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!
There were a LOT of showings in the fourth quarter of 2015 -- with 60% and 58% year-over-year increases in October and December. But then January came, and along with January came lots of snow. That seems to have been the main driver between the 41% decline in January showings as compared to a year ago.
I suspect that as the snow continues to melt, and as some additional homes come on the market, that we will see a strong month of showings in February 2016.
With some regularity, I am asked by potential purchasers how they would go about buying a foreclosure. First, here is a list of upcoming foreclosure sales, but more importantly, below is a description of a few ways to buy what you might be thinking of as a foreclosure.
SHORT SALES: Some homeowners must sell their home, but market conditions won't allow them to sell it at a high enough price to be able to pay off their mortgage(s). In this example, a homeowner might have a $250,000 mortgage balance but can only sell the property for $230,000. As a prospective buyer, it is sometimes possible to purchase this type of a property through a process called a "short sale." In such an arrangement, the homeowner petitions their lender to accept less than the full payoff of the mortgage and in return to still release the deed of trust so that ownership of the property can be transferred over to you, the new owner. This can benefit the lender, as they skip the time delays and cost of the foreclosure process. This can also benefit the homeowner, as a short sale will have a slightly lesser negative impact on their credit as compared to a foreclosure. As a buyer, however, you must know that there are challenges to buying a property as a short sale. The biggest challenges of late seem to be the uncertainty of the purchase and the time table. Even if you and the homeowner agree to a price of $230,000, the homeowner's lender must still agree to accept that price – since it won't allow the homeowner to pay off their $250,000 mortgage balance in full. This process of waiting to hear back from a lender, and then complying with all of their various terms can sometimes take 60 to 120 days – or longer! Visit HarrisonburgShortSales.com for a list of potential short sale properties currently on the market.
TRUSTEE SALES: If a short sale does not take place, and a homeowner is behind on their payments (or not making them at all), eventually the property will be sold by the lender on the courthouse steps. Buying a property at a "trustee sale" can be exciting, and can be a great opportunity – but there are challenges as well. If a property to be sold at a trustee sale is also listed for sale with a Realtor, you can usually view the property ahead of time by calling your Realtor. Otherwise, you will likely not have the opportunity to see inside the property before the trustee sale, and thus you will not know too many details about the condition of the property. Furthermore, your purchase of the property at the trustee sale cannot be contingent upon viewing the property, or inspecting the property. In this instance, you are purchasing the property in "as is" condition, regardless of what you then find out about the property. It is also important to note that many times the lender will have an opening bid at the trustee sale that is close to (or sometimes higher than) the amount that they are still owed on the mortgage. Thus, in the example above, they might make an opening bid of $250,000. As a result of this opening bid process, many (or most) properties available for purchase at a trustee sale are not great opportunities. Occasionally, a property will be foreclosed upon that has had a mortgage in place for many years, whereby the balance of the mortgage is much lower than current market value – these are great opportunities for a buyer. Visit HarrisonburgForeclosures.com for a list of upcoming trustee sales.
BANK OWNED PROPERTIES: If you don't buy the property before the auction (as a short sale), and don't buy it at the trustee sale, you'll have a third opportunity to buy it once the bank owns it. These properties are called "bank owned properties" or REO properties ("real estate owned"). Oftentimes, the prices on these properties are quite realistic, if not under market value. It would not be atypical for a house such as the one mentioned above to come on the market after the trustee sale at a price of $210,000. In such an instance, you should expect to be buying the property in "as is" condition, and you will also be buying with a slightly different contract document. Most lenders have a long standard contract or contract addendum that spell out a variety of additional contract terms designed to protect them from any future liability – and rarely will a lender agree to have these contract documents changed in any way. As you can see above, oftentimes buying the property as an REO property is where the best opportunity lies. Visit HarrisonburgREO.com for a list of bank owned properties currently on the market for sale.
When a home goes into foreclosure it is often for very sad and unfortunate reasons – such as the loss of a job – and I do not wish such circumstances on any homeowner. However, if you are a buyer in today's market it is important to be familiar with different methods for buying a property when it will be, is being, or has been foreclosed upon.
After a slight dip in 2014, the Contract Success Rate rose to 96% in 2015. That means that nearly all contracts that are signed by buyer and seller make it to closing. This may be a result of more reasonable lender underwriting requirements, or more prepared buyers, or buyers and sellers being more rational when negotiating the speed bumps between contract and closing. Regardless, it is good news for anyone who has a house going under contract -- it is more likely to go to closing than it was a year or two ago.
