Category Archives: New River Valley

Be Kind, and Hold Hands.

What a world we’re living in right now. No one cares about my one little voice, and certainly less so when I’m talking about current events and not real estate, but two voices speak louder. Four voices are even louder than that. And millions are deafening.

I’m reminded of the words in Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup—they all die. So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned—the biggest word of all—LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all—the whole world—had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are—when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Be kind, be human. Give someone you don’t know a (socially distant) hug.

10 Things To Know About A Well in the New River Valley

Residential setting with a private water well supply

In the New River Valley, plenty of homes – particularly those in county locations – have private well systems, including my own. As someone who grew up in Virginia Beach, and then having lived in Blacksburg Town limits for almost 20 years, I’d never had a well, so after purchasing a home that’s on a private well I recently signed up for the Montgomery County Household Water Quality Program, organized and run by the Virginia Cooperative Extension,.

I’m glad I did.

We were asked to provide ~ 1200mL of water from our homes, with very clear and specific instructions on how to collect, when, etc. We turned those in, and today received our results. If you’re on a private well in the New River Valley, you need to sign up for this program. Wow! The data they provided was outstanding, and they even work with the Flint lab – think Flint, MI – to dig deep into the results. It was truly phenomenal. My thanks to Erin Ling of Virginia Tech for organizing, and the follow-up presentation. They provided us details on each participant’s well, as well as well water safety, that I thought helpful. The following 10 points comes direct from a pamphlet provided by the Virginia Household Water Quality Program.

  1. Make sure your well is properly constructed. Well casing should be 12″ above ground, with a sanitary, sealed well cap or secure concrete cover to prevent contamination from insects and surface water. Unsure about your well construction? Visit www.wellwater.bse.vt.edu/wellcheck for more information.
  2. The ground should slope away from your well to prevent surface water from pooling around the casing, which can cause contamination and damage your system.
  3. Ensure your well is at least 100 feet away from potential contamination sources, such as chemical storage, oil tanks, and septic tanks. If you have a septic tank, have it pumped regularly.
  4. Keep the area around your well clean and accessible. Make sure the area is free of debris, paint, motor oil, pesticides and fertilizers. Do not dump waste near your well or near sinkholes, as this may contaminate your water supply.
  5. Have your water tested once a year for total coliform bacteria, which will give an indication whether there is a likelihood of more dangerous bacteria present that could potentially cause illness. Every three years, test for pH, total dissolved solids (TDS), nitrate, and other contaminants of local concern.
  6. All water tests should be conducted by a certified lab. After you receive the results, compare them to the drinking water standards for public systems by the EPA, which serve as good guidelines for private systems.
  7. Inspect your well annually for any cracks, holes, or corrosion. Ensure your well cap is secure. Every 3 years, or if you suspect a problem, have your well inspected by a licensed well drilling contractor with a Water Well and Pump (WWP) classification. For a list of contractors who provide well inspections, visit wellwater.bse.vt.edu/wellcheck.
  8. Keep careful records of your well installation, maintenance, inspections, and all water tests.
  9. If a well on your property is no longer in use, have it properly abandoned by a licensed well contractor. Wells that are left unsealed or improperly abandoned can serve as a direct pathway for surface water to enter the groundwater supply, causing contamination. Remember: groundwater is a shared resource!
  10. If you have a spring instead of a well, make sure the spring box is sealed to prevent contamination. Springs are very susceptible to contamination, so be sure to test your spring every year for coliform bacteria. Continuous treatment for bacteria is often required to ensure spring water is safe to drink.

We’re fortunate to have really great water sources, and water quality, in the New River Valley, and I knew it was important to pay attention to the well. But I mistakingly assumed that all that fancy equipment in the basement just magically took care of everything for us, and it does to a point, but knowing more of the details about our water supply gives me even more peace of mind that the water we drink is safe for consumption.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go work on softening my water.

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Cost-effective Landscaping Tips

Spring is here! By that I mean that we’re between ice storms here in the New River Valley. It’s never a safe bet to assume warm weather is here to stay until at least May but it’s certainly time to start thinking about some simple and cost-effective landscaping ideas.

Good landscaping ticks several boxes. It should be low-maintenance, easy on the eyes, and hopefully help your home values when it’s the right time to sell. You always want to come home and #LiveWhereYouLove

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On Board For Passenger Rail

For years, it seems, people have been calling for Amtrak passenger rail service to the New River Valley, and plans to finally make that a reality were coming together – but now they’ve hit a snag. Sure, I could have said they’ve been derailed, but that would be too easy. Yes, we could say the train’s been delayed, it’s failed to leave the station … all good stuff.

