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Rents Expensive in Virginia

Sep. 15, 2011
Categorized in: Workforce Housing

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has just come out with a report showing the affordability of rental housing by state. Virginia comes out looking pretty expensive.

In order for a single person to be able to afford rent and still stay within the guidelines advising total housing costs be less than 30% of income you'd have to make almost $20/hour. And keep in mind that that's the statewide average.

In Northern Virginia that means you need a lot of people helping to pay the rent. At minimum wage on average in Virginia you need 2.7 workers working full time to afford a 2 bedroom apartment. Imagine how many in the much pricier Northern Virginia suburbs.

If you think this issue doesn't impact you, you must not own a home or drive. Housing affordability drives people to commute longer distances to their jobs just to be able to afford a roof over their heads. The traffic that generates makes people who can afford it more and more inclined to live closer to their jobs. Guess what, most of their jobs aren't in Fauquier, Culpeper or Rappahannock counties. And, that, my friends, impacts the price of your home here.

Homeowners who want to sell some day should be very interested in solutions to both the affordability issues and the traffic problems in our area.

Reason Number Five - Gas Prices

Feb. 24, 2011
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

Yesterday we talked about four reasons home prices aren't likely to rise much any time soon. Today we'll talk about a fifth reason that has the potential for an even bigger impact.           


Gas prices shot up 20 cents yesterday in Warrenton. Sheetz Exxon was charging $3.09 yesterday morning but was showing $3.29 on the sign last night. That's quite a one day jump. And it almost inevitably means a slow down in home sales in our area.

Like it or not, home sales in our area are primarily driven by people commuting into DC or northern Virginia. That's an ugly commute on the best of days and I often talk to people trying to figure out if it makes any sense to spend 3-4 hours a day in their cars. If you add a large spike in gas prices it becomes a lot clearer to some people that this is not a good trade off.

A recent story on Marketplace on NPR talked about the premium you now get for owning a home near mass transit. Home prices for properties near mass transit actually didn't really appear to show much of a bubble and haven't tumbled. Home prices in far flung suburbs, on the other hand, got hit the hardest. You only have to look at Culpeper to see the truth of that.

I don't know if $3.29 is the number that starts to put the brakes on what's already a fairly slow market. I know that if it goes much higher heading into the busy spring season I'll be worried.

Where We're Going

Jun. 19, 2010
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

We're a restless bunch in this country. If you want to see where we're coming from and going to, Forbes just published this great map using IRS data.

It let's you look at a specific county and see where people are coming from and moving to in that county. It's a fun map and I'm going to spend a lot of time playing with this one.

The one thing I notice after looking at this for a little while is that most of the movement is very local, within Virginia. You don't see huge migrations in Fauquier, Culpeper or Rappahannock either from or to other states. Now look at Prince William or any of the more traditionally "northern Virginia" counties. Lots of movement both from and to many other states.

Now think about the real estate implications. Generally, looking at this map you'd expect to see more turnover in inventory in Prince William than in Culpeper, Fauquier or Rappahannock. And, you'd be right!

New EPA Lead Based Paint Regulations

Apr. 14, 2010
Categorized in: Home Improvement

The EPA has issued new regulations around lead based paint that go into effect this week. From now on, in housing built prior to 1978 there are new requirements around renovations. If more than six square feet of an interior or 20 square feet of an exterior lead paint covered wall is disturbed by a repair, then steps to prevent the lead dust from becoming airborne and contaminating the home must be taken. Contractors working on renovations of homes built before 1978 will be required to have an EPA Certification on lead based paint.

What does that mean for you as a home buyer or seller? Based on what I'm hearing so far, any renovation to a home built before 1978 is likely to cost you more than it used to. Right now not many contractors have this certification and those that have it can charge a premium. The EPA's web site lists no contractors with the certification in either Warrenton or Culpeper. The closes contracors listed are in Nokesville, Broad Run and Manassas. That may change over time, but right now, it's suddenly gotten more expensive to renovate that 1960s rambler.

As a buyer, you should think about that additional potential cost when looking at homes built before 1978. And, if you're looking at these homes in the future you're going to want to make sure that any work that was done was done by a contractor with the required EPA certification.

There's a lot of "the sky is falling" blather right now about these new regulations. That tends to be the case with any new regulation in any industry. Time will likely make this all seem less onerous.

For now, you just need to be aware of the changing regulations.