Q: Why did the chicken cross the road, in Harrisonburg?
A: To get to a 2 acre lot.
Back in 2009, City Council approved an ordinance that prohibited property owners from raising chicken in their backyard unless they had a 2 acre lot. There were also quite a few other limitations, all of which can be found in the entire current ordinance here.
Now, per today's Daily News Record article....
"City officials are exploring whether the lot-size threshold should be reduced; if there should be a neighbor approval process; whether a certain number of permits should be issued within a trial period; and any other issues, according to the release."Do you have an opinion? You can sound off on the issue at BeHeardHarrisonburg.org.
Oh, also -- before you try to get creative and consider another backyard bird, you should know that the ordinance in question also limits your ability to keep all of the following foul in your yard: chickens, roosters, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl, emus, rheas, ostriches and pigeons.....
A few short years ago there were enough homes on the market in January to last us nearly an entire year. In January 2011, there were 787 homes on the market and only 832 buyers would go on to buy a home that year.
Things have looked at bit different over the past few years, with lower (529-560) levels of inventory at the start of the year, and higher (1085-1175) home sales in the year that followed.
** Please note: The 2016 home sales shown in the graph above are a projection, not a promise. :)
A bit more about affordable housing in the City of Harrisonburg, as we started to explore yesterday....
There are 149 residential properties for sale in Harrisonburg right now -- but if you're buying under $200K, and hoping for a single family (detached) home, it may be more difficult than you imagined. As shown above....
So, if you are looking to buy under $200K in Harrisonburg you may have to buy an old home or an attached home (duplex, condo, townhouse).
If you haven't heard, it's becoming difficult to find bread in Harrisonburg this week. Something about a pending weather system.....maybe eating bread is a part of the snow dance ritual? Hard to say....
Beyond bread, though, the next hardest thing to find in Harrisonburg right now is a single family family home, built in the past 50 years, at "an affordable price" -- however one might define that....
As shown above, if you are looking for a single family home in the City of Harrisonburg, built since 1966, for less than $125K, you are out of luck.
You'll start to find some options at $129K and then things go right on up from there. Check them out here.
If you know about some secret locations to find detached homes under $125K in the City -- or bread for that matter -- let me know!
Take a few minutes to walk through this beautifully updated four bedroom Colonial home on a full unfinished walkout basement in Kings Crossing is within walking distance of Hillandale Park and just a quick bike ride away from JMU Campus and downtown Harrisonburg. You will not want to leave the remodeled kitchen in this home with hardwood floors, soapstone counters, stainless steel appliances, built in built bookshelves and many other high class touches. Hardwood floors continue throughout the entire first floor, through the living room, dining room, family room and office. Upstairs, you will find four spacious bedrooms and three full bathrooms! Don't miss the full, unfinished, walkout basement with a workshop PLUS a large, fenced yard with mature trees!
Click here to walk through this home, on your computer, phone or tablet.
Or, visit this home's property website.
Or, view high resolution photos of this home by clicking the collage below....
Find out more about this 3D Walk Through technology at WalkThroughThisHome.com....
As shown above, more new homes (54) sold in 2015 than in any year during the past five years. In fact, the 54 new home sales shown in the MLS in 2015 marked a 42% improvement over 2014.
Furthermore, the median sales price has increased to $140/SF -- the highest level seen anytime in the previous six years!
Of note -- the home sales shown above are only the new homes sold via the MLS. Plenty of other new homes have been built in recent years and sold directly by the builder (without ever being in the MLS) or were built via a contract build between land owner and home builder.
Read more in my Harrisonburg Year End Real Estate Market Report....
Last year (2015) was a solid year for the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County residential real estate market, with a 3% increase in the pace of home sales. This level of home sales (1,022) was the highest number of home sales seen anytime in the previous seven years. I expect that we will see continued improvement in the number of home buyers purchasing homes in our local area in 2016. As shown to the right, I am predicting a 5% improvement in the pace of sales, for a total of 1,175 home sales in 2016. I believe we will see continued increases in local employment opportunities, combined with only small increases in mortgage interest rates, leading to continued increases in home buyer activity.
