8:53, there's no arguing w/data. It's great you love Cville so much. Do all your shopping in the City, and buy a house here...the economy needs you.

But name a place in Virginia that has these kind of economic issues combined with inflated house prices that remain out of kilter in terms of historic pre-Bubble metrics...didn't think so.

Anonymous said...

7:09pm: I walk this way every day. This was FSBO until now. Those sellers are taking a loss, asking $8k less than what they paid in '06, $277k. Throw in the paint job, the agent fees and closing costs, plus mortgage interest, that's even more (minus some tax deductions). An impediment is that the house is on Avon, an incredible N/S racetrack. House next door for sale too about $100k more.

A bunch more houses for sale on Avon too: the brown flophouse just after the bridge for $250k, the brick near Belmont Ave for $400k price reduced from $450, big house on corner Monticello/Avon a short sale, the brick cape south of the one you mention, last price $410k and now a rental, a farmhouse at corner of Eliot and Avon $350k and so forth.

All of these on the market for 6 months-year. So used to seeing the 'for sale' signs that they're part of landscape.

Anonymous said...

Hey bubble: already bought a house here. My house now assessed 60K lower than what I payed in '07.... so what? I'm not going anywhere. Prices go up and down, don't buy if you can't afford. Compared to other places I've lived (Philly, SoCal, NoCal, NOVA) Charlottesville is a dream, and cheaper to boot.

We have safe neighborhoods, good public schools, easy commute, relatively low traffic, college town diversity, culture and entertainment, mild climate, clean air, gorgeous scenery.

Of course it's more expensive than places like Culpepper, Danville, Farmville, etc..... That's because it's better! If you don't agree why do you live here?

downtownenvy said...

Anonymous, I am glad that you like Cville. I do too, or I wouldn't continue to live here. I also have lived a lot of different places, and while it is very nice, Charlottesville just isn't all that.

Too many people around here buy into the whole best place to live title and ignore what is going on around them. Also? I'm taking your advice and not buying right now. Because I can't afford to? Nope. Because I am not about to take a $60,000 happy pill like everyone else who thinks owning a home around her is a need instead of a really big want.

Real C'ville - The Bubble Blog said...

Your loss is greater than $60k.

Go for a mortgage mod, Anon 8:21pm. Check it out w/your lender or through the HAMP website.

If you've already declined $60k in tax assessments, you're not finished.

Additionally, your losses could include the closing or agent fees you paid at buying, and they certainly include interest on the mortgage, property taxes, homeowners insurance, HOA fees, maintenance at 3% year, and all those big and little improvements, etc. Tax deductions don't offset these costs.

If you bought in '07 you probably put nothing down, though, so at least you're not out of pocket that way. But if you had a 2nd for a down, a mod might be harder to come by.

Good luck to you.

Real C'ville - The Bubble Blog said...

This -$60k lady doesn't say what she paid, but here's an example of a homeowner in trouble with an assessment that is now down $50k.

Buyers were paying much more than what tax assessments suggested in 2007.

In 2010, many if not most buyers expect to pay less than current tax assessments, since they expect "values" to continue to decline.

Let's use a place in Dunlora as example:

Selling price in 2007 - $539k

2007 Assessment $476k
2008 Assessment $448k
2009 Assessment $421k

The assessment has dropped by $50k, so now the difference between 2007 actual paid price of $539k and today's assessment of $421k is $118k.

With so much inventory, is a 2010 buyer really going to pay the 2007 price for this property, when according to the tax man, it's "worth" so much less?

It's nice you want to stay put, Anonymous, because if you had to sell, you might have to eat a big loss, not just look at numbers on paper.

--John Doe

your name here said...

Anonymous, you live in Old Trail, Belvedere, Glenmore, or that developemnt in Ivy, correct?

I wonder if you have a child over age six? Because if you did, I think you might have a different opinion of local schools?

Anonymous said...

gangs, race issues, a quarter of the population living in poverty, a class/caste system, and no jobs for the unskilled b/c the overeducated are underemployed

friday night fights at fashiong square. the readers comments should not be missed.

Anonymous said...

So Charlottesville ain't "all that," so where is? I'm still waiting to hear where the supposed utopias (or should I say Whitopias, judging from some of these posts) are in Virginia.

Where are you going to go for affordable housing, quality public schools, low crime, minimal congestion, high paying jobs, clean environment, etc? Richmond? Norfolk? Roanoke? Fairfax? I'm not buying all this grass is greener whining.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, seems the only place in Virginia with which you're familiar is Charlottesville. This isn't a city it's a university town.. It still has inflated prices.

