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

Photo credit.

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100% Financing IS Available in Blacksburg

For the longest time I’ve been under the impression that 100% loans have not been available within Blacksburg and Montgomery County; those programs just haven’t been available. Then earlier this week, I learned of a program that StellarOne Bank has been offering to do just that.

The requirements are:

  • up to $300000 loan value
  • 700 credit score
  • borrower(s) can’t make more than $68800 per household
  • if you’ve had a foreclosure or bankruptcy more than 36 months from loan application, you may still qualify

This is potentially really big news for folks who have been struggling to get into the Blacksburg real estate market. It won’t fit everyone, but for many it will. You can find out more below, and contact Sandra Chafin at StellarOne for even more details.

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Retiring? The New River Valley Might Suit You Well

Blacksburg – and the New River Valley – have just been named to another “Best” list.

Where to Retire magazine just published an article, seen below, naming Blacksburg a great place to retire. I don’t know about the retirement part, but I can certainly say it’s a great place to live, and I’ve worked with a lot of folks over the last 10 years who’ve moved back here for many of the reasons mentioned in the article.

And there have been lots of other “Best Of” awards recently

Way to go, New River Valley!

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How To Be Sure Your Foundation Isn’t Moving

Is there a way to tell if your foundation wall is cracking and moving?

I came across an interesting post the other day from one of our Nest Realty agents in Charlottesville, Jim Duncan. I have said before that most of my good ideas come from other agents and Jim has certainly provided me with many ideas, so it’s no surprise that he would have already covered this issue.

Many homes in the New River Valley are built with concrete block foundations, particularly those built prior to the mid-1990′s. Concrete block foundations are not uncommon at all, and it’s definitely not uncommon to see cracks in the blocks, or in the mortar between the blocks, as the house as settled. The vast majority of time a home inspector will determine these cracks are nothing to be concerned about – often called “step cracks”, they’re simply a byproduct of the mortar around the blocks drying and cracking. But sometimes, blocks move, and in those cases it’s important to determine whether or not it’s a simple step crack, or something more serious. In the video below, Jim’s home inspector shows a simple way to do just that.

Thanks, Jim, for the tip.

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What’s the List to Sale Ratio in Blacksburg?

Seems a lot of people consider negotiation as “ask less than the list price and expect that they’ll come back somewhere in the middle.” At its’ simplest sure, that might work, but it also helps to know at what price sellers are pricing their homes, and also at what price buyers are buying those same homes for. This is where the list to sale ratio comes in.

To see the list to sale ratio in Radford, click here

Now, it’s not perfect, but it’s helpful, and the reason why it’s helpful is because it shows what kind of momentum, plus or minus, the market has at any given time. Should it be the only data point you and your agent examine when figuring out where to price your home, or at what price to make an offer on a home? Absolutely not.

To see the list to sale ratio in Christiansburg, click here.

For instance, here are some charts showing the average list prices (second column from the left) and average sales prices (third column from the left) for condos in Blacksburg in 2013. Note – these figures include foreclosures, which are not considered “arm’s-length transactions. Their impact on the market in 2013 was not statistically significant, so I left them in.

Blacksburg condosAnd here are the average list prices (second column from the left) and average sales prices (third column from the left) for townhouses in Blacksburg in 2013.

Blacksburg townhomesFinally, here are the average list prices (second column from the left) and average sales prices (third column from the left) for single-family homes in Blacksburg in 2013.

Blacksburg single-familySo, what’s it all mean, here? This one’s actually a really good example of what we’re seeing in the market – condos, with a list to sale ratio of 95.2%, are taking longer to sale (124 days) and accepting a greater discount than townhouses (97.1%) and single-family homes (97%). This matches what we’ve been seeing for a while, largely due to economic factors like financing, and the number of people buying second homes in the area.

 

 

 

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What’s the List to Sale Ratio in Christiansburg

Seems a lot of people consider negotiation as “ask less than the list price and expect that they’ll come back somewhere in the middle.” At its’ simplest sure, that might work, but it also helps to know at what price sellers are pricing their homes, and also at what price buyers are buying those same homes for. This is where the list to sale ratio comes in.

To see the list to sale ratio in Radford, click here.

Now, it’s not perfect, but it’s helpful, and the reason why it’s helpful is because it shows what kind of momentum, plus or minus, the market has at any given time. Should it be the only data point you and your agent examine when figuring out where to price your home, or at what price to make an offer on a home? Absolutely not.

For instance, here are some charts showing the average list prices (second column from the left) and average sales prices (third column from the left) for townhouses in Christiansburg in 2013. Note – these figures include foreclosures, which are not considered “arm’s-length transactions. Their impact on the market in 2013 was not statistically significant, so I left them in.

Christiansburg townhomesAnd here are the average list prices (second column from the left) and average sales prices (third column from the left) for single-family home sales in Christiansburg in 2013.

Christiansburg single-family

Unlike the example we saw in Radford, the list to sale ratios in Christiansburg, for both house styles, was 96.7%, a much better indicator of overall market health in the area. Does that mean if you list your house for $100000 you’re guaranteed to get $96700? Absolutely not. But aren’t numbers fun?

 

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Buying A Home Where a Violent Crime Occurred

Imagine you’re a buyer. You’ve seen a house a couple of times, and then one day you learn from a local that several years ago, someone had committed suicide in the home that you’re looking at. Now, you don’t know for certain that someone committed suicide there, but you trust your source. Would you still buy the home?

Which got me thinking … do buyers really care about that stuff? Do buyers really care that a violent crime, like a murder, happened on the property? My guess was yes, so I posted the question to Twitter and Facebook. The result? YES, buyers want to know.

The unfortunate side of life is that sometimes bad things happen, and sometimes they happen in a home. Not every property is “stigmatized”, of course, but some are, and some people are sensitive to that.

In Virginia, real estate agents are not required to disclose whether a violent crime happened in the home, and to my knowledge, most states around the country have a similar rule. And it’s my understanding that, as an agent, I can’t legally share that information without the seller’s permission … the line of thinking being that divulging that information puts the seller in a weakened position in terms of making the house available for sale at market rates. On the flip side, in the HIGHLY scientific poll above, conducted in the controlled environs of Twitter and Facebook, buyers seem to want to know. Seems I should be doing what my buyers hired me to do, which is to help them sift through the wealth of information available to them.

What’s an agent to do?

Doesn’t matter … we’ll find a way to research that information, for when you’re buying, you should ALWAYS research. Certainly throw the property address into Google and see what comes up, and when possible, talk to neighbors. As an agent who texted me said,

“While I do not necessarily care if someone was killed or whatever in my house, I do care about the stigma and the property value. And I would super hate to hear about it from the next-door neighbor two days after I closed.”

That, I think, is the crucial point. While some may care and some may not care, being surprised after closing is something we should ALWAYS try to avoid. Can you imagine being this guy? If we have the chance to do online searches, to talk to police, to talk to neighbors, shouldn’t we?

So … would you buy?

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