What’s The Most Expensive House On The Market Right Now?

I get asked all the time, “what’s the most expensive house on the market in the New River Valley right now?”.

As of a couple of months ago, it was a nice Victorian in Christiansburg, on the market for the “bargain” price of $2,000,000. That house has since lost the title, however, when the West Wind Farm came on the market.

West Wind Farm

West Wind Farm

Listed by RE/Max First-Christiansburg, the home includes a vineyard and winery, set on 100 acres, in Max Meadows, VA. From the listing description:

West Wind Farm-Vineyard & Winery is an award-winning Virginia vineyard and winery producing quality certified label wines. After years of establishment, management, and growth, it is now being offered by the owners for sale as a complete, turnkey operation. One visit to the property and you’ll see a dedication to excellence everywhere you look. The owners have worked hard to develop a top-shelf business and it shows in this elite property. Nestled on a fourth-generation homestead in the Southwest Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, West Wind Farm offers 100 acres of pristine land, vineyards, winery & tasting room, and beautiful custom 3,122 sq. ft. home surrounded by stunning vistas year around. Five acres of quality label certified vinifera varieties produce over 1600 cases of wine annually.

This sale will include all equipment needed to continue management of the winery and farm. Several revenue streams are established that will allow a new owner to generate income from day one.
ADDENDUM: The winery produces approximately 1,600 cases annually. 90-95% of sales occur on-site via the tasting room. West Wind Farm has been voted as one of the top 23 wineries in Virginia out of the 250+ in existence. The gift shop provides a comfortable shopping environment where guests can choose from a large selection of unique items that compliment their wine purchases. Corporate and social events can be held on-site. The outside gazebo surrounded by lush, green hills is the perfect site for an outdoor wedding. The formal dining room inside the winery has been home to catered meals for various corporate entities. The winery also hosts monthly dinners and seasonal concerts for their patrons. Off-site grape sales can also generate additional income for the business. About every other year, the owners sell surplus grapes to other wineries and clients in the state. The property also includes an 1850’s-era farmhouse that has tremendous potential for a bed and breakfast.

Don’t worry – if you’re looking for a better deal, you can find those here.

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Why I Want To Work With Vendors I Know

Local. It’s all the rage these days – local food, local business, local anesthesia. Okay, so that last one doesn’t apply, but you get the point. Heck – even Blacksburg has gotten into the act.BlacksburgLooking through the lens of supporting local business, or eating locally grown food, it’s easy to see why local is important. But when I recommend wanting my clients to work with local vendors – folks like home inspectors, or lenders – I’m not doing so because it’s the catchy thing to do. I’m doing so because it matters to getting things done. An example:

Recently, we listed a beautiful home in Christiansburg, on an acre, for $269000. The owners had remodeled everything, and done a fantastic job – they’d made a master suite downstairs, complete with a sliding barn door, updated the kitchen with beautiful counters and crosscut tile floors … it was stunning for the price point, and a home the sellers had hoped they’d be in for years to come, until life took them in another direction. When the house went on the market, activity was high, and it went under contract quickly, in 3 weeks, at 96% of list price. While the sellers gave a bit of a discount to be sold quickly, it was obvious that demand was high on a property that was in good condition, and priced well. Everyone was happy.

As part of the closing process, the buyers had an appraisal done. By all accounts, the appraised price should have been at least the sales price, if not higher. But when it came back, it came back almost 20% lower than the sales price – a full $7000 HIGHER than what it had been purchased for 5 years ago, and before the upgrades had been made.. Unbelievable. If the house had been 20% over priced, we wouldn’t have had more than a dozen showings, and gone under contract, so quickly, in a strong sellers market. Somewhere a mistake had been made; everyone – except for the appraiser and the bank – agreed on that point. Of course, appraisals are a bank’s way of making sure that the value of a property is in line with the market, so this low appraisal meant the bank wouldn’t make the loan, and the buyer couldn’t buy.

After some time of going back and forth, both the buyer agent and I realized that the bank was just looking at the buyer as a number. The buyer was a number, the house was a number, and it didn’t matter the circumstances. It didn’t matter that everything else in the market said the value was the sales price. It didn’t matter that the house had gone under contract quickly. It didn’t matter that the buyer’s income supported the sales price. The bank wasn’t local, the underwriters weren’t local … the whole transaction was just a small number that made up a bunch of much bigger numbers. So we shifted course, and the buyer agent went to a local bank. The representative there, who knew the agents on both sides, spoke to the borrower at length, and within 36 hours we had FULL approval. Not preapproval, not conditional approval, FULL approval.

Moral of the story? Local matters. The parties involved knowing each other matters. It doesn’t always make the difference, but in this case – and in many cases – it did. Real estate is about people – not numbers, not algorithms, but people. It’s a home, a place to create memories.


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Q1 2015 Nest Report – “How’s The Market?”

How_s_the_Market_Without a doubt, one of the top three questions we’re asked as real estate agents is “how’s the market?

