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.
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Our local unemployment rates have fallen again (for the 3rd straight month) to 5.3% --- a tie for the lowest rate we have seen in nearly four years.
Read more from yesterday's Daily News Record article.
Did you miss it? The Harrisonburg City Council spent $4.76 million last night. These funds were "reserve suplus funds" --- which are undesignated funds that have built up over time --- not a surplus in a single year's budget.
How did the City Council decide to spend the funds?
So What? Why does this matter? Wasn't it just extra funds that had to be spent? Why should we care where the funds went?
I believe these expenditures reveal the priorities of the City of Harrisonburg --- road improvements, sidewalks, bicycle and pedestrian trails, employee retention, parks, soccer fields. Personally, I think these are great priorities for the City of Harrisonburg to be focusing on to make it a safer, more enjoyable place to live.
In great news for downtown Harrisonburg, Larkin Arts will be opening this Saturday which features an art supply store, gallery spaces, art classrooms for students of all ages, and studios for working artists.
Read more about Larkin Arts on the Do Downtown Blog, or at LarkinArts.com.
Better yet, swing by the grand opening tomorrow (Saturday) from 9A - 5P.
Last night the Harrisonburg City Council discussed a proposed conference center and hotel to potentially be built in downtown Harrisonburg. The proposal went before City Council because the developers are seeking public funding for part of the project.
City Council made a decision to seek competing proposals, which are due to the City by Nov 13, 2012. After competing proposals have been received, the City can decide whether to move forward with a feasibility study to provide more data with which to make a decision about whether to provide the public funding for this project. The hard costs of the potential feasibility study will be paid by the City with funds paid by each developer that submits a proposal.
The project team that is working on this proposed conference center and hotel include:
dpM Partners is based out of Gaithersburg, MD, has recently developed a Westin Hotel in Virginia Beach. Its principal, was the lead developer on the Stonewall Jackson conference center in Staunton and he is also a JMU graduate. The W.M. Jordan Company (proposed general contractor) recently completed the Hilton at Short Pump.
The proposed conference center facility would be 18,180 square feet --- twice the size of the JMU Festival Conference Center --- and would be the largest conference center between Northern Virginia and Roanoke. The hotel would feature 205 rooms and would have a full-service restaurant.
If eventually approved, the City would be contributing nearly $10 million of public funds to this project in the way Tax Increment Financing Bonds.
The specific site has not been publicly identified, for competitive reasons, but it is in downtown Harrisonburg within walking distance of Main Street.
I believe this is exciting news for Harrisonburg as it could potentially grow our local economy even further by bringing regional conferences into our area. It would also certainly be a boon for downtown retail businesses and restaurants.
Stay tuned -- within the next 60 days the City will be seeking competing proposals, and then they will be deciding whether to move forward with a feasibility study.
Here is the first half of the headline from today's Daily News Record....
(the only part that was really printed)
Here is what the second half of the headline could have been.....
So yes, it is true that this is "the biggest monthly jump in nearly a year" -- but put in context, it's not as terrible news as some might otherwise suspect.
The bottom line here is that month by month analysis of local unemployment rates can cause you to have sudden mood swings. After all, last month we were celebrating a tie for the lowest unemployment levels in over a year.....and this month we're mourning a huge increase in unemployment.
Virginia home prices have increased 11% over the past year when comparing the May 2011 median sales price to the May 2012 median sales price.
Read this good news and more in the most recent Home Sales Report from the Virginia Association of Realtors.
Home prices seem to be starting to increase again in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County (read more here) so what impact (or relevance) does this new report from Fannie Mae have on our local market?
"Doug Duncan, chief economist for Fannie Mae, released a report saying growth for all of 2012 is expected to come in at roughly 2.2%."
Maybe so, though locally, home sales are up 7% thus far in 2012. (read more here)
"And before Americans finish off the year, they will continue dealing with a reduction in hiring, potential issues stemming from the fiscal crisis in Europe and a potential drag on the U.S. economy during the remainder of the year."
