Blacksburg Chickens: What’s the (s)COOP?

If you haven’t heard yet, chances are, you will: backyard chickens are now allowed in Blacksburg. A committed contingent has lobbied for years and is finally seeing an ordinance passed, Ordinance 1888.

If you aren’t among that small group of fowl fanatics, you might be wondering ‘why’? It’s a fair question, but for many people it scratches that itch to become a bit of a farmer, while still maintaining close proximity to your local Kroger. It’s also a great way to get your kids involved in a laid-back hobby the whole family can enjoy. For the most part, chickens are tame farm animals that just want to be left to peck around their run. They also help keep bug counts down, as well!

Backyard chickens aren’t a new concept. In fact, many localities both near and far have allowed them for years. Like Little Free Libraries and quaint farmers markets, it all works to add some togetherness to our community.

If you’re worried about home values hurting from your neighbors flock, I wouldn’t. Cities like Seattle and Denver have allowed backyard chickens for years and have robust and growing markets. Adding a little livestock hasn’t really put a hurt on many markets, and I wouldn’t expect any problems here, either.

Blacksburg chicken rules were modeled closely after Christiansburg. They’ve allowed chickens for a few years, with a similar permit and fee process. For chickens in Blacksburg, flocks are allowed in R-4, RR-1 and RR-2 zoning districts. R-4 specifically covers a wide array of Blacksburg neighborhoods. Don’t know your district? Just ask me and I’ll help you find it.

You also need to be in a single-family home. Townhouses, duplexes, triplexes, and apartments are not covered. Sorry, can’t cry fowl here.

If you’re zoned for it, great! Be warned, though: we don’t really know how HOAs are going to deal with chickens. It’s best to ask your HOA–and your neighbors–how they feel about chickens before making up your mind on that beautiful home with the HOA. I suspect that, in coming years, homeowners associations are going to have to take this issue on and determine whether they’re going to continue the prohibition. Fun fact – I live in a neighborhood that doesn’t allow chickens, but I CAN have as many as two horses. Horses?!

It’s important to read through these new ordinances carefully to make sure you apply correctly and pay the $30 fee. You also need to re-up yearly. And for those illegal chicken owners wondering, no, you aren’t grandfathered in.


A typical backyard flock.

Once you get a healthy dose of bureaucracy out of the way and pay the fee, the fun begins! There are countless tutorials online from budding urban farmers out there, but one good resource is Modern Farmer. You can also purchase pre-built coops but many of them don’t meet the town’s requirements for size, so make sure you know what you need.

With chickens in your yard, caring for them is pretty easy. Feed them, give them water, clean up after them, and let them exist. They don’t ask much in exchange for some eggs and happy ambiance in your backyard. And they come home to roost every night, which is amazing in and of itself – try getting your teenager to be in the house before it gets dark outside!

Will backyard chickens change the local landscape in a big way? Probably not. Many people who were committed to it had them all along but don’t be surprised if your neighbors end up with some hens, either.

Four Biggest Seller Mistakes

Big day! Time to sell the house. This day came around sooner than you thought, didn’t it? We sell for all kinds of reasons–to go bigger, to move into something smaller, or to move across the country. No matter what the reason, it’s important to avoid some simple mistakes. You may have thought home buying was stressful but this is a whole new beast. Selling means showing your house and waiting for that sometimes illusive offer. Once it does come, you have to move. If you’ve been in the home thirty or forty years, moving can be extraordinarily daunting.

Selling comes down to proper preparation, understanding the market (or hiring someone who does!), and presenting your home in a way that opens it up to that person who’s ready to say “yes”. Let these tips guide you down the path of what not to do..

Don’t sabotage yourself–prep your home correctly. What’s been perfect for you might not be perfect for someone else. Your agent should advise you on the best way to position your home within the market you’re currently in. Correct prep work can mean fixing the little things you’ve learned to deal with or implementing some cost-effective landscaping tips to up that first impression appeal. Once you’ve made a few moves in the right direction, it just comes down to staging. If you want to hear the “Jeremy Hart Rule of 1/3s” for staging, hire me!

Don’t miss the market on price. It’s easy to do. Every real estate agent has missed the market and suffered the consequences. The market changes very, very fast. Just because your neighbor’s house down the street sold and yours is nicer doesn’t mean there’s necessarily a buyer for those quirks you’re trying to market as “charm”. Price for the market you’re in, not the market you want to be in.

Remember the professional photos. Do professional photos alone sell homes? No, but they’re one piece of the puzzle like good market position and a kept-up yard. Work with professionals – like Nest Realty – who use professional photography on every listing, regardless the price point.

When you do all the rest right and do get an offer, keep an open mind. Chances are it will be lower than you expected but it’s a start. Try to negotiate with some empathy. You and the next buyer have different goals but it’s important to find some common ground. Fortunately, you both like the ground you’re trying to sell so start with that.

I’m happy to help if you’re getting ready to sell. All of the agents at Nest Realty have been doing this a while and know the ropes too. Selling isn’t always easy but there’s ways to go about it correctly. Work with a professional, time it right, and do the work to get your house sold.

Four Biggest Buyer Mistakes

Ready to buy? Great! That’s why we’re here. Buying a home–whether it’s your first or your tenth–is an exciting time. Chances are if it you are a seasoned homebuyer, you’ll already have learned most of these mistakes either by experience or a good realtor before me.