At a dinner reception last week, after I introduced myself to the table, someone asked “how’s the market?”. When I got coffee this morning, a regular at the Pub (fantastic breakfast and coffee, by the way) asked “how’s the market?” Heck, even an agent asked me that yesterday at a broker open – “how’s the market?”!

One of the best tools we have as Nest Realty brokers is, in my opinion, the Nest Report, our quarterly look at what’s happened in the real estate market in the past three months. It’s not
sales-speak, just straight hard facts. You can see past quarters, as well as annual reports, here, as well.

You can see the full report for Q1 2015, and read highlights, below:

  • pent-up buyer demand from 2014 has helped sales surge forward in 2015, with double-digit growth across most metrics tracked.
  • inventory levels of < 6 months in both Blacksburg and Christiansburg are starting to trend towards a seller’s market.
  • a significant bump in contracts written (29%) in Montgomery County indicates that buyers are headed back into the market ready to buy.

You can read the full report below. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to discuss in even more detail!

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How To Give Or Receive A Downpayment To Buy A Home

When buying a home, it can help a borrower’s purchasing power if they’re able to put down a down payment. In its simplest form, the more money a borrower is able to put down on a purchase, the less of a “risk” to the mortgage company who’s financing the rest.

Many times, the down payment comes from family members, which is a pretty awesome gift. But, it’s important to know just HOW to receive that money – it’s not as simple as Grandma writing you a check.

Dan Green of The Mortgage Reports has a great blog post on this, and I’d encourage you to head over and read it in its entirety – linked here. If you want the highlights, here goes:

  1. Write a Gift Letter – this is a letter stating the amount of the gift, the relationship of the person giving the gift to the person receiving the gift, the property address, and that the money is a gift, not a loan, and will not be repaid.
  2. What the Giftor needs to do – Keep a paper trail. Write the check, while photocopying everything and keeping duplicate copies.
  3. What the Giftee needs to do – Take the check to the bank (Dan says don’t do a mobile deposit), deposit it, and keep the receipt.

Again, Dan’s post goes into great detail, both with the idea of using gift monies as a deposit, as well as what the tax consequences might be, and more. I’d encourage you to read it if you’re considering giving, or receiving, gift money in order to purchase a home.

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2014 Nest Report Is On The Way!

There are tons of things I’m proud of about Nest Realty, but one of the things I get really excited about is our Nest Report. It’s a statistical look at what’s happening in the New River Valley real estate market, and it’s put out every quarter. Visually, it’s stunning – thanks to the amazing folks in our Marketing Department. Statistically, it’s one of the most accurate representations of our real estate market – thanks to the bean counters who compile the whole thing. And, interestingly enough, two real estate agents from another company told me yesterday how impressive a report it is … they look through it each time it comes out and think “wow”.

Download the 2014 New River Valley Nest Report here.

  • Median and Average Sales Prices both fell 3% in 2014 throughout the New River Valley MSA.
  • In Blacksburg, the Median Price was flat, but inventory was up slightly.
  • In Radford, Median Price was up quite a bit, rising more than 12% from 2013 levels.
  • Conventional Interest rates, projected to be at or above 5% by the end of 2014, were actually at 4%, much lower than expected by those in the know – proving once again that no one has any much of a clue.

We’re extremely proud of what has been happening at Nest Realty, and the Report will talk a little bit about that, as well. The full report will be hitting mailboxes soon, but here’s a sneak peak! You can see earlier reports here.

Want to talk further? Let’s grab a cup of coffee/tea/water/insert favorite beverage here soon!


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Blacksburg VA Named A Top College Town

I’m woefully behind on this news, but Blacksburg has once again been named a “Best” Town in America, this time by BestCollegeReviews.com. From the site:

Blacksburg is home to Virginia Tech, Radford University, and a number of large employers. With close to two students for every non-student, Blacksburg is definitely centered around college life. Though small, the town is forward thinking, as the home to Blacksburg Electronic Village (BEV) since 1991. BEV and close proximity to high quality graduates make Blacksburg an ideal location for tech firms.

As far as creature comforts, Blacksburg is situated between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains with beautiful views around town. In the mountains there are tons of scenic drives and outdoor activities. In town, there are more than 150 restaurants, pubs, art galleries, and boutiques. If you want a high quality town that’s on the smaller size, Blacksburg could be the place for you.

None of this is news to those of us who live here, but it’s nice to once again see the recognition. As I tell clients all the time, there’s nothing like living in a college town.

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Documents You’ll Need To Get A Mortgage In 2015

You’ve decided to buy a house. Congratulations! You’ve written the offer, and while you’re waiting for the seller to sign you’re driving by the house to see it and show friends and family … you’re excited, and you should be!

Now the seller has signed the offer, and it’s ratified. You’re buying a house! You’re over the moon!

And then you start to receive emails and calls from your lender, asking you for this document/that document and more. You’re not so excited any longer.