Area Still Growing

Mar. 28, 2010
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

There was an article in the Washington Post this week that talks about the region's population growth. The good news (if you're looking to sell your home) is that this region continues to grow.

The area grew 3% in the last few years. That's faster than any place else on the Eastern seaboard.

It gets more interesting from my perspective when you look at the local populations trends.

Every local county, except for Rappahannock has continued to grow. We're not seeing the big population jumps that we saw in 2004 and 2005. But the trend is definitely slow but steady growth.

Culpeper County has grown the fastest in the last decade. It's 35.7% growth between 2000 and 2009 make it the 17th fastest growing county in the nation.

Fauquier County has grown at 23% over the same period. And, if you look around you notice that there aren't as many new subdivisions in Fauquier. (Not that there aren't still plenty!)

Rappahannock actually lost about 1% population over the last decade. The county continues to hover around the 7000 mark. It's hard to see anything changing that in the short term. It wouldn't surprise me to see Rappahannock at almost the same population a decade from now.

Prince William County grew almost as fast as Culpeper. The 34.8% growth rate also made it one of the fastest growing counties in the country. Prince William County benefits from the proximity to DC, VRE access and lower housing costs than the inner suburbs. In fact, while growth in Culpeper and Fauquier has slowed considerably since the 2004/2005 time frame; Prince William County is growing at almost the identical rate now as then. Buyers trying to buy in Prince William County have definitely noticed! New construction has definitely not kept pace with that kind of growth.

The continuing influx of new residents will eventually begin pushing prices up again at a faster clip. I don't predict any return to the craziness we saw in the last bubble. But there's also clearly no reason to expect a second drop in prices in this area.


Short Sale Success Stories

Mar. 14, 2010
Categorized in: Foreclosures/Short Sales

Admit it. You saw the title of this blog and thought "no way"!

I understand that kind of thinking! Short sales are hard. I talk about that all the time on this blog. But it's time to look at some success stories. Hard doesn't mean impossible. And, it doesn't mean you should avoid a short sale like the plague.

Here are the stories of three sellers and their successful short sales.

Note: Success is defined here as the clients believe it was successful and they achieved what they wanted from the short sale.

The first story is a young couple with a house in Bealeton. They were upside down on the house and their interest rate was about to reset. They would be unable to afford the new payments. They wanted to preserve their ability to rebuild their credit and buy again in the future as their family grew. They were one of the early short sales in this area. It took time, but the short sale was approved. They had great credit before the short sale and did everything they could to maintain that afterwards. Now, nearly three years later they're once again in a position to talk to a lender about buying a home.

Another young couple owned a townhouse in Remington. They bought it just before they got married. Their growing family had made the townhouse much too small for them. They initially rented out the townhouse. But when the renter stopped paying, decided it was time to try a short sale. Not only did the short sale get approved and the deficiency forgiven. The lender in this case actually gave the sellers a small check after the sale. Even more important to this couple, their credit has been almost unaffected. I can't guarantee it'll work this way for everyone. But they saw only a 1 point reduction in their credit score.

The third short sale is a townhouse in Culpeper. The owners were transferred out of state. They initially rented the townhouse out. But the rent they received didn't begin to cover the mortgage. When the tenants moved on, they decided to try a short sale rather than go to foreclosure. Their goal was to avoid a foreclosure and it's greater damage to their credit. This one took almost a year. It featured four different buyers, six different lenders and required the patience of Job! But in the end, these sellers also succeeded.

If you are upside down on your mortgage and don't know what to do, you owe it to yourself to at least discuss the possibility of a short sale.


2010 - A Forecast

Jan. 12, 2010
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

Let's start with the look at the larger economic picture. As always, it will play a major role in what happens this year with local real estate.

While the Fed continues to keep money cheap (I closed a deal at the end of the year with interest rate under 5%) that can't last forever. If the real estate industry and economy seem to be doing well mid-year we may start to see some adjustments upwards in rates.

I expect lending to remain very, very tight. Your credit will need to be very good and/or you'll need a hefty down payment in order to buy a house this year. Because of these conditions, I expect to see more USDA Rural Development mortgages in 2010.

The jobs picture is likely to remain gloomy throughout 2010. It will be less gloomy in the greater DC area, but the angst that goes with those high unemployment numbers will remain and will continue to impact people's willingness to buy homes.

The majority of sales are likely to be short sales in 2010. There are plans in the works to make the short sale process easier and faster. I have my fingers crossed that they will work!

