Graffiti in Blacksburg? Or Is It Art?

Ever wondered about those exterior walls on buildings you’ve seen around Blacksburg, the ones that have graffiti all over them? Where did the graffiti come from? Who does it?

I’ve wondered it. And now I know who does it. But he calls it street art.

What do you think? Do you like it? Do you hate it? Would you like to see more/less?

Interested in more? There are other videos on YouTube.

Hokie Feet:

Shapes:

A Walk In The Woods:

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National Bank of Blacksburg Building Auctioned Off

If you’ve been around Blacksburg for any length of time, you’ve almost certainly noticed the old National Bank of Blacksburg building – on the corner of N. Main and Roanoke Street – standing proudly but looking rather weathered and beaten up. The building was an earlier home to the National Bank of Blacksburg, and in recent years had been passed around from owner to owner while sitting vacant and, quite honestly, falling apart.

The story is muddled, of course, but here’s a synopsis.

Earlier this month, it was finally auctioned off (along with two adjacent storefronts), and the highest bidder at the auction – Steve Hill – is a real estate developer well-known to folks in and around Blacksburg.

Going Once, Going Twice, Sold to the man with the pants on!

Going Once, Going Twice, Sold to the man with the pants on!

From a professional standpoint, I was interested in the auction because of the location of the building. It is a centerpiece of the downtown core, and has sat vacant for FAR too long. And I wasn’t alone – there were probably 100 other folks there, most of watching and afraid to move in fear of bidding for a property we couldn’t buy!

From a personal standpoint, I was even more interested because I was the agent who had the building the property listed in 2005, and I had watched it for nearly 10 years continue to fall into disarray. I knew what had been planned for the building and it was sad to see it not come to fruition, but I was excited about the possibilities for the future, as well.

I tried livetweeting the auction, which was interesting – head down, thumbs furiously typing, I wasn’t real sure who was bidding what, but I tried to capture most of it.

In my opinion, Steve is a great person to head a redevelopment project like this. I know that lots of folks what all sorts of things for a site like this, but none of us know what will actually come to pass. From my interactions with him, however, I know that Steve knows and loves Blacksburg, and I have every confidence he’ll do something really nice with that spot.

Congratulations, Steve – there’s a whole Town watching!

A side note – the caption on the photo above is something my grandfather would say. He was an auctioneer – and also a rodeo clown, businessman, and quite honestly probably just a hustler – but he used to say “Going once, going twice – sold to the man with the pants on!” I had no idea what it meant – still don’t – but as a small boy I thought it was funny. So the caption is homage to Rabbit.

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July 4th Fireworks in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, and Radford – 2014

July 4th is right around the corner, and it’s time to start planning all of your Independence Day celebrations.  Certainly no Fourth of July holiday is complete without a great fireworks show, so if you’re looking for where the fireworks are, here’s the list for Blacksburg, Christiansburg, and Radford. Please be sure to check with the venue for the exact times – things may change due to weather and what not!

Blacksburg

  • The Where – Downtown Blacksburg AND Municipal Park
  • The When – Parade through downtown Blacksburg from 2-3pm, then music, food, and more at Municipal Park beginning at 6pm.
  • The Cost – FREE
  • The Details – music and food by various artists, a parade through downtown, followed by fireworks at 9:30pm. Read more here.

Christiansburg

  • The Where – Christiansburg High School football field
  • The When – Friday July 4th, gates open sometime in the afternoon, fireworks start around 9:15pm
  • The Cost – FREE
  • The Details – sorry, no pets. There’ll be food, games, music and more, however!
  • Read more here.
Radford
  • The Where – Bisset Park, Radford VA
  • The When – Friday July 4th, events start at 2pm
  • The Cost – FREE
  • The Details – inflatables, pony rides, a climbing wall, and more. Music throughout the night!
  • Read more here.

Have fun, be safe, and Go America!

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Q1 2014 New River Valley Real Estate Market Report

Hot off the heels of putting out the 2013 Nest Report, we’re already into May and  looking back at numbers from the first quarter of 2014. Crazy. So, without further adieu, here’s a repost of the Q1 2014 Market Report from the NestRealty.com site.

Total_Sales

As we do every quarter (and every year), Nest New River Valley has run the numbers for the first quarter of 2014 (Q1 2014). What did we find out?

