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Real estate

• City properties

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• County properties

Properties for sale

Apartments for rent

• Aps for rent - Hook

Checking the market
First-time buyers
Building and renovating
"I saw the sign"


Better times ahead
In 2007, the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors CEO Dave Phillips said in a year-end report that "by historic standards, 2007 will go down as the fourth best year for real estate in our area." Although the tidings were not so cheery by the end of 2008, which CAAR claims was "the bottom of the housing downturn," the end of 2009 moved in a positive direction with 4th quarter sales up 34.1% from 2008. Even though only 2,730 homes were sold in the Charlottesville area in 2009, a number down 8.7% from 2008, CAAR’s report optimistically predicts the market has already hit its low and that the Charlottesville area is on its way to "better times in local real estate." 

How low can it go?
The median sales price of a Charlottesville house in 2009 was $246,750. That's roughly a $18,750 drop from last year's median price, according to CAAR, and Charlottesville wasn't the only area to fall. All areas covered in the CAAR market report showed a decline. The culprit behind the falling prices?  An increase in home sales in the lower price ranges, according to CAAR. And thus far, 2010 doesn't look any better, with the median sales price of a Charlottesville home dropping even more to $245,000.

Sit and wait
While median sales price is an important tool when evaluating a market, it tends to vary across areas and properties, thus not always trustworthy.  According to CAAR, the amount of days a home is on the market (DOM) is another good indicator of the market condition.  So what does Charlottesville's  average DOM say about our real estate market?  A balanced market should generally have an average DOM of 90 days, and in 2009 Charlottesville's DOM averaged around 116 days. However, the beginning of 2010 shows a decrease to 107. Perhaps improvement really is on the horizon.

Big deals
Albemarle County may not be Beverly Hills, but that doesn't mean some serious coin hasn't been dropped for prominent properties in the area. In 2004, John Carr and Raymond Hunniston III ponied up $24 million for the Castle Hill estate in Cismont, a favorite breakfast spot of would-be gubernatorial kidnappers. As steep as those figures are, they're nothing compared to two monster transactions in 2005. Fred Scott sold Bundoran farm in North Garden to Qroe Farm Preservation Development for a reported $33 million, and Hunter Craig shelled out a whopping $46 million for the land surrounding artists' enclave Biscuit Run. No recent transactions have even approached those price tags: 2006's biggest sale came when Clover Hill Farm went on the block and sold to Robert Micley and Carolyn Henderson for $13 million. 2007's biggest transaction was even lower: the Howe family sold a Barborsville residence to Red Horse L.L.C. for $4.75 million.

Who's moving here?
Retirees and others fleeing high taxes and living costs are relocating to Central Virginia-- thanks to a lot of fanfare in publications like
Money Magazine. Then the rush turned into a stampede on March 30, 2004, when a book called Cities Ranked & Rated, from Frommer's, ranked Charlottesville #1 among American cities. But perhaps Frommer's, too, has felt the real estate chill. We dropped to #17 in the 2007 edition. 

Total assessments

By state law, the municipality is required to assess at market prices, so quit yer yappin'. Or call the Equalization Board, but beware that this three-person, court-appointed body has the power not only to decrease but quite possibly increase your assessment.
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- After years of double-digit inflation, where homes were being sold for more than they were assessed it, Charlottesville is seeing significant decreases, according to City Assessor Roosevelt Barbour.  To see the actual numbers, the average increase was 17 percent in 2005, 14.3 percent in 2006, then dropped to 4.24 percent in 2007 and to 1.02 in 2008. With the first overall decline in City property value since 1976, the City had a 2.19 percent decrease in residential property value in 2009.  "It will be another couple of years before we get an increase again," predicts Barbour.  Assessor: Roosevelt Barbour 970-3136
ALBEMARLE -- Albemarle County has grown rapidly through the years, only now seeing real estate values start to level off: 18.7 percent jump in 2003; 27 percent in 2005; 29.8 percent in 2007--down to an average change of 0.14 percent in 2008 and then a decrease of 2.59 percent in 2009. Albemarle now reassesses annually. Assessor: Bob Willingham 296-5856 


Apartment search- One local search engine is run by the local apartment group, Blue Ridge Apartment Council. Other options include OffGrounds.com, started by students for students and faculty (877-895-1234) and Apartment Search of Charlottesville/Albemarle, published four times a year and available online (817-2000). If you want to rent a house, try the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors, CAAR at (817-2227). However, only members of the BRAC are listed, so don't forget the old-fashioned methods of asking around, walking around, or... drumroll... checking out the Hook's classified ads.

Rights and responsibilities- Students can get free advice from Student Legal Services (924-7524). UVA's housing office (924-6873) offers a pamphlet called "The Off-Grounds Living Guide" that explains city ordinances.

Non-students might want to take a peek at the Virginia Landlord-Tenant Act, online or at the library-- it governs rental real estate dealings.