It's going to surprise a lot of you to hear that one of my biggest worries about 2010 is a lack of inventory! Who'd have guessed a year or two ago that that would be possible!

But Prince William County is down to only 4.5 months of inventory. That's technically a strong seller's market. Culpeper is at 7 months of inventory, a balanced market. Fauquier is at 9 months. Rappahannock has what looks like an astonishing 16 months of inventory, but things continue to work a little differently there! I expect inventory in Prince William County to stay about at current levels in 2010. Culpeper and Fauquier are likely to shrink further. Rappahannock should be down to 12 months of inventory by the end of the year.

Here's the problem with the inventory situation. Banks have additional inventory, but they're holding on to it and releasing it more slowly. They don't want any further depression of prices because that kills their bottom line. And, with the bailout from the government and the cheap money they're able to borrow from the Fed, they don't need to dump them in a hurry. So, we'll continue to see foreclosures hit the market but only in dribs and drabs.

That leaves the rest of us homeowners as potential sellers. Most homeowners have seen a tremendous amount of value wiped out on paper and aren't anxious to realize that loss by selling and locking it in. I can't say as I blame them. Of course, the underlying assumption there is that if I hold on another year, or maybe two, I'll get a lot of that value back.

Is that true? Will 2010 be the year we see a spike in home prices? We've certainly already seen some price increases in Fauquier and Prince William counties. Culpeper still shows a year over year decrease as does Rappahannock county. But yes, I think we'll see small price increases in all four counties in 2010. Just don't expect to get back to 2005 prices for a long, long time! Expect 5-8% price increases this year.

The big unknown this year in my mind is what the buyers will do. If the economy, and by economy I mean unemployment, improves significantly, I think we see a big increase of buyers and those price increases could get a lot larger. But I'm not optimistic about the jobs outlook. And, I think buyers remain relatively scarce. Look for the volume of transactions to be flat in 2010. And it wouldn't surprise me if there's actually a small decline.

I expect the DOM (Days on Market) for properties to shrink slightly simply because of the lack of inventory. Those homes priced right and in great condition will continue to sell relatively quickly.

The summary is that 2010 is going to be another year of trying to get solid ground underneath the real estate market. It will be another year of slow, painful climbing out of the ugly market we've had. There are bright spots and there's certainly the potential for happy surprises. But I'd hang on for another bumpy ride if I were you!

2009 Year in Review

Jan. 4, 2010
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

As we head into 2010, let's start by looking backwards into 2009 and see how my predictions fared.

First of all, it's clear to me now that years from now we'll look back and see 2009 as the year when the real estate recovery really began to take hold, at least in this part of Virginia. That doesn't mean that the prospects are entirely rosy going forward, but the contrast between 2008 and 2009 are simply incredible.

Whereas the big story in 2008 was price drops, the big story this year is price increases, year over year, across the board. Whether you're talking about Culpeper, Fauquier, Prince William or Rappahannock County, prices are up year over year. Now bear in mind that's after several years of steep declines. And these increases are very modest, in the single digits. On prices, I was too pessimistic, anticipating another year of falling prices. I've never been so happy to be wrong! I predicted a price decline of 10% with that primarily coming on properties at the $400K and above price point. In reality, the only place we saw any price weakness was at the very high end of the market.

Inventory declined dramatically. I got this one partially right in that I predicted a continued decline. But it's been more rapid than I expected. Inventory in Culpeper is down 20% year over year and we're now at 11 months of inventory. Still a buyer's market there but better than a year ago.

In Fauquier County the decline was 21% but we're down to only 8 months of inventory. And in both counties, quality inventory at the lower price points is scarce and snapped up quickly.

Prince William County had an amazing decline of 37% in year over year inventory! We're now looking at only about 4 months of inventory here and it's clearly a seller's market in every way except price. But we'll get to that.

In Rappahannock County, after an unexpected inventory surge late in the year, we've started falling again. The November numbers show us pretty much flat, year over year. But preliminary December numbers show a December drop off. Some of that will be sellers deciding not to bother having their homes on the market over the holidays. But some of that inventory will not be coming back.

And now for the volumes. This is the area where I was probably the most off. I predicted 640 homes would sell in Culpeper in 2009. In fact, even with the tax incentives that number was only 595, the exact same number as in 2008.

In Fauquier I predicted that 645 homes would sell in 2009. I was conservative there, with 675 selling a significant increase from the 600 in 2008.