After three years (2012, 2013, 2014) of very small increases in the median sales price (+1%, +2%, +2%) we finally did see a more substantial increase in 2015. The 4% increase in the median sales price last year increased the median price to $185,000 -- the highest price seen since back in 2009. Over the next year, expect that we will see further improvements up to a median sales price of $192,500. If this indeed happens, this will be the third highest annual median sales price we have ever seen in this area. The highest median sales prices on record of $195,000 in 2008 and $195,100 in 2009 were both during the real estate boom.
Theories are welcome!
As shown above, the under $200K market has been flat over the past year ,the $200K-$300K and $400K+ markets have increased by at least 30% over the past year -- but the $300K - $400K market has declined by 25%.
One year ago, an average of 9.8 homes were selling in this price range ($300K-$400K) each month. That has declined (over the past year) to an average of 7.4 sales per month.
The single family home market in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County told two two different stories last year (2015), depending on whether we were evaluating the price or pace of home sales. This past year (2015) marked the third year in a row with between 810 and 820 home sales -- so, virtually no change in the pace of home sales. Over the past year, however, the median sales price of single family homes increased by 5% to $200,000 -- which is the first time we have seen a $200K or higher median sales price since 2005-2009. It is encouraging that sales prices are increasing even without substantial increases in the number of home sales.
Read more in my Harrisonburg Year End Real Estate Market Report....
The graph above examines townhouse, duplex and condo sales in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. As you can see, there has been quite an uptick of activity over the past few years --- an increase from 179 sales/year in 2011 to 304 in 2015. In the past year, the number of annual sales has increased by 14%.
Prices, however, have not increased over the past year. After an 11% increase in the median sales price in 2014, the median sales price did not budge in 2015 -- it stayed right at $151,750.
Read more in my Harrisonburg Year End Real Estate Market Report....
Inventory levels may be quite low right now, but we will start to see more and more homes coming on the market in the next few months. If you are in the market to buy a home this Spring, start watching for what is coming on the market using NewListingsInHarrisonburg.com.
On NewListingsInHarrisonburg.com you can quickly and easily scroll through the most recent residential listings in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, view the pertinent details, all of the photographs of the home, an area map, and then quickly and easily share that new listing with a friend, your spouse, your Realtor, etc.
You can also sign up to receive an email alert every time there is a new listing....
And, finally, you can add the website to the home screen if you'd like, for quick and easy access....
If you have any questions about this website, or suggestions for improving it, just let me know.
Until then, go check it out, at NewListingsInHarrisonburg.com.
Learn more about this month's Featured Property: 6190 Dotts Lane
I just published my monthly report on the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County real estate market. Jump to the full online market report, or download the PDF, or read on for highlights....
A year-end look at the numbers is always fun -- we finally have all of the numbers in and now we know the following about 2015 when looking at the residential real estate market in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County....
But wait! Before we mash all of the data together and call everything wonderful, here is something interesting....
As shown above....
Here is a colorful and fun and uplifting graph....
Just another visual indication (above) of the improvements we have seen in our local real estate market over the past few years. The most notable jump in the pace of sales was between 2012 and 2013 -- but we finally broke into the 1100's this past year.
As shown above, contracts picked up a bit in December 2015 -- to 67 contracts as compared to only 63 last December. However -- the annual pace of buyers signing contracts declined slightly, from 1192 to 1172. Of note -- despite fewer contracts in 2015 -- there were more sales -- which is an indication that more contracts are successfully making it through to closing.
More and Much, Much More....
There is more, oh so much more, in my full year-end real estate market report. I have even made it very easily accessible for you to read online....
And as is always my encouragement -- if you will be buying or selling a home in the near future, become a student of the housing market! Learn what has been happening recently, what is happening now, and what is likely to happen next. Being informed will allow you to make better real estate decisions.
If you are ready to buy or sell a property in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County, contact me at 540-578-0102 or scott@HarrisonburgHousingToday.com to get the process started.
The Planning Commission for Rockingham County has already signed off on a rezoning of part of Lakeview Golf Club to allow for building lots for single family homes to be developed and sold. These building lots would be in the general vicinity of Great Oaks, Crossroads Farm and Magnolia Ridge.
This potential rezoning of 10.33 acres would allow for up to 21 single family homes. The 10.33 acres is a part of Lakeview Golf Club's overall plan to sell off 75 acres (9 of the its 36 golf holes) -- though 65 of the acres are already zoned for residential use.
The Board of Supervisors will be considering this rezoning request next week.