For those new to the whole experience, it’s important to understand that it’s a stressful time and overwhelming experience for everyone. The best way to help ease some of this anxiety is to do your homework and work with a great realtor who has done this many times before. Once you’ve been doing it long enough, you learn what is and isn’t important.

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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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How To Time the New River Valley Real Estate Market

My friend Mike Simonsen posted this on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, in response to someone saying they wanted to buy their first home in 2020 (note – he said “do” try and time the market … he meant “don’t):

100% correct. There is no timing the real estate market, Mike’s exactly right. And he should know – as the CEO of Altos Research, one of the premier real-time real estate data firms around, Mike knows market timing better than most. You cannot time the market, at least not intentionally; sometimes you might get lucky and sell at a real peak, or buy at a real valley, but the reality is that without the benefit of hindsight we simply don’t know that we’ve reached the peak, or climbed out of the bottom. Which leads me to my second point … I replied:

As Realtors we have a fiduciary responsibility to our sellers to help them sell for as much as they can get in the market they’re in, and when we’re representing buyers, helping them buy as great a deal as we can in the market they’re in. But if we’re pitching that you need to make a quick decision and buy now, you can rest assured that that agent is only serving one person, and it’s not you. The market you’re in is the market you’re in – unless you’re simply not going to buy, you can’t avoid what the market gives you. So work with an agent who listens to what you’re targeting, tries to help you find that, and helps you navigate things at your pace, not theirs. I promise – you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience.

Thanks, Mike, for the prompting.

PS – also avoid that agent who alternately says both “it’s a great time to buy!” and “there’s never been a better time to sell!” They are mutually exclusive of each other. Don’t do it. Seriously.

Go Look at Houses in the Rain – Seriously

Picture your dream house and what do you see? A gourmet kitchen with a wraparound front porch on 80 acres? You bet, we can do that. A perfectly adorned downtown condo, if that’s more your style? We’ve got a few of those.

Bet you that dream house fantasy comes with perfect weather too, doesn’t it? Sunny and 70 degrees? If it’s the New River Valley, it can be winter in the morning, and summer in the afternoon!  Continue reading

What’s New In Kitchen Design

Who doesn’t love house shows? Well, I could argue that HGTV is one of the worst things to happen to real estate – We make $30,000 and our budget is $850,000! – but I digress. But whether you watch cable or get your TV fix from Netflix these days, they’re everywhere.

If there’s one room in a house that makes-or-breaks it for a buyer, it’s likely the kitchen. Finding the right one can be hard. You can always change the paint, but counters and cabinets gets pricey when you’re already staring down expenses through the whole process. Whether you’re a potential seller looking to get their home ready for market or a buyer wondering how far your budget will carry you for your dream kitchen, you’re in luck: I want to show you what I see working here in the NRV.

First impressions are everything, and a lot of that comes down to color. Right now, dark kitchens with a lot of contrast are the trend. Brighter colors, whether it’s through the paint, or backsplashes and counters, are quite popular at the moment. And of course, white kitchens have proven to be timeless – everyone can appreciate a white kitchen – as long as they aren’t cleaning it!

You can overdo color, though, and we’ve seen that done a lot with red. A bright red kitchen can be a huge turn-off for somebody walking in the door. Unless red is your favorite color and your hair, car, and fingernails are already that way–skip it. On second thought, maybe skip it altogether, or use it as an accent and not the primary color all around. Buyers are going to be cynical from the outset, so you never want to give somebody a reason to not like a detail walking through. That’s not to say color isn’t good – it can be! Let’s just talk about how to best set the stage so that the color isn’t the main attraction.

There are other touches that are trendy, and for good reason! Farmhouse sinks, for instance, seem like they’re here to stay a while. They break up a countertop nicely and give a kitchen that Chip and Joanna look that people really are into.

Aside from smart color and the right touches when it comes to sinks and fixtures, the best thing I’ve seen in modern kitchens is organization. If you’re like me and balancing a baby, a pet(s), work, and a few side things along the way, having items were you can find them helps out in a big way. I’m a sucker for kitchen appliances – don’t know what they all do, but does that really matter?! There’s no end to the options: sliders for dishes, pans, spices, and all the rest. You can’t have too many, and the organization allows you to have more.

We can revisit this in a year and, just like the market, all this might change. But for now, these are all some kitchen trends that might just help you sell or know what to look for when you buy. If you’re ready to start that process, reach out.

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.



Christiansburg and A Little Walt Magic


The giant parking lot that sits at the intersection of Franklin and Peppers Ferry, in Christiansburg VA, might not be a giant parking lot for too terribly much longer. You know the one – the one with the Applebees. Wait, that’s gone. Well, it had Beamer’s restaurant, surely you remember that. Wait, that’s gone, too. Pet store? Gone. And just about everything else in there, as well. Best tailor in the area, Rose’s Tailor, is still hanging by a thread (sorry, had to). But thankfully that’s all changing, according to this article – the deal finally closed in November.

I’ve got to think that this has positive affects for Christiansburg in particular, for Montgomery County in general, and the New River Valley as a whole. I’ve lived here 18 years, and the entire time I’ve been here it seems like that space has been full of one vacancy or another. I talked with a commercial developer friend the other day, someone who’s familiar with the property, and who knows the developer who purchased it. As she said, “if anyone can make that space work, Walt can.” As a Disney fan, I like to think Mr. Rector has some of that Walt Disney magic.

Here’s to hoping. What would you like to see in there?