Here's a listing from Lynchburg that says everything you need to know about C'ville by comparison. I'm sure somebody could find equivalents in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, etc.

Lynchburg's Fort Hill neighborhood is better than any part of Belmont, Woolen Mills, Fifeville, 10th and Page, most of Rose Hill.

Yes I'd move tomorrow if I could.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to concede that the prices in the neighborhoods you list are inflated, and they're not particularly nice neighborhoods either.

Unlike Lynchburg, I don't think you're going to see $100 per square foot prices for decent homes in Charlottesville / Albemarle. That said, if you're a discerning buyer, you can get a well built house in a nice neighborhood in the county for under $150/sf. Look at Redfields, Mill Creek, Dunlora, Fontana, Ashcroft, Forest Lakes, parts of Crozet.

Maybe prices will go a lot lower, who knows? I can't time the housing market any better than stocks.

Personally, I think a university town has a lot more to offer to a young family like mine than a city. Different strokes for different folks.

downtownenvy said...

No one here is looking for a utopia of any kind. We are also not clapping our hands in glee that the economy is in the state that it is right now. Some of us are small business owners, and probably all of us are employed locally so I think people are taking offense where none is intended.
What many of us on this blog are looking for is some realism. If many readers want to take this as wholesale pessimism that is their right, but for pete's sake don't ignore the actual evidence presented here. Taken with unemployment, current wage rates, and projected economic growth in our area, prices are still too HIGH. It is a simple fact and nothing more.

Anonymous said...

Thank you downtownenvy. You consistently capture the ethos here.

A new listing in the City captures the dozen of brick ranchers I've seen over the past year MLS 474511 Rutledge Ave $290k. It's in the Venable school district and it hasn't been updated in 40 years. Even with low interest you're paying $600k over 30years not including everything else you put into it.
And it's not like that's a stellar block. There are a couple of rentals that look like they were transported over from West Virginia.

Anonymous said...

Serious Buyer,
Still have not purchased in Charlottesville. Downtown envy is presenting the facts as recognized by the National Realtors current affordability index.

Ryan Homes currently has new construction in C'ville for $105-112 sq. ft. Older homes will have a hard time competing.

Anonymous said...

Completely clueless Real Estate Agent and Seller: 901 Monticello 5 room brick bungalow $269k, purchased 2002 $155k currently a rental. Priced this way b/c house four doors down has same price? (Though hasn't sold in 6 months)

This type of listing is offensive. But only for a minute, since it won't sell.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous poster who comments that my block of Rutledge contains rentals transplanted from West Virginia: did you ever consider it's precisely your brand of snobbery that's keeping this city's "nose up in the air" attitude (and corresponding real-estate prices) firmly in check? Rutledge is a quiet, safe, fairly idyllic cul-de-sac that couldn't be more centrally located to, well, absolutely everything. No, the houses aren't impressive, but they're solidly built and at any time of day or night, you can hear a pin drop on this street. Most residents are elderly, long-time homeowners; others are school teachers with children, or Uva professors, etc. My husband and I live in one of the aforementioned rentals--we're artists and working professionals, both with masters degrees, trying to stay afloat in this god-awfully expensive city. We're a far cry from the element of society you mean to suggest with your "West Virginia" comment. Do I think the new listing is overpriced at $290K? Well, sure, but relative to other recent outrages (cottage on Greenleaf that's half the size for $315K, for example), it actually seems reasonable.

Anonymous said...

If you really think that price is "reasonable," you've become inured to the idiocy here.

The Greenleaf sellers bought badly, paying 100,000 more than the people they bought from. Now they hope somebody will bail them out.

The Rutledge sellers have 40 years of equity but are believing the Realtor who tells them this is what the house is worth.

The mortgage payments are essentially the same but one asking price has the psychological advantage of starting with a 2.

Every other waiter in this town has a masters or PhD. Move somewhere else if you want a better life. it really isn't all that here. That's why it's called The Velvet Rut and The Hook.

Anonymous said...

Most recent poster: where did you get that I was a waiter? I was correcting the poster (perhaps you?) who made a generalization about Rutledge, essentially suggesting we all have cars on cinder blocks and drink Bud Lite until 3 am. Did you miss the nuance in my comment? I don't think $290K for that house is reasonable; there are many more absurd listings that make it SEEM reasonable. The Rose Hill area should top off at like $200K tops, I agree; I'm in no way inured to the idiocy, hence the reason why we haven't bought a home here. In this economy, it's unconscionable to suggest that people just up and move for a better life. A lot of us stay b/c we have jobs here, not b/c we're drooling with love for the town; we're actively open to moving, but until the opportunity presents, we're gritting our teeth like everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Hi, new to C-ville here... A couple questions for you all:

1) What do you say to the idea of someone buying at approximately 2010 tax assessment in heart of Dunlora?