Prince William made me look especially inept, with only 7825 sales as opposed to my forecast of 8800. In my defense, the miserably small inventory kept a lot of would-be buyers on the sideline. That 7825 is actually a decrease over the roughly 8000 sold in 2008. It's a troubling trend.

All in all, my performance as a prognosticator was mixed. I was too optimistic in some areas, not optimistic enough in others and got it just about right in a few.

Despite my lack of perfection, I'll risk looking foolish again later this week with my 2010 predictions!




USDA Rural Development Mortgages

Dec. 6, 2009
Categorized in: Mortgages

We're seeing an increasing number of USDA rural development mortgages in our area.

These loans require 0 down payment and the income limits are pretty generous. For example, in Culpeper County the income limit for a family of four is about $80K. These loans are not actually made by the USDA, but are guaranteed by them and you can use any lender who participates in this program.

I will admit to having mixed feelings about these loans. Does having the agriculture department involved in mortgages really make any sense?

However, as mortgage money got increasingly tight, alternatives were clearly needed. And, this is one more way the government is helping trying to keep the real estate industry moving.

But, for a program that is supposedly focused on building up rural communities, this doesn't seem to require that the house you buy is actually in a rural area. Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Norfolk, etc. do not qualify, in my mind as rural communities. As someone who lives in a rural community and was born and raised in one, I take exception to money designed for these communities being used in what are clearly large urban areas.

I also continue to be dismayed at 0% down payment programs. I'm not saying there's never a loan that should be made with 0% down. But "no" should be the first answer and the burden of proof otherwise should definitely be on the borrower. Can someone who can't come up with any down payment at all really come up with the money that will surely be needed for home maintenance?

And, lastly, aside from my philosophical concerns, there's the practical worry. This program is not functioning well right now. USDA is now overwhelmed with these mortgages and getting paperwork through there is taking at least 30 days, even once appraisals, inspections, underwriting, etc. are all complete. There are a lot of transactions currently in limbo because of this backlog.

I hope no one working this program at USDA is planning on any time off over the holidays!

We're in The Money!

Sep. 1, 2009
Categorized in: Foreclosures/Short Sales

I wish I was writing to tell you all I won the Mega Millions this last week. No such luck! But Fauquier & Culpeper county are a little richer thanks to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Fauquier County was awarded $1.5 million. Culpeper got $1.2 million. The money will be used to buy, rehab and resell foreclosures in neighborhoods hard hit by the real estate downturn.

In Fauquier that means the southern end of the county. In Culpeper think Lakeview for sure.

I got one thing wrong in my earlier blog about this. I thought it would be too late in the process for them to get the money. They met the deadline but given the money already awarded and the competition I really didn't think Fauquier & Culpeper would get any.

It's too soon to know if I was right about my other reservation. The foreclosures are getting fewer and fewer and almost always involve bidding wars these days. It'll be interesting to see what the counties are actually able to purchase with this money.  There are plenty of short sales, just not so many foreclosures these days.

The Appraisal Mess

Aug. 21, 2009
Categorized in: Business of Real Estate

If you're involved in the real estate business or are a buyer or seller right now you probably are well aware of the appraisal mess. If you haven't gotten a taste of this yet, here's what all the fuss is about.

In an effort to make appraisals more objective and keep lenders from twisting the arms of appraisers to get higher values, new rules were rolled out this year from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Instead of a local lender calling a local appraiser, they must now call a clearinghouse who will then subcontract to an appraiser.

While the idea of keeping arms length relationship sounds good, there have been some big hiccups with this new process. Appraisers are coming from far, far away to appraise in neighborhoods they know nothing about. Just today I met an appraiser at a listing I have in Culpeper. The appraiser drove several hours from Maryland to do the appraisal.

This has resulted in wildly inaccurate appraisals. And it's slowed the process down, because there's now an extra layer there.

The other thing an extra layer does is add extra cost. The new clearinghouses want to make money off of the appraisal too. So they raise the fees they charge, increasing the cost of the appraisal to the buyer. But at the same time they've lowered what they pay the actual appraiser. Guess how many of the best appraisers want to work for these clearinghouses?

There's a movement in Congress right now to suspend these rules temporarily until some kind of fix can be found for the more egregious problems. Meanwhile, if you're waiting on an appraisal, whether you're a seller or a buyer, be prepared for bad news! And, remember that if there are issues with the appraisal, there are also potential remedies.