Read all about this potential rezoning in these two recent Daily News Record articles:
View a larger map of the area here.
So, after almost a decade, the Fed raised rates. What happened to mortgage interest rates? Per the graph above, not much has happened thus far. Rates have edged up a bit over the past few weeks, and have headed back into the 4-point-something territory, but we were there (and a bit higher) as recently as this past summer, so that's not necessarily new territory.
Maybe if we look back a bit further, we'll see that this rise to 4.01% is really disastrous?
Nope! If we look back over the past three years (2013-2015) we'll notice that there as a long time frame during those years (shaded in yellow) when the rates were above 4 percent.
So, we'll see where things go from here, but thus far, the Fed's actions do not seem to have resulted in an end to super low mortgage interest rates.
There are some aspects of your home (such as location, location, location) that are beyond your control. Your home's location and neighborhood will affect the price you can obtain for your home, how quickly it can sell, and much more. But moving outside of that central factor, there are three significant areas that are in your control when you are selling your home: price, condition and marketing.
First, we will look backwards to see what buyers have recently been paying for houses similar to your home. This will give us an indication of the current market value of your home. We must then also compare your home to competing listings that current buyers will be considering alongside your home. With this information we will develop a pricing strategy that will allow us to obtain the highest possible price for your home while still selling it within your desired time table.
As you prepare your home for the market, we must consider potential updates and upgrades to your home to eliminate objections and reduce distractions. This may be by way of minor repairs and upgrades, more significant projects, or staging your home to allow it to show best to buyers. We will develop a plan after walking through your home together and looking at it from a buyer's perspective, to identify areas where we can have the most impact with planned changes.
A home that is priced well, and prepared well for the market, will not sell if it is not thoroughly and professionally marketed. The balance of this website outlines the strategies I use to market my listings to the widest possible pool of prospective purchasers.
Once we have priced your home appropriately, prepared it well and implemented the marketing plan, there will still be three other areas for us to focus on as we work towards a successful sale of your home: follow up, adjustments and negotiation.
We will often start to receive feedback on your home as soon as it hits the market. This may be questions from Realtors, questions from buyers, online web views of your property, buyers driving by and picking up a brochure or showings being scheduled. As there are specific buyers that are considering your home, it will be important to follow up with each buyer (or their Realtor) to find out what they did and did not like, what questions they had, what concerns or objections they mentioned, and what they thought of the price and condition of the home.
We will be attempting to have your home in the perfect condition for buyers and to have the perfect list price on your home from Day 1. Sometimes, however, based on the feedback we have received from prospective buyers we may need to make adjustments to the condition of your home (additional improvements, projects, staging, etc.) or to the pricing of your home. It is important to regularly discuss the market feedback we are receiving so that we can make appropriate adjustments to our pricing and marketing tactics.
When we do receive an offer it will be important to review and discuss all of the terms of the buyer's offer and discuss a negotiating strategy to maximize the benefit to you. Sometimes we will simply be negotiating on price, but oftentimes these negotiations will involve timing, contingencies, personal property and much more.
Pheasant Run Townhomes is a college rental community comprised of 143 townhouses. Of those 143 townhouses, 103 are corporately owned and 40 are privately owned. The privately owned townhouses have recently been selling in the $140K's....
The latest news is that the 103 townhouses that are corporately owned sold for $10,425,000 on December 18, 2015 to TRP Pheasant Run Manager LLC, a company affiliated with Thalhimer Realty Partners, which is a subsidiary of Cushman & Wakefield/Thalhimer.
As per today's article in the Daily News Record....
Matt Raggi, a vice president with Thalhimer Realty Partners, said the company will operate the property. It owns and operates almost 4,000 apartment units in Virginia and the Carolinas, including student markets such as Richmond, Norfolk and Chapel Hill, N.C.Absent any major changes in strategy by the new corporate owner (which seems unlikely) I anticipate that the 40 privately owned townhouses will continue to sell for similar prices as they have in the recent past, and that the community will remain a good option for investors looking to purchase a student housing rental property.
Find out more about Pheasant Run at HarrisonburgInvestmentProperties.com.
Inventory levels are quite low right now -- there are only 553 homes for sale -- but this is quite normal for this time of year.
Several of my clients have recently commented on the very low number of new listings they have seen in the past month. Hopefully we'll see some soon, though last year inventory levels stayed quite low from January through March.
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