Welcome! This blog tracks the real estate market in the Central Shenandoah Valley, featuring market data and analysis, an exploration of common buying and selling questions, and candid commentary on all things real estate.
If you are interested in discussing any of the topics on this blog, or the details of your specific real estate situation, call or e-mail me!
I was showing property on Wednesday afternoon, and several other agents in my office were showing houses to their clients on Wednesday evening (Thanksgiving eve).
We began negotiating a contract on this affordable, downtown property via fax, e-mail and telephone on Wednesday, and negotiations continued through Thanksgiving, towards what should be a ratified contract by this evening.
So, it seems, finding and buying that perfect house isn't something people put on the back burner for the holidays. Though to the best of my knowledge there probably weren't too many showings yesterday on Thanksgiving Day --- though that could have worked out well . . . if we had been invited in for a meal! :)
Among several other large road projects in the works in Harrisonburg, a new road connecting Erickson Avenue and Stone Spring Road is getting closer to becoming a reality. The City of Harrisonburg received 10 construction bids for this project, which will hopefully start in the spring, and take 18 months to complete.
One significant change will be the remove the train trestle at the intersection of South High Street (Route 42) and Erickson Avenue.
Read more in today's Daily News Record.
My aforementioned clients have decided to proceed with building at Preston Lake, and they closed on their lot purchase this week. We're aiming for completion by next May, and I and they are excited to see the building process get underway.
It's been a busy few weeks, making selections at Ferguson's and designing the kitchen with Shenandoah Millwork. More details will be forthcoming as we move through the process.
If you have questions about buying or building at Preston Lake, feel free to call me (540-578-0102) or e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I suppose plumbers may have been installing thermal expansion tanks (pictured above) for years, but I first starting seeing them a few years ago, and wondered what they were and why they were being installed.
A thermal expansion tank's purpose is to reduce thermal expansion that occurs when the water is heated and pressurized. Thus, if your hot water heater does not have an expansion tank, and is leaking or dripping from the pressure-relief valve, it would be wise to install a tank.
The other aspect of these expansion tanks that mystified me for quite some time is that I assumed that they would be installed on the hot water line coming out of the hot water heater, but most that I observed were installed on the cold water line.
As it turns out, the expansion tank can be installed either on the cold water line between the main valve and the water heater, or on the hot-water line within 3 to 5 feet of the water heater.
Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that can cause cancer -- in fact, it is the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking! Radon quickly disperses in air, reducing its danger, but if it accumulates in a basement or other living space, it can be quite problematic.
One of the main sources of radon gas is from a variety of types of rock, such as granite and shale. And thus, people have begun to wonder whether granite counter tops might pose a risk!
Well, in what may put your mind at ease, the Marble Institute of America released a report a few days ago (Nov 17, 2008) indicating among other things that "not one stone slab contributed to radon levels that even reached theaverage U.S. outdoor radon concentration of 0.4 picocuries per liter."
If you're eying your granite counter tops warily from across the room, and need to be further reassured, read more from Nation's Building News.
Great coverage today by the Daily News Record of the new assessments for real estate in the City of Harrisonburg. A few interesting notes:
So -- what say you?
Did your assessment go up or down? Do you think your new assessed value is accurate?
Admittedly, I'm drawing this conclusion from several disparate data points, but examine the facts...
Exciting news from The Hook via RealCentralVA . . .
Starting next fall, Charlottesville will have round-trip service to New York City, after passing through our nation's capital. With Charlottesville just over the mountain, this may open up some exciting transportation options for us here in the Shenandoah Valley!
The real news is that this program (a three year pilot program) will be using state funds to reduce the cost of this new inter-city rail transportation option.
Of note -- the funding must still be approved (on December 17) by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. Read more here.
Especially in our current market, it is very challenging to predict the "popularity" of a house -- in other words, how many prospective buyers will come to view the house.
This comes to mind today, because over the weekend two new prospective buyers came on the scene for a very affordable home on East Rock Street. The house has had many showings, and even an offer --- but we haven't had any showings in the past few weeks. So it was a bit surprising to receive two calls within a few hours of each other with interest in viewing the house. After weeks of inactivity, showing activity will sometimes pick up quickly and with unknown cause.