Thursday Roundup

Mar. 19, 2009
Categorized in: Mortgages

There are too many things I want to talk about today so I'll throw a little of everything out for your consideration.

The Wall Street Journal has an article this week about a plan they are proposing to help stabilize housing prices by granting resident status to foreigners who buy homes here. It suggests that they would have to own the properties for five years and couldn't rent them out during that time. It's an interesting idea. How would you monitor whether or not they were rented? There are lots of details that would have to be worked out but I'm always happy to see people getting creative!

Kudos to Hazel Homes. Clients bought a home from them this week and they were a pleasure to work with from start to finish. They went above and beyond to make sure they exceeded my clients' expectations. They asked for the full home inspection report and proceeded to work to rectify every item on there, no matter how small and insignificant. Trust me, that is not standard and they deserve recognition for their excellence! If you're looking for new construction in Culpeper I'd highly recommend them!

And, a plague on the houses of dishonest lenders. In a separate transaction I have clients who have been working with a lender for two months who's lied throughout the process. The loan he guaranteed was "ready to close" is now dead and my clients are scrambling to find other financing. After everything that's happened around lending in the last few years, it's unconscionable that there's still no accountability for lenders.

Mortgage rates dropped significantly after yesterday's announcement by the Fed of additional intervention to get credit flowing. 30 year fixed rates can now easily be found under 5%. Add that to the $8000 tax credit and a lot of prospective buyers should be excited about what they can afford right now.

The Other Good Deal

Feb. 24, 2009
Categorized in: New Construction

While bargain hunters have been avidly focused on foreclosures and, to a lesser extent, short sales; another segment of the market also offers some spectacular bargains.

Builders who have inventory already built want to get rid of that inventory quickly. In this area, builders haven't been building spec homes for some time now. These homes are generally homes where a contract fell through. Occasionally, you'll see a model home for sale where the builder has finished building in that subdivision.

These homes can be tremendous deals. Builders don't want and usually, can't afford to sit on inventory. It ties up cash they need to pay off loans and move forward with other projects. And, so they're typically priced attractively to start and an even better deal can be negotiated.

Unlike typical new construction, these homes may have the basement already finished. And you're likely to see a fair number of upgrades already included. And, if you don't like exactly what you see, don't be afraid to ask for what you want. While they're not going to gut the house and redo it to suit your taste, there is probably room for some changes.

True, there aren't as many of these bargains as there are foreclosures. But you also don't have as many of the problems as arise with a typical foreclosure. The odds of you settling on time and being in your new home when you expect to are exponentially higher with new construction. You're likely to receive an answer to your offer much more quickly. And there's much less likelihood of last minute deed problems.

There are still builders with inventory in most local counties, including Fauquier, Culpeper, Prince William and Loudon.

If I was a buyer in the market to buy, I'd be looking for some of these gems.

Where's The Money?

Feb. 23, 2009
Categorized in: Workforce Housing

Virginia was awarded $38.7 million from the federal government to buy foreclosed homes. This was part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. And, Virginia's been trying to get rid of it ever since!

The program is called the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The funds are designed to allow local communities to purchase foreclosed homes and then to rehabilitate, resell and/or redevelop these properties to stem the decline of housing values in a neighborhood.

And, even better, it's then possible to combine this with other programs to help local police, teachers, firefighters, etc. to become homeowners.

So, why is the Commonwealth having so much trouble giving this money away?

They recently sent representatives to the mid-year Virginia Association of REALTORs meeting to drum up interest among real estate agents. The Commonwealth has sponsored a series of seminars around the state to inform localities about the program and how to apply. And, still, much of the money goes unused.

I know it's not because local communities don't have a problem with foreclosures! Ask anyone in Lakeview in Culpeper if they'd like to see some homes bought up by the government to help stabilize housing prices!

So, I'm going to theorize why the money sits there.

1. Local governments view the burden of taking this project on as requiring too many resources. There is, of course, paperwork to be submitted. Appropriate neighborhoods must be found and data on the property values and vacancy rates obtained. The requirements state that a qualified pool of buyers must be available. Once homes are bought with this money, they must be rehabbed and then sold. Potential buyers must be screened, etc. This probably all sounds overwhelming to local governments already spread thin.

Solution: Partner with local real estate agents, Habitat for Humanity and other local groups who can contribute expertise. Form a task force to make this happen. I'll volunteer my time to make this work!

2. A belief that there aren't any neighborhoods that qualify. They're looking at neighborhoods that have somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% foreclosure rate.

