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Piedmont Real Estate Blog

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.

Can Anyone Afford to Buy Here?

Feb. 22, 2011
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

Housing Virginia has a great tool called Sourcebook that allows you to take a look at the affordability of housing in Virginia by county. And it allows you to look at the data in about a dozen different ways. I've looked at the local counties and it's an interesting picture.

First of all, I think you'll be surprised at the overall affordability of the homes in Culpeper, Fauquier, Rappahannock and even Prince William. The national standard for when a home is considered affordable is if the payments are less than 30% of a family's income. By that measure, all of these counties are easily rated as being affordable. And, renting is cheaper than owning in three of these counties. (Prince William is the exception.)

If you look at the Housing Cost Burden, you'll see that the burden appears to be easing in some of these counties. Prince William is a good example of that. This statistic measures how many households are paying more than 30% of their income in housing costs. Unfortunately, in places like Fauquier County, this number is not only too high, it appears to still be rising. (Although note that the data stops in 2009 for this statistic.)

One of the charts that paints the most dramatic picture of what's happened in our housing markets is the Loan Activity charts. For the most part, each county looks like a giant backwards check mark. Except that the short part of that check mark is pretty darned flat! Prince William even shows some additional declines after beginning to bounce back.

Overall, I recommend taking a good look at these statistics. They will be most helpful to anyone trying to decide whether to buy or rent right now. But they will give any buyer or seller a good snapshot of what our market looks like right now.

Local Government Role

May. 29, 2008
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

The Fauquier Times Democrat had an editorial this week that was right on the mark. This is a great opportunity for local governments to address affordable housing.

The editorial talks about what's being done in Prince William and Fairfax counties. The Prince William model may work better here. But maybe there's a third way.

I'd like to see a public/private partnership between Fauquier County and Habitat for Humanity. The two groups together could certainly do more than either group could on its own. And, while I mention Fauquier County here, because that's what the editorial addressed, this solution could just as easily be applied to Culpeper.

There's a growing inventory of vacant homes in the area. These vacancies hurt all existing homeowners. And, there's a huge pool of potential home owners that have been driven out of the market because of lack of affordability.

Seems to me there are potential solutions here for everybody!

Answering Your Questions

May. 22, 2008
Categorized in: Miscellaneous

One of the things I enjoy most about blogging is the interaction with readers. Whether it's your comments or your questions, I enjoy hearing what's on your mind. I thought I'd take a little time today to respond to some of what you've been saying.

Someone used the Meebo functionality on the right side of the page to chat with me about Fauquier County tax assessments. The question was has the county delayed the assessments so as not to take a revenue from the reduced values of area homes.

According to the County Commissioner of Revenue's office, the assessments have been done every four years, for at least the last 20 years. Prior to that assessments were done every six years. So it appears there's no change in policy at this time. The next assessments would be done in 2009 with the new rates to go into effect in 2010. The problem with that, of course, is that current values are no where near current assessments. There's a case to be made for appealing your current assessment.

"Sarah" recently reminded me that while the decline in home prices is bad for sellers, it's a great thing for buyers. That's very true. In every market there are winners and losers.

To be honest, I probably feel the sellers pain now more than I felt the buyers pain when they were desperately trying to buy a house and were one of 20 offers (or more)! The truth is I wasn't worried about them being thrown out on the street. I did worry that some of them were taking out mortgages that weren't in their best interest, but I was usually told that they knew what they were doing. These days, some of the sellers I work with are in very serious difficulty and I do worry about them!

So, if as a potential buyer you don't feel I'm sufficiently celebrating your ability to buy a house at a more affordable price, never fear! Prices actually still need to come down more. I'll do a post next week on affordability in our area. But I rejoice for every buyer who gets a great deal on the home they want!

And for my fellow agents who read this and keep me honest, thanks!

Keep those comments coming!


Impact Fees

Sep. 25, 2007
Categorized in: New Construction

In Commonwealth Magazine, the publication of the Virginia Association of REALTORS, there is an article this month that discusses the effect of impact fees on home affordability.

It quotes a study from the NAHB of saying that each $1,000 increase in the costs of home ownership reduces the number of prospective buyers by 217,000.

The implication of the article is that fees such as higher construction permit fees, tap fees, proffers required frombuilders and such things as the new taxes contemplated by some northern VA counties to pay for infrastructure are a bad thing.

Here's the problem with that implication. All of these fees, taxes, etc. are, in their own way, a way to offset the increased infrastructure required as new homes are built and new residents are added to an area. Increased population requires additional roads, schools, hospitals, sewers, etc.

Since all of these things have costs associated with them, the money has to come from somewhere. If you're not going to get that money from the builders making money off selling those homes, or from the new homeowners who, after all, will be the people utilizing those new services, who should pay?

The only people left, it would seem, are the existing homeowners. They would see an increase in their own taxes to help fund new infrastructure for the benefit of other people. It's hard to see anyone jumping on that bandwagon!

No one likes fees or taxes, regardless of their political persuasion, regardless of whether they use the services that those fees fund. But you can not simply continue to add population without infrastructure. And you can't expect existing home owners to absorb the entire burden. You're asking for an anti-growth backlash!

"Even modest impact fees can have a dramatic effect on housing affordability," says Jerry Howard, the CEO of NAHB.

I'm still waiting for his suggestion on who, then, should pay for the infrastructure!

I think we've all seen what happens when no one pays and construction continues and the services aren't there for the newcomers. Is everyone enjoying their commute from this area into northern VA and DC?

So, what do you think? How do we pay for infrastructure?

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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