-->>For more info on renting, check out our Consumer section.

Buying and selling

Real Estate Weekly-- Among local real estate publications, this one has the greatest array of ads and even some how-to tips. 817-9330

Property search- The best local search engine is run by the local realtor group, the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors (817-2227), and is available on the CAAR website at the bottom of their homepage.

"FSBO"- The crowd-pleasing, if realtor-chafing, way to sell a house typically involves putting up a sign and then hoping. While the method is often attacked as a tool of sellers with unrealistically high opinions of their property's worth, it has worked in hot neighborhoods as a way to avoid paying that nettlesome six percent commission. In the last eight years, three discount brokerages have opened. Assist-2-Sell says it'll sell your house for as low as $2,995, HomeSell offers to do the job for $1,500, and Help-U-Sell has a sliding scale.

Checking properties
Assessment data can be found
online or by phoning or visiting the City Assessor's Office on the top floor of City Hall. 970-3136.

The deeds are located a few blocks away in the clerk's office in the basement of the Circuit Court at 315 E. High St. 970-3766
Circuit Court Clerk: Paul Garrett

Assessment data can be found online or by visiting or phoning the County Assessor's Office in the County Office Building. 296-5856

The actual deeds are located on the second floor of the Courthouse Annex by Jackson Park in Court Square. 972-4083
Circuit Court Clerk: Debra Shipp

-->>For more info on neighborhoods, check out our Newcomer section.

First-time buyers

Free home-buyer classes-- The Piedmont Housing Alliance offers free three-hour seminars to first-time home-buyers twice a month. 817-2436

Information on low-interest loans can be found from various local sources, but a good starting point is the Piedmont Housing Alliance (817-2436). This regional non-profit shares information on various assistance programs including the Albemarle Housing Program (296-5839) and Jimmy Carter's favorite house-building charity, Habitat for Humanity. 293-9066.

Building and renovating

So you wanna build?
The rules can be obtained from the
Community Development Office in the County Office Building. 296-5832
CHARLOTTESVILLE-- Taking a cue from Albemarle, the City also consolidated its zoning, building, and neighborhood offices into
Neighborhood Development Services in City Hall. 970-3182

So you wanna dig?
Call "
Miss Utility" at 811 or 800-552-7001 at least 48 hours before you plan to dig, so you don't hit an underground pipe or wire and hurt yourself and/or others.

"I saw the sign"
When Albemarle County developers request a zoning change, officials put up a beige sign with a code number to alert neighbors about an upcoming public hearing. Besides checking the number online, interested citizens can call the Community Development Office (296-5832) for more information.

ACE Program
ALBEMARLE- In its quest to keep a little bit of land undeveloped, the County began in 2002 buying development rights through its
Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) project. With the County budgeting $1 million per year for the program, perhaps you'll want to sell yours? 296-5832

What's a proffer? There's no secretive or dirty trick involved; it's basically an above-the-table bribe from a developer to the County to get a zoning amendment. You can see all the proffers dating back to 1979 on
Albemarle's website.

Relief for elderly/disabled
ALBEMARLE-- If you're 65 and over and/or permanently/totally disabled, make less than $69,452, and have a net worth under $200K (excluding your house), you may be eligible for real estate tax relief. 296-5851 x3442
CHARLOTTESVILLE-- Similar situation. The City offers a "wealth" of relief measures for disabled and elderly homeowners and renters including a package administered by the
Commissioner of Revenue that offers tax relief, free trash stickers, and several hundred dollars off one's annual utility bills. Must be 65 or over, and/or permanently/totally disabled, have an annual income of less than $50K, and a net worth of $125K or less (excluding your house) to qualify. 970-3160

Welfare for the rich?
Farmette owners are notorious for taking advantage of something called "Land Use Taxation," which means that a mogul with an 8,900-square-foot palace can pay just $976 in taxes on his 50 acres if their land is devoted solely to agricultural, forestry, or open-space use. This is about as much as the owner of a one-acre lot in Forest Lakes pays. Defenders of the program point out that the discount fosters agriculture-- or at least open spaces. Albemarle County supervisors decided to continue the program in May 2008, but to ease some pain are requiring that participating farmers "re-validate" for the program to prove that they qualify.

The man
Blue Ridge Home Builders Association-- This trade association represents builders and suppliers, and every spring it hosts the three-day "Home and Garden Show" and the newly minted "Earthcraft House Tour," which features resource and energy efficient homes in various phases of construction. Every fall it sponsors the "Parade of Homes." 973-8652

PEC-- The Piedmont Environmental Council, although based in Warrenton, has a strong presence here as a voice for moderating growth. 540-347-2334

ASAP-- Advocates for a Sustainable Population goes farther than PEC; ASAP actually wants to stop growth. 872-0044

SELC -- The Southern Environmental Law Center is a multi-state organization headquarted on West Main Street. The organization tries to work from within all branches of government to conserve and sustain. 977-4090




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