Nest Realty New River Valley Q1 2014 Real Estate Market Data (abbreviated market analysis):

  • Total Sales: Total sales increased almost 13% in Q1 2014 for the overall MSA in comparison to Q1 2013. With 296 homes solds, this shows a strong opening quarter for 2014 which is a positive indicator that we will see strong performance in the remainder of 2014.
  • Inventory: Total inventory levels increased 3.12% from Q1 2013. However, given the increase in sales this quarter, months of inventory decreased 8.59% compared to Q1 2013, which is an indicator of a strengthening market.
  • Contracts Written: The number of contracts written rose 2.11% from Q1 2013 which is yet another indicator that we will see strong activity this spring.
  • Median Home Prices: Median home prices have decreased overall by 8.96%; however, Christiansburg saw the median home price increase by 6.45%. With the increase in the number of sales and reduction in inventory, we expect to see the median home price increase for the overall MSA in the next two quarters of 2014.

NRV MSA Total Sale

Want to learn more about New River Valley’s Q1 real estate market data? Want to be added to the mailing list for these quarterly reports or our Nest Realty Annual Reports? Email Nest New River Valley’s Managing Broker Tina Merritt today!

 

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What’s The Loan Process Look Like?

House and moneyThis morning at a home inspection, I was talking with a client who’s under contract to buy a home here in the New River Valley. As we’re oft to do, we got to talking about the timing of everything going forward, and I mentioned underwriting.

What’s underwriting?“, he asked.

Whoops. Forgot that not everyone is a real estate dork like myself, so on the drive back from the home inspection I thought I’d list out the steps to getting a loan approved and closed. There are more items within each step, of course, but this is a broad look at getting a loan approved.

1 - Make the application. The first time you speak to your lender (need a lender? Contact me – I have several good ones to recommend) about applying, they’re going to tell you that they need several items of documentation from you. These will include W-2s/1099s, tax returns, Separation Agreements and/or Divorce Decrees, and more. Start preparing before the meeting – if it’s a financial statement within the last three years, be prepared to provide a copy.

2 – Order the documents. Your lender has the documents they need to get started, so now they’ll order MORE documents (we’re killing trees here, you know). They’ll order a copy of your credit report, they’ll order an appraisal, and gather other supporting documents needed to process everything.

3 – Wait. This part seems to be the most difficult. There’s a mad dash to get everything to the lender, and then we sit and wait while everything comes in, and the lender sorts through it all. If there’s additional documentation that’s needed they’ll ask for it, but usually they’re just pulling levers and pushing buttons and we don’t hear much.

4 – Submit the loan. When everything’s been gathered, the lender will finalize the loan rate and terms, and then submit everything to underwriting, who underwrites (funds) the loan. They may have additional questions or require additional documentation, but by this time you’ve submitted an entire forest full of paper and you’ve got it – somewhere!

5 – Loan approval. It’s the final countdown. The documents have been gathered, and the loan has been approved.

6 – Preparing title. Now that we’re approved, your closing attorney/settlement company will begin to complete the documents necessary to transfer title. These will include the deed of trust, the actual mortgage, and more. These are the documents that will be recorded at the courthouse as public record of ownership.

7 – Closed. Now that everything’s been signed, the lender will review them one more time make sure that all of the T’s and I’s are dotted, and then they’ll authorize release of the funds to have everything paid. Congrats, you’ve purchased a house!

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I Can’t Ask You Where You’re From

From the “Are you serious” files, comes this gem from Jim Duncan in our Charlottesville office. I’m reposting the full text below, because I think it’s so important and I don’t know that I could have written it any better.

In a transient place like Charlottesville, “Where are you from”? is a common question.

Small talk. Innocuous, right?

The ability to make and sustain small talk is a critical skill held by successful real estate agents – learning about clients and potential clients, asking questions, listening. But. What if innocuous conversation is (wrongly) perceived to be “discriminatory”?

I’ve written many times about and told my clients about the seemingly-absurd limitations imposed on real estate agents regarding fair housing laws. This morning I read the account of a real estate broker in Massachusetts who asked a prospective tenant where she was from – and ended up being fined $60,000. The woman who filed the complaint seemingly suffered emotional distress not merely from being asked the question, but also because she’d been denied an apartment by another real estate broker ostensibly because of her national origin, but also because this case went on apparently for nearly 6 years!