Solution: But "neighborhood" is defined by the local entity and as long as you can justify why you chose that as a "neighborhood" it shouldn't be too hard to find areas that would qualify. Heck, last time I checked there were enough foreclosures in Rappahannock County to qualify!

3. The word hasn't gotten out and local governments don't know about the program.

Solution: I'm doing my bit here. I hope other bloggers will add their voices. Local press can help. And local communities of individuals who might benefit, i.e. teachers, police, fire fighters, can let their local governments know they'd like to see this program used here.

Looking Ahead to 2009

Dec. 30, 2008
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

How will 2009 play out? I can only speculate. In truth, this feels like one of the toughest years to predict. But I am undaunted! I'm going out on that limb to make some predictions.

I need to preface my predictions with a word about the overall real estate situation. There are two possibilities in 2009. The government could intervene in a meaningful way in the real estate markets. (Other than the Fed action earlier this month to say they’ll buy mortgage backed securities, federal intervention up until this point has definitely been NOT meaningful!) If they do that, the forecast, while not rosy, is for a market that’s beginning to stabilize. The other alternative is that the federal government does nothing about the real estate markets, the overall economy continues deeper into decline and there’s no end in sight. That produces a markedly more pessimistic forecast.

My forecasts here are based on scenario A, because I think that’s the likeliest outcome at this moment. The Obama administration appears poised to temporarily halt foreclosures. During that time the expectation is that measures will be put in place that would help prevent many foreclosures. Although whether it would prevent them permanently or delay them, it's hard to say.


Inventory, while declining in 2008, remains high for all counties by historical standards. But we’ve come down significantly from our highest point. The high point for inventory for most counties was mid-2007. (Rappahannock just hit their high.) At that point we had about 18 months to 2 years of inventory at the rate properties were being sold. Our inventory at the end of November (the last full month for which data is available) is down about 30% from our high point. Preliminary December data shows that number to still be falling. However, the rate of sales has also slowed so that we still, essentially have about a year and a half worth of inventory. There’s very little quality inventory at the lower price points, say, under $300K and what there is sells quickly. Above that price point things are very, very slow.

I expect inventory to continue to fall in December and January and then begin to climb in late February again. Some of this is normal. Typically spring and summer are when most people put their homes on the market. 2009 is likely to be the same as any other year in that regard. The thing to watch will be whether you see additional buyers coming out to buy up that extra inventory. I’ll also be watching what happens at price points above $300K and what prices are doing overall. And, if we do get a sharp increase in buyers, expect that to be followed by an even sharper increase in inventory as "shadow inventory" from frustrated sellers comes back on the market.
Prices are likely to stabilize this summer. (Again, this is assuming government intervention.) However, I would not expect any significant appreciation in 2009 or 2010. Prices will likely stay flat for several years. The lower part of the market will see the first price appreciation. Most sellers of owner occupied (meaning non foreclosures) will still have to lower their asking price in 2009. Average sale price has fallen roughly 40% in the last year. I’d expect to see a smaller decrease in 2009, perhaps 10% with most of that coming on properties over $400,000.


The total number of sales in 2008 in Fauquier County will be about 600, down from 630 in 2007. I believe that number will climb in 2009 to 645. In Culpeper, expect the 2008 number to be just below 600 and the 2009 number to be about 640. Prince William will close at about 8000 properties sold in 2008. Look for that to climb to 8800.


As with any projection, there are a multitude of factors that could make me look silly. The biggest factor impacting the real estate market next year will be foreclosures, the overall economy and what, if any, government intervention occurs. If I knew how all those would turn out, I'd be too rich to bother with selling real estate!
Here's to good fortune and happy lives to all in 2009! 





Culpeper's Future

Oct. 17, 2008
Categorized in: Culpeper County

I couldn't have said this better myself! Here, in the Culpeper Star Exponent is a framework for Culpeper's future.

I'd add that we should look at the transportation issues and work on better rail connections with these technology centers.

And, I'd add to his rationale for attracting high tech jobs that they tend to pay well enough for people to afford to buy homes, as opposed to service industry jobs.

The local real estate market could use that shot in the arm!

Local Farmers Markets

Aug. 21, 2008
Categorized in: Eating Local



As you're making plans for your weekend, don't forget to stop by one of the local farmers markets. Here's a list of some that I've been frequenting:

Nokesville Farmer's Market - I just discovered this one but already love it. Hours are 8 to noon on Saturdays. They take "local" seriously at this one. All vendors are from Prince William or Fauquier Counties.