2) Dunlora subdivision seems to carry more weight, sell quicker, than other subdivisions. True value or a passing phase?

Anonymous said...

I am impressed by the numerous comments about how "god-awfully expensive" Charlottesville is. But isn't that because enough people want to live here even though "it isn't all that"? If it's not so great, why not relocate? Yet, like one of the other posters, I am waiting to read what towns are so great if this isn't "all that."

Anonymous said...

As with any city, the outer outer suburbs get hit hardest when the real estate market weakens. Dunlora is in this respect less like Forest Lakes or other newer developments further out - it is one a few newer developments in Charlottesville that is physically quit close in. And closer once Meadowcreek Parkway materializes. This may explain better demand characteristics.

Front half of Dunlora also has many fairly unique homes that compare favorably to similarly aged tract homes in terms of construction quality and style, and may also appeal to the kinds of jobs that are more likely to be stable over time.

For some folks the fact that Dunlora is a similar distance from the center of Cville to some Western Albemarle neighborhoods, yet costs far less, makes it a good buy.

Anonymous said...

No, anonymous 9:30am, this is incorrect:

"I am impressed by the numerous comments about how "god-awfully expensive" Charlottesville is. But isn't that because enough people want to live here even though "it isn't all that"

Sales are unbelievably slow. Not only that, but inventory for the under 300k is shrinking and this is the majority of sales right now and in past year

Prices are being kept where they are by Realtors and sellers who believe them, with inflated asking prices for things that aren't sellling

Supposedly something is worth what a buyer is willing to pay. But not when you have a buyer's agent and a seller's agent agreeing on Comps and claiming the deal won't go through at a lower price

Carefully controlled Ponzi

From what I can tell nobody's saying Charlottesville isn't a nice place to live. It's that for what you get here in the sticks prices are ridiculous

Anonymous said...

downtownenvy said...

Still standing behind my " isn't all that" comment that I previously made. Charlottesville is a really nice, small town with large city pretensions.
These pretensions combined with the mistaken belief that we are living in the best place in America is just what helps inflate prices.
I have nothing against Charlottesville other than it really does buy into it's own media image. Are there other places to live that are better? Maybe. Are there other places to live that are just as nice with lower home prices? Definitely.
Should people be forced to move away from family and friends because they refuse to pay current prices here? NO.

Jim Duncan said...

"Prices are being kept where they are by Realtors and sellers who believe them, with inflated asking prices for things that aren't sellling"

Sorry - this is an absurd statement that needs clarification.

Insert the word "some" and we'll have something.

Some Prices are being kept where they are by Realtors and sellers who believe them, with inflated asking prices for things that aren't sellling. (sic)

The reality is that a lot of sellers can't afford to sell but have to sell.

There are a lot of buyers out there that want to buy, for a variety of reasons, and I'm finding that most buyers want to and need to perceive value, something that just wasn't a concern five years ago when the market was going up, up, up.

Selling right now is, for many, a very difficult decision and process that can not be minimized.

The question I keep asking is, why is there a moral obligation for sellers to pay back their loans but banks are getting bailed out? Where's the "fairness" in that?

Anonymous said...

"for every regular purchase, there's a short sale"

Anonymous said...

Downtownenvy said:
"Charlottesville is a really nice, small town with large city pretensions. These pretensions combined with the mistaken belief that we are living in the best place in America is just what helps inflate prices. I have nothing against Charlottesville other than it really does buy into it's own media image. Are there other places to live that are better? Maybe. Are there other places to live that are just as nice with lower home prices? Definitely. Should people be forced to move away from family and friends because they refuse to pay current prices here? NO."

Obviously, you're entitled to your opinion. But it is not Charlottesville that buys into its own media image, whatever that means. People make real-life decisions to live here or not. Enough choose to live here to support the prices. Meanwhile, specifically, which are the other places that are just as nice with lower prices? And obviously, people can either choose to pay the prices or be "forced" to live in one of those other places that are as nice but cheaper, wherever they may be.

Real C'ville - The Bubble Blog said...

1:18: If you're not going anywhere, relax. Eventually (2023?) your house will regain its lost value. If not, tee up for a short sale.