I asked friend and colleague Sarah Stelmok, Principal Nest broker in Fredericksburg and licensed Fair Housing expert for her thoughts. She agreed, with more context:

Besides this being mind-numbingly stupid, here’s the thing; if a customer/ client comes into your office and wants your services, but doesn’t speak English, we are required to get them an interpreter.  If I get someone an interpreter, it’s important for me to know where they are from.  Not all Spanish is Spanish.  Not all Chinese is Chinese.  And, what, exactly, was her distress over the question?  Fair Housing laws in VA clearly state that there has to be a limitation of housing choice.  It doesn’t sound like her choices were limited at all.  What if a Venezuelan agent asked the question?  Would it have been brought to case?  Yes, this is so stupid, it defies any type of common sense.  I feel really bad for this agent.

As a real estate agent, I can’t talk about schools, demographics of neighborhoods, and I know that I can’t ask someone their ethnic background. But it’s ok to analyze and interpret the housing preferences of different ethnicities? (This is a fascinating series by the way – What Home Buyers Really Want: Ethnic Preferences Parts IIIIIIIV.

These laws, while grounded in good intent, have become overreachingly insane speech codes that prevent reasonable people from exercising common sense. But I get it. This is the story I tell my clients that explains the absurd fair housing laws that prevent me from discussing whether there are kids in a particular neighborhood:

A couple of years ago a man called me from out of the blue saying that he was retiring and wanted to move home to Charlottesville. Ok, I can help. And he wanted to do so in a few months. Ok, I can help. And he wanted buyer representation. Ok, I can help. And he wanted an all-white neighborhood. At this point I hung up.

Discrimination is rarely so in-your-face, but reasonable people should be able to discern whether “where are you from?” is being asked in a discriminatory way.

Reasonable?

It is undisputed that Linder violated G. L. c. 151B, § 4(6)(c), and § 1.04(i) of the commission’s amended regulations by inquiring into Mrs. Stokel’s national origin in connection with her and her husband’s application for a new apartment on July 25, 2007. While completing the application process to rent an apartment, Linder asked, `Gladys, where are you from?’ to which Mrs. Stokel responded that she was from Venezuela. The Stokels believed they were discriminated against on the basis of Mrs. Stokel’s national origin and found Linder’s question to be insulting and upsetting. Despite the fact that Linder’s comment was found to have no discriminatory animus and did not result in discrimination, his inquiry itself is a per se violation of the statute and the regulation. Therefore, on appeal Linder only challenges the amount of damages awarded.

To my layman’s reading of the Decision, the harm seems to have come from the aggregate of the rental-search process, not the small talk question asked. But.

I’ll keep practicing carefully on the knife’s edge of fair housing, pointing out signs of children (literally, the “Watch out for Children throughout Neighborhood” signs) as well as others’ descriptions of neighborhoods.Two notes:

1 – But it’s ok if data discriminates, right?
2 – This is the sort of thing I’d expect the Realtors’ trade organization to get involved with.

 

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Top 10 Reasons To Build a Green Home

Over the last several years, “building green” has become a popular phrase among the real estate industry. Some agents have gotten their Eco-Broker(R) designation, others certified “this that or the other”, and everyone appears to be paying more attention to what their carbon footprint might be. Personally, I’ve seen clients take a dramatic shift from wanting to be “on the edge of town, it’s just a 5 minute commute” to choosing to be within walking distance.

Lots of builders have followed the same path, as well, and have started focusing on making changes in their building processes that may – or may not – truly have an impact on whether or not a home is truly “efficient”. One builder here in Blacksburg that started doing this, years ago, and has only upped the game, is Green Valley Builders. I’ve mentioned Green Valley Builders before, here on the blog.

Recently, I was with clients in GVD’s showroom and I came across the flyer below. Apologies for the poor quality – I snapped a photo with my phone and uploaded it as a PDF – but I thought it was a good explanation of green building, and what it might mean to you, the homeowner. The flyer is from 2008, but the content is still relevant, and the build quality has gotten even better.

Green_Valley_Builders10. I hate paying high utility bills. Our average utility bill in 2008 was $145/month* for both electricity and gas. That’s because our Green Building Program produces a home that is much cheaper to live in than a conventionally built home.