Years ago, I took the train from Lynchburg up to New York in order to attend a conference. I love train travel, but this trip soured it for me. It was a two hour drive out to Lynchburg, where I boarded and rode several hours to get to NYC. Complicating things, there were delays. And ever since, I’ve been critical of the idea of bringing Amtrak service here to the NRV. I just haven’t seen the importance of adding rail service to the area when I doubted people would use it – it didn’t get me to my destination any faster than it would have if I’d driven, particularly since the new line from Roanoke went to Lynchburg

Doubted. Past tense. These past few weeks, my wife, daughter and I drove to Baltimore to see family, then took the train into NYC, before seeing and friends and coming back around to Blacksburg again. Our trips were easy, the stations ran like clockwork, we weren’t stuffed in like when you fly … it was nice. (But seriously, Amtrak – diaper changing stations in the bathrooms should be required. Your decision-makers should try changing a diaper on a squirmy kid while a train is rocking back and forth). And looking at it through a different lens, I saw development. At nearly every station we passed through, it was obvious there’d been deliberate plans to develop the areas around the stations with focused attention to how to boost ridership. Residential density increased, there were companies clustered around the stations who almost certainly had employees using the train … and it got me thinking, what kind of impact would passenger service to the New River Valley have? My brother-in-law took the train from Roanoke to Baltimore, where he lives, after Christmas, and said it was packed from the Roanoke station. From Facebook, I see several folks I know from the NRV were on that train, headed to NYC. There’s obviously interest.

I’m sure the folks at NRV 2020 have loads and loads of this data, and everyone should check out their site. It’s full of information about the status of the project, future goals, and more. And if what has happened in other municipalities applies here in the NRV, bringing rail to the area creates opportunities – opportunities for jobs, for development, for tax income, and more. I wouldn’t have said this years ago, but I’m changing my tune – let’s get passenger rail to the New River Valley again. I’m on board.

 

 

School Snow Days in Montgomery Count

Snow is on the way for the New River Valley, and Montgomery County Public Schools Big Tweeter Mark Miear posted a helpful infographic of how MCPS reviews conditions, and determines school closures. I thought I’d post it here – I don’t have any details on other counties in the region, but I have to imagine they follow similar protocols. Dr. Miear’s – who’s a great follow on Twitter, he routinely engages with students and teachers – post even got a musical response from a sister duo

I, for one, say LET IT SNOW!

snow MCPS

Build A Gingerbread House and Support Micah’s Backpack

One of our favorite fundraisers at Nest Realty every year is our annual Gingerbread House contest, supporting Micah’s Backpack. We’ve been doing it for several years now, and each year we get the question “are you doing the gingerbread houses again?” Yes!

There are still a few gingerbread houses left, and the deadline for building your house, and delivering it to Kent Square, has been extended! All the details are in the flyer below. Can’t see the image? Here’s what you need to know:

  • pick up your house at either Nest Realty, or Kent Jewelers. The kit is $30, and ALL PROCEEDS go to Micah’s Backpack!
  • your completed house can be delivered to the Kent Square lobby by 5pm on December 6th
  • all entrants will be displayed in the Kent Square lobby through December 20th
  • vote for your favorite house! Votes are $1 each, and the winner will be announced at 10am on December 22nd at The Lyric Theatre

There are some great entrants already – what can you come up with?!

Dusting Off The Keyboard … Again.

Yesterday I had the honor of being installed as the 2019 President of the New River Valley Association of Realtors. I woke up this morning feeling … well, feeling just like I did yesterday. Fame and fortune are sure to follow though, I’m sure. That’s not the point of this post, however. Association leadership was never something I truly desired. What I wanted was for Nest Realty to have a voice in the discussions surrounding the issues of our industry, and to set the example for others that there’s value in having a seat at the table. I might have overshot that a little bit, but I’m happy to represent the nearly 500 members, and affiliate members, for the next year.

During the ceremony, it was mentioned that this little real estate blog was one of the early sites talking about real estate way back in the Dark Ages of the internet. To be fair, I was simply copying the examples set by guys like Jim Duncan and Todd Carpenter, but no one in the New River Valley was talking about real estate online yet, so in I stepped. As a newer agent, writing helped me understand the market influences I was seeing, it helped me share what I was learning with others, and it created a community of sorts. It brought some clients and, more importantly, some friends.

But life happens. A lot of it was good. Some of it was bad. I started a recycling business. Switched real estate companies. Got a divorce. Sold a recycling company. Bought a real estate company. Remarried. Had a beautiful baby girl. There was a bunch of other stuff in between. And at some point, writing about real estate in the New River Valley took a back seat to a host of other things. Yesterday I was reminded of how much I enjoyed this little outlet of mine, and I’d like to think at least two or three of you enjoyed it, as well.