It shouldn't be an either/or proposition to live in this area and be bled dry to own. And in the coming years, it won't be. There's all sorts of local and government data supporting the fact that this is the least affordable market in the State. But with so many short sales and foreclosures, this is going to change.

2010 = "Year of Seller Pain"

There's SIX WEEKS left before the market changes due to homebuyer tax cred ending...and TWO WEEKS before interest rates are slated to rise. There should be a feeding frenzy right now and there's not. The writing's on the wall.

--John Doe

Anonymous said...

The above comment is that "It shouldn't be an either/or proposition to live in this area and be bled dry to own." But it's an either/or proposition anywhere, isn't it? So it's up to you.
This may be the least affordable market in VA. But maybe that's because it's the most desirable place in the state. That's how these things work.
"But with so many short sales and foreclosures, this is going to change." Possibly. But statistics that are linked in a recent post suggest that short sales and foreclosures are relatively low here compared with the rest of the state. And so is the unemployment rate.

Rutledge Ave said...

Even as the nuances of our arguments differ, aren't we all starting to bark up the same tree? Isn't all this startling evidence for the erosion of America's middle class? The divide is felt keenly in Cville, a town that's habitable IF you're (a) a member of the horse-farm elite or (b) at heart, content with a bohemian lifestyle (noisy apartments shared with roommates, late-night food-service jobs or multiple odd gigs to make ends meet). Otherwise, you really feel the squeeze here; and no, NOBODY should have to choose between bleeding themselves dry and being able own a modest home. I've seen Cville grow exponentially less desirable over the years--the same people who would've flocked to "the hook" 3-4 years ago are jumping ship now. Say what you want about population control, or building borders to keep newbies out, but this town WILL lose its luster--and fast--if nobody but the very wealthy can afford to stay here, let alone move here in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Where in a mortgage contract is the "moral obligation" clause? There isn't one. If as many people in this town were bailing on their mortgages as is indicated by the falling house values there would be whole neighborhoods that are ghost towns. More people would be walking away except that lots of homeowners have children. People try to hold on longer when kids are involved don't they?

anonEmousE said...

Rutledge, I'm the one who suggested you move and that came out harsher than I mean it. I meant RUN before it's too late, like after you start having babies.

I didn't mean to suggest you're a waiter (not that there's anything wrong with that) but that there are so many people w/MAs and PhDs in this town that are underemployed.

Your comment about the disappearing middle class really resonates. The phenomenon is happening across America (so I've read) but seems particularly keen here because this is a small town.

Ironically we've finally saved enough money and prices have come down enough so that we can buy but we're so tired of it here now that we're seriously considering moving somewhere we'd get more house and less class system, if one of us can find a job.

Rutledge Ave said...

anonEmousE--I totally hear you. I don't think we could afford to have kids here unless we wanted to raise them in a 700 SF Belmont shoebox, or else continue to rent forever. Yes, for the record, I also agree there's nothing at all wrong with waiting tables; as a matter of fact, I made far more money in my 7 years of food service than I have at any quote un-quote "real" job! Which kind of leads back to my original point about ridiculous class system at work in Cville, and the lengths people have to go to just to stay reasonably afloat. Not to revel in everyone's misery, but it is somewhat comforting that others feel the pinch too. Sometimes you encounter far too many inexplicably giddy people here.

Neg60K Lady said...

Rutledge, Bubble blog, & DowntownEnvy,

Owning a house in Charlottesville / Albemarle isn't any more a right than owning a house in New York, San Francisco, Asheville, Bend, or wherever else is considered desirable or chic these days.
If I have friends and family in Manhattan, or a job there, does it follow that I should be able to afford to buy a place there? Of course not. Maybe I have to rent in the Bronx or Jersey, and commute, like thousands of others.
Likewise, maybe some folks here have to rent when they prefer to own. Maybe they have to commute from Fluvanna. It's not the end of the world. No need to get bitter about it...

rutledge ave said...

Neg60KLady, that's a decent analogy, but that attitude in and of itself partly illustrates the widespread decline of the middle class. It didn't used to be a pipe dream for a two-income household to afford a modest home. Your complacency for this new reality is alarming. True, renting is by no means the end of the world. I don't even buy into the so-called American dream of home ownership, not anymore. But the problem with even renting in Cville is that the salaries aren't commensurate with the cost of living (rent or mortgage), and haven't been since the '90s; so, you can afford your mortgage or rent, but it's very hard to accrue any long-term savings.

Anonymous said...