9. We can breathe easy all the time. Indoor air can be 2 to 5 times more polluted than outside air. We use paints, hardwood floors and finishes with low VOCs, carpets with recycled content, and relative humidity below 50% to control dust mites and mold.

8. I care about the environment. We care about our environmental impact. Our onsite recycling program kept over 38,000 lbs of debris out of the landfill in 2008. And we’ve partnered with Virginia Tech in doing research on our wood waste. 

7. Filling up at the pump is scary. We’re close to downtown Blacksburg, Virginia Tech and the Corporate Research Center, so you don’t have to drive far to work or play. And soon you’ll have access to the walking trails and parks at Wyatt Farms and Woodbine.

6. I like to feel really important. We do things other builders don’t, like give you 24-7 access with our online client portal, sit at the closing table with you, and provide our builder initiated warranty program to ensure your home is functioning properly.

5. No more cold or ___ spots in the house. Air leaking into your house can cause rooms to feel drafty in the winter or stuffy in the summer. Green building provides a comfortable and healthy envelope to live in year-round by properly sealing your home.

4. I start my day with a nice hot shower. Each home has a tankless hot water heater that provides hot water only as it is needed. Traditional storage water heaters produce standby energy losses that cost you money. And all of our homes are solar panel ready.

3. No noisy neighbors? Music to my ears. Our advanced insulation packages using spray cellulose and foam help block airborne noise to reduce traffic sounds or the occasional noisy neighborhood to give you peace and quiet.

2. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Enjoying your community means getting outdoors. Soon you’ll have access to our own community area, with convenient access to the YMCA Community Gardens, Solar Green House and community walking trails.

1. I love saving money. In addition to a monthly mortgage, homeowners pay for utilities, maintenance and repair. A durable, energy-efficient house can be more economical and affordable even if it is a higher or the same price as a home built with standard construction. All of our homes are EarthCraft and ENERGY STAR certified to ensure they are just that.

I’m hoping these clients pursue a home in the neighborhood, as I’m really looking forward to seeing more behind-the-scenes stuff from Green Valley Builders. If you’d like to talk with them, let me know … or I can get you in touch with clients who currently live in a home built by GVD, and who will give you an honest, real-life perspective.

Green Valley Builders is represented by RE/Max 1st Realty-Christiansburg.

 

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MCPS Considering Closing Two Schools?

From The Roanoke Times

If a school system closes a school, what happens?

  • What happens to the building?
  • how are buses rerouted?
  • do you break up classrooms and send some kids to one school, and others to another?
  • if teachers and administration aren’t needed elsewhere, what happens to those jobs?
  • if you close the school and keep it “in-system”, there are maintenance and upkeep and utility costs. what do those cost versus keeping it open? I know there’s a difference, wonder how much.
  • if Montgomery County grows like census figures project (writing from my phone and the link escapes me right now), does it make sense to keep these schools open and up-to-date in order to prepare for the future?

So many wrinkles.

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The 2013 Annual Nest Report

After lots and lots of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, the 2013 Annual Nest Report is out and finally available! The Nest Report is our look, quarterly and annually, at what’s happening in the New River Valley real estate market. No bull, just a look at the numbers …

Some highlights:

  • Median prices are up throughout the Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Days on Market are down
  • Inventory levels are down

Overall, positive trends throughout the New River Valley. The challenges we’ve faced have in most cases eased, although there are still pockets of the New River Valley that continue to lag behind. Some of that may change with time, but only time will tell. In the case of products like town homes, supply cannot continue to outpace demand, and condos are following the same path, with buyers finding financing to be difficult. Some of that may ease, and some may be a challenge for a while going forward. Nevertheless, things have improved in the New River Valley in 2013, and 2014 seems to be continuing on the same trend. Take a look through the report below, and if you’d like to receive our quarterly Nest Reports, by email, let me know and I’ll get you signed up!

It was a good year for the New River Valley real estate market, and it was a good year for Nest Realty, as well. Among our four offices – now five, including our office in Asheville, NC – we saw sales climb to $315 million, and Inc.com naming us as one of the fastest growing real estate companies in the country. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with each of you in the communities we serve. Thank you – We live where we love.

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Blacksburg VA Is Going Solar

Solar energy in BlacksburgI’m a few days behind in posting this, but hopefully you’ve seen it posted elsewhere, and are planning on helping to launch Solarize Blacksburg tomorrow, at 4pm, in Market Square Park.