We have remarkably low unemployment rates locally, that are still declining. (read more here) Thus, any declines in national hiring seem unlikely to significantly affect us locally. And issues in Europe and with the general U.S. economy might peripherally affect us here locally, but our local economy has managed to remain relatively stable throughout the past five years despite significant negative impacts in many other parts of the country.
"Main measures of home prices have firmed in recent months, as the share of distressed sales has declined in a strong seasonal period," he explained. "Despite this recent encouraging trend, the (research) group continues to expect that home prices on a national basis will show a slight additional decline before bottoming in the beginning of next year."
I am guessing that we will not see an additional decline in home prices in 2012 and 2013 (as predicted above) for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. I believe the 2012 median home price will be relatively similar to 2011 (+/- 1%).
National housing market and economic news is important to monitor, but it is important to keep it in context and to pay even more attention to what is happening locally.
This is one metric that we like to see declining.....
The national headline (and excerpt) from the Daily News Record over the weekend....
The local headline (and excerpt) from last week's Daily News Record....
Just as with the housing market, the local news is often quite different than the national news, thank heavens!
From the Virginia Association of Realtors this morning....
Home sales (# of sales) and median prices are both up across Virginia!
Click the image below to download the full Virginia Home Sales Report.
After several years in a row of relatively similar sized classes of first year students at JMU, the first year headcount will jump up a bit this coming year, as shown above.
Despite this jump in first year students, the overall growth trajectory will stay relatively similar to what JMU has experienced over the past several years.
These increases in enrollment will (gradually) help the over-supplied student housing market in Harrisonburg. If you haven't heard, there are many more places for students to live than there are students. (read up here)
These increases are also (continued) great news for the local economy, as JMU is a major economic engine for the local economy -- as both students and faculty/staff live here, work here, spend here, etc. This is not, of course, to ignore the significant contributions made to our local economy by Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University and Blue Ridge Community College.
The data for the graphs above is based on JMU's enrollment projections. "Total On-Campus Headcount" is the number of students who are taking classes on the JMU campus.
Some observations without knowing much about the budget:
As per the Daily News Record today, the Finance Committee for Rockingham County has proposed an increase of the real estate tax rate --- from $0.60 per $100 of assessed value up to $0.64 per $100 of assessed value.
Here's how that would impact a few different price ranges of homes....
In many ways, it is actually surprising that we haven't seen an increase in tax rates before now --- many localities across the country have been forced to do so in order to continue to pay for public services.
Click here for the full article from the Daily News Record.
As more (potential) good news for our growing local job market, it looks like CarMax may be opening in Harrisonburg sometime in the near future.
From the record of Harrisonburg Property Transfers last week.....
South Main Ford LLC to CarMax Auto Superstores Inc. a parcel of land on the northwestern side of South Main Street, south of West Mosby Road, $2,900,000.
This follows the recent news of Dick's Sporting Goods coming to Harrisonburg.
As a point of clarification, the title of this article is not an indication that I am willing to bet $2.9M that CarMax is coming to Harrisonburg. ;)
(photo above is a store opening in Nashville, not Harrisonburg; source)
In further (potential) good news for the local economic climate, the Daily News Record reports today that Dick's Sporting Goods may be opening up a storefront at the Valley Mall in Harrisonburg as soon as this fall. Dick's would (potentially) be located in the space that Peebles vacated in 2006. This follows recent news of an Ashley Furniture store opening in the old Books-A-Million space on East Market Street.
Additional tidbits on this developing story:
This is one economic indicator that I am happy to see heading downward. There are still lots of people who are not able to find work, but this trend is headed in a great direction.
In another positive sign for Virginia's economy and thus housing market, there seem to be more people moving into Virgina than out of Virginia.
Of note, Virginia is one of only 9 states where this is the case!
Source: KCM Blog
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