To those who complain about the cost of housing in Cville, either to rent or to own...I assume you live here because you have a job here. But you could live 10-30 minutes away and afford to own or rent all kinds of properties. Why not do that? People in big cities can live 5 miles from work and still have a 30 minute commute.

However, I don't really understand why home prices are so high in the city. Lynchburg has a higher median household income and a higher per capita income than Cville (data from wikipedia), yet the median list price in Lynchburg is $150k and $262k in Cville. Can anyone explain this??? Who are these people in Cville paying these prices? Why do sellers think asking for 2003 prices is an insult?

downtownenvy said...

Neg60lady- I by no means believe that owning a house is a right. I've already owned two. Just not here. Why? The numbers. I have a background in finance, and let me just reiterate, when you combine all of the factors around here both economic and social, buying a house here now is still a ridiculous proposition.
It was never my intention to make a commentary on the livability of Charlottesville. Obviously I love it or I would move. I am just stating that it is an overpriced market. Period.

Anonymous said...

downtownenvy, you mean you won't be buying a condo for $1 million on Garrett St.!!!! lol

rutledge ave said...

DT envy, I couldn't agree more; obviously if we despised every minute of living here (and couldn't afford it to boot) we'd be gone. Cville offers a lot of perks that can't go ignored. But there's little doubt in my mind that renting is the way to go, unless you know for a fact you'll be here for the rest of your life. Not to say renting is cheap by any means (my rent is more than most of my friends' mortgages in other states), but you get much more bang for your buck. And sorry, but I really would rather be comfortable in my home than try to squeeze into some 700 square foot box they're calling a "starter home" just to say I bought the thing.

Bleed It said...

Today's City sellers hoping somebody will bail them out of their 2005 mistake: They should be doing shortsales now, not waiting

1141 Meriwether MLS 474730 $325, paid $295 in '05, assessed at $295

113b Melbourne Court 474795 $249 for townhouse...paid same in 2005.

Bleed It said...

Today's City sellers hoping somebody will bail them out of their 2005 mistake: They should be doing shortsales now, not waiting

1141 Meriwether MLS 474730 $325, paid $295 in '05, assessed at $295

113b Melbourne Court 474795 $249 for townhouse...paid same in 2005.

Anonymous said...

i bet 1141 Meriwether is under contract @ 320k in less than 2 weeks.

Bleed It said...

That is not a $300,000 neighborhood, except in a bubble or in Charlottesville. Nevertheless, I'll take that bet. What are the stakes?

loansome said...

wow so many comments...I will also take that bet. My guess is right around 3 hunge in about 10 weeks OR maybe $310K with atleast $10K seller concessions. Its not what you get, its what you net...

welcome to suckerville said...

In 2000 somebody bought this for $137k then current sellers bought for more than double the price in 2005
this house isn't worth what they paid unless next buyer is a sucker. this is truly suckerville. most of the street is tiny lower middle class houses. this house has a white collar price tag, i'm betting no contract in two weeks.

what's the prize?

Real C'ville - The Bubble Blog said...

A few comments/questions for particular commenters:

DUNLORA commenter,
Could you live with it if you bought a house and the value declined? That seems like a question for any neighborhood. Dunlora is centrally located, and this isn't going to change. However, you should check out the volume of sales between 2002-2007, which you can do at It won't tell you mortgage info, but you can probably safely assume a fair number of people used interest-only or Option ARMs, and these are going to reset, likely higher, in the next few years.
That said, know of two buyers who recently made offers just below 2010 assessments.

Also, check out Belvedere construction, and where the placement of new apartment complex will be, slated to begin late 2010. The individual house construction is supposed to last 6 years, according to website. (Is this optimistic?)

JIM DUNCAN - what is "moral obligation"? The "perceived" moral obligation? It's not "fair" that banks were bailed out, but then Tim Geithner seemed to be confused, believing he still worked for a)Goldman Sachs, b) the privately owned Federal Reserve, not c) the federal gov't

GARRET SQUARE commenter, you've revealed yourself as an oldtimer, since it's now referred to as Friendship Court. Maybe looking down from a million dollar condo on the poverty of that public housing debacle will be offset by the view in the direction of Monticello?

RUTLEDGE AVE, if you ever want to buy, consider a foreclosure. More headed to market. But you have to act fast. On a tangential subject, ever read Class, by Paul Fussell? Fascinating, though 25 years old. And here's a contemporary look at class/status anxiety:

Why don't you name parameters, and the stakes.

Anonymous said...

Listed today @ 475k. Buyer paid 420k for this new home in 2008. Too proud to lose a cent? Very optimistic..