Announced on February 28th, Solarize Blacksburg is a partnership using bulk purchasing power to expand solar energy use even further within the Town of Blacksburg. I don’t know the details yet, but personally I love this news. Bulk purchasing, combined with tax credits available and realized savings, can mean a much greater reach and acceptance of solar energy here in Blacksburg. I think very highly not only of the groups involved, but also some of the individuals I’ve had the privilege to meet, and I’m excited to see what they can do with this program. The full press release is below – if you’re free on March 5th, come out to Market Square Park to here all about this new venture!

Mayor Ron Rordam, members of Town Council, and local affordable housing and clean energy organizations will join together on Wednesday, March 5, 4pm at Market Square Park to officially launch Solarize Blacksburg. Solarize Blacksburg is a new program designed to make solar affordable and accessible to homeowners and businesses in Blacksburg. Now, for the first time, Blacksburg residents can go solar for no upfront cost, with roughly the same cost per month as their existing electricity bill, while locking in current utility rates. 

Solarize Blacksburg is a partnership between the Town of Blacksburg, Community Housing Partners, VA SUN, a statewide solar development and advocacy non-profit, local solar installers Baseline Solar and Solar Connexion, and local residents. 

Solarize Blacksburg seeks to dramatically expand solar in Blacksburg in 2014 by using bulk purchasing to make solar affordable through economies of scale, standardized pricing, and streamlined financing. Bulk purchasing, an idea similar to wholesale and buying in bulk at stores like Costco, allows Blacksburg homeowners to save money on the price of solar by contracting for installations as a group, driving down the overall cost of installations. The Solarize program will run for three months, through the end of May 2014. 

“Finding new and more affordable ways to provide sustainable energy is so important to the town as we move forward, “said Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam. “We cannot continue to operate in the past. This project, which makes solar energy more affordable, is vital to the town’s future.” 

“I’ve heard over and over from my neighbors that they’d go solar in a heartbeat, if only the numbers penciled out,” said Mason Cavell, Energy Programs Director for Community Housing Partners. “Well, we sharpened our pencils, and made the numbers work. We lined up the discounts, secured the loan programs, and streamlined the process. Now Blacksburg homeowners can go solar for no upfront cost and continue paying about the same as their existing electricity bills.” 

In order to make solar cost the same as standard electricity, the Solarize Blacksburg program combines the bulk discounts, a 30% federal tax credit, and electricity savings, with long-term financing. The loan payments on a solar system for a typical house will now equal the electricity savings, while protecting the homeowner or business from increases in electricity prices in the future. 

The campaign starts with opportunities for learning how solar works—at neighborhood meetings, house parties, brownbag lunches, and farmers markets. “We’re giving folks the tools and information they need to understand how solar can work for them,” said Carol Davis, Blacksburg Sustainability Manager. “Solar is not a far-off, futuristic technology. It’s something anyone with the roofspace can do right now to save money.” 

When a homeowner or business is interested in going solar, Solarize Blacksburg organizers first conduct a satellite site assessment to determine if the roof is good for solar—looking for trees and other obstructions. From there, a free home assessment is conducted to determine how large or small of a system is needed to provide power for the home. 

The Solarize Blacksburg program is a key component of the Town’s wider efforts to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals, part of the Blacksburg Climate Action Plan. Additionally, it could help Blacksburg win the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a national competition which comes with a $5 million dollar award to the town or county with the highest reduction in energy use, either through increased energy efficiency, or through renewable energy production. 

“What a great and exciting program for Blacksburg citizens,” said Councilman John Bush. “Solarize Blacksburg demonstrates yet again the regional leadership from the Town and its partners to promote green technologies and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This is a cost effective solution for those who want to pursue solar solutions at the residential scale.” 

Homeowners or businesses interested in learning more about going solar or participating in the bulk purchase campaign are encouraged to attend the launch on March 5 or visit solarizeblacksburg.org to get started. 

For additional information: 

Carol Davis – cdavis@blacksburg.gov   
540-558-0786 
Sustainability Manager 
Town of Blacksburg 

Mason Cavell - mcavell@chpc2.org  
540-267-6137 
Energy Programs Director 
Community Housing Partners

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