Buying a house is exciting, and while the process of getting a mortgage can be tedious, it’s not as bad as we make it out to be.

Thanks to Kim Burke – an amazing lender, by the way, if you’re getting a mortgage OR refinancing – here’s a quick cheat sheet on some of the things you’ll need to have ready in order to get that mortgage going. Remember … the faster your loan is processed, the faster you move in.

When’s the housewarming party?

Required Documentation for Mortgage

Click here for a link to a PDF of the image.

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Busking in Blacksburg with Dr. Moon

If you didn’t have to look up the definition of “busking”, good on you. If you haven’t yet, let me help you. I’d never heard the term.

Here’s an interesting five-minute video about Chris Saunders, aka “Dr. Moon”, who can frequently be seen busking on the streets of Blacksburg. I don’t know about you, but (1) I’ve never really stopped to talk to him, and (2) I’ve always enjoyed hearing him play. Whenever I walk by him, I always find a smile on myself.

We need more of this in Blacksburg. We need people actively taking care of others they don’t know, and we need more live music and street performance. There’s a vibrancy that comes from live music, from performers out on the street, interacting with passerby. Let’s continue to tell Blacksburg officials we want this, and we support this.

And next time you see Dr. Moon, let him know you’re grateful. I know I am.

The Appalachian Moon from Michelle on Vimeo.

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Mountain Valley Pipeline

The Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Certainly, if you live in the New River Valley, you’ve heard about this proposed pipeline by now. The issue is far too broad to cover in detail here, but a simple Google search will turn up more than you ever wanted to know. For a comprehensive website that speaks out against the project, Preserve The NRV is a good place to start. Not surprisingly, there’s not a lot out there in favor of it, except for a .info site from the project coalition.

Mountain Valley PipelineThe pipeline is a proposed 42″ pipe, running 300 miles from the source fields, through West Virginia, and into Virginia, via both Giles County, and Montgomery County. Proponents of the pipeline say that it’ll bring affordable natural gas to markets on the east coast. Opponents say it’ll ruin watersheds, views, and property values. As with anything, there are likely truths and deceptions on both sides, but the fact of the matter is that the pipeline is a huge hairy deal in this part of the world right now.  Daily, news reports are coming out mainly in opposition of the project, although if you read the comments you’ll find plenty that are in support of it, as well.

The reality is that this has the potential of being a big deal to real estate in some areas of the New River Valley, namely due to the fact that some landowners will be facing a very real and present danger crossing their property – a fuel line, transporting natural gas, in some case just feet from their houses. That’s pretty scary stuff, and doesn’t account for the danger to water tables, ground stability (you know we have a lot of caves in the area, right?), and more. Some of this became very clear to me the other day when I took a call from a friend. He described how the proposed route was coming across a corner of his property, very close to the house. I knew he had some land, so I went and looked at the proposed route and noticed that the line and included easement weren’t just along a corner of his property – they are coming within ~ 30 yards of his house. Additionally, there’s only one way into and out of his property (the driveway), and that’s going to be affected by construction. It’s a real problem when you can’t get into and out of your house, you know?

There’s a long way to go on this, of course, but the issue is very real. People are going to be affected, and people are mobilizing. For an interesting look at the proposed route, including the easement on both sides of the line, download Google Earth to your computer, and then run this file – you’ll be able to see all sorts of detail regarding the project and where it crosses the various terrain and vistas we all enjoy.

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What is “Land Use”?

Lately, I’ve been working with a few buyers who have been looking for land; specifically, multi-acre parcels of land. Many of those properties have been zoned Agricultural, while others might have some sort of Residential zoning, but in a few cases, we’ve seen properties that have had the term “Land Use” attached to their record. So what is Land Use in Montgomery County?

New River Valley view

Can you imagine this view in your backyard?

Land Use in Montgomery County was established in 1978, and allows for the deferment of real estate taxes on land that is agricultural in nature, at rates that are based on a value that’s less than the tax assessed value. The purpose, according to the County website, is to “further the public interest by encouraging the preservation of land … and to promote orderly land use planning and development.”

So the benefit to a property owner is that by having a property be a part of the Land Use program, they pay less on their real estate taxes. Imagine a 40-acre parcel in Montgomery County is assessed at $100000 … that parcel, taxed at the County’s current rate of $.87 per $100 of assessed value, would mean a tax bill of $870 per year to the property owner. By putting – and keeping – the property in Land Use, the owner would pay significantly less per year in taxes, somewhere on the order of 50-75% of that amount. Of course, if the property is ever taken OUT of the Land Use program, then the owner would be responsible for “roll back taxes”, which would be the difference between the tax levied during the past five years the property was in Land Use, and the tax that would have been levied had the property not been subject to Land Use qualifications.

Clear as mud? Land Use is a way that landowners in Montgomery County can protect the natural resources of the land, while paying lower taxes.

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