On a different note, I have seen several listings lately that have been priced appropriately (in my view), marketed well, and have seen few if any showings in the first few months they are on the market. Sometimes even the houses you are sure will sell quickly, won't even show quickly. Could it be the evil flyer syndrome?
And then there are the houses where buyers dutifully tour in and out several times a week, with no results to speak of. I know of several homes on the market right now that have had over 50 showings, and still have not received any offers.
Just as it is difficult to predict the pace of a sale in today's market, it is very difficult to predict the pace of showings!
Here is some interesting news that Jon Ischinger (Wells Fargo, Harrisonburg) shared with me last week... If a sales contract is contingent upon a well inspection, septic inspection or termite inspection, the loan underwriter must be privy to any issues, and must approve how the buyer and seller choose to address those issues. And this is on all new FHA and conventional loans!
It is my understanding from talking to Jon that this won't change the loan process drastically, but it will make things slower, and may make things more problematic if there are any issues with the termite, well or septic inspections. As Jon notes, "In the past you could have worked something out with the borrower/seller and it would happen very quickly, outside of the lender's scope - now, if there is any inspection mentioned in the purchase contract, we have to see it and send it to underwriting. If any maintenance is required, it will need to be addressed and re-inspected and then that documentation will have to be reviewed."
I'm curious to see how this plays out in a real transaction --- but I'm not too surprised to see yet another tightening on the loan process as lenders become more conservative in their lending practices.
After missing the 7pm announcement of the JMU Football Playoff Schedule, I was delighted to have such a fast response when asking about the results on Facebook.
The good news --- JMU could be at home for all three playoff games leading up to the National Champtionship!
From the building permit data in today's Daily News Record...
Simon Property Group, interior renovations to existing space to create retail space for Books-A-Million, 1925-400A E. Market St., $1,275,000.
It will be interesting to see who takes over the space on East Market Street where Books-A-Million currently exists.
The Virginia Resources Authority sold an unprecedented $215 million in infrastructure revenue bonds to raise funds for projects around Virginia. This was, in fact, the largest transaction in the pooled financing program in VRA history --- in what is otherwise a challenging economic time.
"Bricks and mortar projects mean jobs and income in Virginia communities," said Sheryl Bailey, Executive Director of the Virginia Resources Authority. "We can't over-emphasize the importance of such projects in stimulating the local and state economy. Infrastructure is a key to America's economic recovery. "
According to the Daily Press, the projects to be financed will include "upgrades to bridges and wastewater treatment plants, replacement of water and sewer lines, and construction of a firehouse, a library, and a public safety academy."
The current VHDA interest rate is already low, at 5.875%. But for first time buyers looking for affordable housing, it can be tough to finance a purchase even at that low rate. So....how about 4.875%?
If you're buying at Covenant Heights, a neighborhood being developed by Hope Community Builders (a non-profit group), depending on your income levels, you may be able to have the current VHDA rate lowered by an entire percentage point!
And these are nice properties we're talking about here -- duplexes and townhomes with three bedrooms, all of which are pre-inspected and built to EarthCraft and EnergyStar standards.
If you have a friend or co-worker who is seeking affordable housing, do them a favor and tell them about Covenant Heights!
I'm getting my hands dirty --- working on some exciting additions to the property search section of my web site --- to let you learn even more about each property for sale.
There are at least 5 upgrades I hope to roll out in the next few weeks --- stay tuned, and if you have any suggestions for improvements to my web site, please let me know!
One issue that often seems to be on a buyer's mind these days is the question of how much they should be able to negotiate off of an asking price for a house. Let's take a look at closings from the past 30 days to provide some insight into what buyers are actually accomplishing right now in the market.
Examining all residential sales in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County (10/17/2008 - 11/16/2008) we find...
Buying or selling real estate can be a complicated process at times, and questions often abound. If you have questions about the process, or about the market, or about some other real estate related topic, feel free to leave a comment below, or e-mail me (email@example.com) or call me (540-578-0102).
Many of the topics covered on this blog are a result of questions that people like you have asked --- so feel free to step up to the mic to get your question(s) answered!
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