So this is my manifesto, of sorts. I’m dusting off the keyboard, blocking some time in my calendar on a weekly basis, and getting back to something I’ve enjoyed for a long time. Whether anyone still reads it or not, it’s cathartic for me, at least. But, maybe, if you’re still out there – maybe, from time to time, let me know you’re still there?

Real Estate and School Resource Officers in Montgomery County

If you haven’t been following along – and how could you not be? – school safety is rightfully the topic of the day YEAR right now, and that is no different in Montgomery County. In fact, it was on the Board of Supervisors most recent agenda this past Monday night, where BOS members listened to Sheriff Hank Partin discuss the need to add to their School Resource Officer force. Yann Ranaivo, a Roanoke Times reporter and fantastic follow on Twitter, was there and detailed the discussion, embedded in abbreviated form below. Everything takes money, of course, and the discussion revolved in part around how to fund these new positions. As a result of that discussion, the BOS voted to propose (highlighted to point out that it’s not a guaranteed increase!) of $1.5 cents per $100 assessed value on real estate in Montgomery County. The current rate for the County is $.89 cents per $100; this proposal would bump that to $90.5 cents per $100.

It’s hard to imagine, in today’s world, that we wouldn’t want to have the funds in place to ensure our schools are properly secured. For context, according to the 2017 Nest Realty Nest Report, the median sales price for a home in the County was ~ $214,500. At a rate of $.89/$100 of assessed value, that property owner is paying $1909.05 in real estate property taxes. Under the new proposal, if that rate had been $.905/$100 of assessed value, the total tax liability would rise $32.17 to $1941.22. As Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent Mark Miear posted on Twitter, “Would you be willing to pay this amount to add SRO’s to elementary schools?

You can read a Storify of Yann’s tweets below, or his article here. So … good idea, or bad one?

 

New Phishing Scam Targets Home Buyers

Scammers – they’re the lowest of the low. And now, we’re seeing them go after home buyers, attempting to steal money via wire transfers. It’s something we’ve been watching gain momentum for a few months now, and while Nest Realty has taken steps to continue to safeguard our clients’ information, it’s still important to stay vigilant.

Nest Managing Broker Keith Davis has put together a really great blog post detailing the scam, and highlighting ways that you, as a home buyer or seller, can protect yourself. Even if you’re not working with Nest Realty, make sure your agent knows of the scam, and talk with them about steps to protect yourself. You can read the full post here.

Thanks and view fences over at Fencing Direct for the information.

Real Estate Taxes in the New River Valley

In the last several weeks, we’ve been doing a lot of candidate tours for various colleges at Virginia Tech looking to hire new folks. Invariably, as we’re showing these prospective hires all that the New River Valley, the question always comes up – “what are real estate taxes like?”

Ah, taxes. We all love them, right? Of course not, but we’re lucky to have relatively low taxes compared to other areas of the country. However, they’re a part of the equation when making your mortgage payment every month. These amounts will vary from locality to locality, and in some cases a municipality will have TWO rates – one rate will be for the City or Town, and the other rate will be for the appropriate County. Feel free to use the phone numbers below to contact the taxing authority if you have questions.*

Note – This is a post that’s been written on this site several times, and is still one of the most regular hits. This time around, I thought I’d update it with the date of the last assessment based on http://www.rebeccasrealtor.com, as well as the date of the next assessment. Rates should not change during that period.

To calculate current yearly tax, take the current assessed value of the home, divide by 100 and multiply by the current tax rate.

The assessed value of the home is $250000 and the home is in Blacksburg:
$250000/100 = 2500 x 1.14 = 2850           Yearly tax $2850

Locale Tax Rate Phone Number Last Assessment Next Assessment
Blacksburg $.25 + $.89 = $1.14 540-961-1105 2015 2019
Bland County $.60 276-688-3741 2014 2020
Christiansburg $.16 + $.89 = $1.05 540-382-9519 2015 2019
Craig County $.59 540-864-6241 2017 2023
Floyd County $.55 540-745-9345 2015 2020
Giles County $.61 540-921-3321 2015 2020-2021
Montgomery County $.89 540-382-5717 2015 2019
Pulaski County $.54 540-980-7785 2014 2020
Radford City $.76 540-731-3661 2016 2020
Rich Creek $.20 + $.61 = $.74 540-726-3260 2015 2020-2021
Town of Floyd $.24 + $.55 = $.79 540-745-2565 As needed As needed
Town of Pulaski $.34 + $.64 = $.86 540-994-8640 2014 2020
Town of Narrows $.47 + $.61 = $1.08 540-726-2423 2015 2020-2021
Town of Pearisburg $.335 + $.61 = $.945 540-921-0340 2015 2020-2021
Town of Pembroke $.326 + $.61 = $.936 540-626-7191 2016 2020

* Tax information is assumed reliable – contact the local Commissioner of the Revenue for more information.  Updated 04/28/17.