Warrenton Farmer's Market - Great excuse to get into old town Warrenton. This is their 33rd year. See them downtown Saturday's from 7 a.m. to noon or on Wednesdays out on Lee Hwy from 7 a.m. until 1.

Culpeper Farmer's Market - At the corner of Main and Commerce every Saturday from 7:30 to noon. I've been very impressed by the great selection of heirloom vegetables here!

Clevenger's Corner Farmers Market - This is the newest addition having just opened last Friday. This is at the intersection of 211 and 229 in Amissville. They're open Fridays and Sundays from 4-7 p.m. for all you non-morning people!

And...I hear there will be a new one in Sperryville any day now! More to come on that.

If you've got others you'd like to see mentioned here, jump into the comments and let everyone know!


400 and Counting

May. 27, 2008
Categorized in: Local News

I'm going to take a moment today to acknowledge that this is my 400th blog post here! I've enjoyed every minute of it and have learned more than I would have thought possible!

It's been fun hearing from you. All of you are the reason this blog exists. The purpose remains the same now as it was at post number one. This is here to give you, the consumer, more access to information on real estate in general and on the Fauquier (Warrenton), Culpeper, Prince William, Rappahannock and Warren county real estate market.

The occasion of the 400th post is prompting some reflection and analysis and watch for some adjustments going forward that will hopefully make this blog even more relevant.

And, because I wanted today's post to have an upbeat feel, here's an article on what I believe is ultimately a very positive sign for the real estate market overall. Work outs for troubled mortgages have not been happening in anywhere near he numbers they need to. This points to better systems and processes to make that happen.

And, one more milestone occurs later this week. Next weekend I'll turn 50!


Cancelled Projects Equals Good News

May. 21, 2008
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

The Culpeper Star Exponent reports that two condominium projects slated for Culpeper have been pulled due to current economic conditions as well as the state of the local real estate market. It's not that Culpeper wouldn't be better off with more condominiums in the housing mix, but it's definitely the wrong time. For weary sellers, less competition is good news!

And, that's only a small piece of the good news in the real estate market.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have dropped their "declining markets" indicator. Since just about every local jurisdiction had been labeled a declining market that's big! This indicator meant buyers had to come up with more cash to buy homes in this area. In a market already starved for buyers, this was not helping! Don't expect a flood of new buyers as a result of this, but it should help out a few buyers who were short that extra cash.

And, let me leave you with one more piece of good news. No housing market is completely depressed or completely robust. There are always pockets that are thriving even in the toughest markets. One of those areas here is the rental market. Rentals that are well-priced and in good condition are moving, sometimes pretty quickly. The summer season should be a good one for the rental business. And some sellers might be well-advised to consider renting out their properties that aren't selling.

3rd Annual Alternative Energy Expo

May. 16, 2008
Categorized in: Green Building

There's lots to talk about today.

Saturday, in Warrenton, is the third annual Alternative Energy Expo. It runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Fauquier County Fairgrounds. Admission is $5. If you've been thinking about making your home and/or your life more "green" this is a great place to get ideas, talk to people who can help and get inspired! It's bigger and better than ever this year!

Most of you should have received in your mailboxes this week a circular called "Northern Piedmont - Buy Fresh - Buy Local". The Piedmont Environmental Council sent this to residents of Culpeper, Fauquier, Orange, Madison and Rappahannock counties. In it you'll find a guide to buying almost everything you eat locally from produce to meat, from farmers markets to CSAs to buying right on the farm. Great publication!

The WSJ has run a couple of very interesting real estate articles this week. First up was an article called "As Dues Dry Up, The Neighbors Pay" about how as no one is paying the HOA dues on vacant/foreclosed houses, other homeowners are having to swallow large increases in dues. It's another things buyers need to take a careful look at prior to buying.

The other article in WSJ was "Will Upgrading Your Home Help You Sell It?" and the results are clearly mixed. In a declining market I'd always argue that while you want your house to shine, you should never put in expensive upgrades. This article has some interesting details.

Piedmont Real Estate Blog

Blog by Julie Emery
Amissville, Virginia

An ongoing dialog on real estate news, opinion and trends in Northern Virginia and the greater Piedmont area. Julie is an Associate Broker at Frankly Real Estate Inc, 6304 Crossroads Circle, Ste 102, Falls Church, VA 22044


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