Our Turn

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Six years ago my mom passed away. My dad had been doing well since then on his 22 acre farm in Madison County, gradually turning over the mowing to a landscape company, leasing the front field to a neighbor for his cows, keeping the pool open and the place going for our family oyster roasts and pool parties where all five of the Ince families would gather with kids and grand kids, celebrating our good fortune and especially our father.

A simple stumble started the clock ticking. Broken ribs put Dad on oxygen. Team Ince went into motion, moving him downstairs, hovering to the point of pestering and scouting out retirement homes. Dad recovered fully but read the writing on the wall and began looking at his next step in earnest. The ball started rolling. 88 years of life needed to be reduced into a two bedroom apartment. Furniture, artwork and priceless trinkets had to be dispersed among five families, the house needed to be cleared and the farm needed to be sold.

We met each weekend at the farm, my sisters and I, beginning at the top, opening trunks with trepidation then sitting cross legged, facing each other, going through photos, laughing and crying equally as the fabric of our lives went into precious piles and trash bags. It has been a rich time for us, learning more about our parents and their history than we ever knew, refreshing childhood memories from the myriad of homes we lived in as a Navy family and realizing how strong a bond our parents instilled in each of us for the others, making the distribution of our family treasures a demonstration of love rather than division.

IMG_0442Ten weekends have passed and now the family farm, St Clair, stands empty, proud and clean, awaiting its new owner who has already stepped up. We’re “the kids” to Dad but now we have had a chance to take care of things for him and it has been a pleasure. His apartment at The Collonades is exquisite with his favorite things. His moniker, “The Admiral” gives him some well deserved status and pride and the process has been an affirmation that he and Mom brought “the kids” up right.

As our parent’s generation slips away it’s up to us to make the most of it. To celebrate well lived lives and to bring comfort and peace where we can. In the true world, that is our call now that our kids have flown and our elders can use our help. It’s our turn now, so let’s set a good example for our kids, for soon enough, it will be theirs.

Jump into Spring

A class act, Martha Fruehauf on Mistral

A class act, Martha Fruehauf on Mistral

The best buy in Virginia this Spring at more than $140,000 under the current tax assessment? This magnificent 1987 brick tudor on 18.4 acres of mostly open, fenced pastures and outstanding Blue Ridge Mountain views.

Brick tudor home for sale in madison county va

With lots of room, (6000+ finished square feet) for a large family and great open spaces for entertaining, this beautifully built four bedroom, four and one half bath home overlooks gently rolling pasture and a stocked pond. The property has been perfectly maintained and now offers an updated kitchen with new appliances and granite tops.

There is a full apartment on the terrace level, a stylish workshop/studio located near the residence, and an equipment barn with two turn-out stalls near the lower road frontage.

Fenced pastures on Madison County Horse Farm For SaleThis property is in the ideal location in Southern Madison County: less than one mile from US 29 with road frontage on two state roads. And the land is zoned R-1, adding significant investment options for the new owner. Impeccably maintained and priced to sell quickly at just $595,000.

View property listing for 325 Oneals Road, Madison VA
View listing brochure for 325 Oneals Road, Madison VA
MLS 510804

Reflections on CAAR Leadership role

It’s been a great year!

It’s been a great year!

This Thursday I will hand over the gavel of CAAR leadership to Anita Dunbar. I know I’m feeling a little less pressure than Anita is right now but equally confident she will reflect comfortably as I am right now, next year. CAAR President is a great job. It’s a job that garners respect in the community, respect from peers and respect within the state and national scene at NAR and VAR meetings and conventions. It’s a job where one gets to represent an organization that is 1000 strong and already known for a high bar of professionalism, a great body of good works in the community and a full stable of volunteers filling out the board of the directors, the working groups and teams with talent and enthusiasm. It’s a job where a remarkable Association Executive and her staff wait with pricked ears for anything they can improve upon.

And it teaches you a lot about real estate, what’s hot and what’s not from the who’s who in the industry, mastering data reports for the press, knowing that you know much more than you did last year.

Mostly it teaches you a lot about leadership, about listening, about asking for help and getting a grasp on the bigger picture, about working with people, giving credit and thanks when warranted, about standing firm when necessary.

Back in the saddle.

Back in the saddle.

It’s been a year of learning for me, a year that I will always take pride in and a year I am happy to put behind me as I join my esteemed colleagues in the past Presidents Circle. I pass the gavel to Anita Dunbar knowing she is ready, willing and able and CAAR is healthy, wealthy and wise. My secret?? Just show up!

What would you do with 50 acres?

Especially if it had all the right character for a vineyard?

Virginia vineyard property

Some beautiful rolling pasture for horses or cows?

Virginia farmland for sale

Building sites that will knock you socks off?

Charlottesville Virginia 50 acres pasture and forest for sale

Lots of water, springs and streams?

Virginia farm for sale with springs and streams

Beautiful hardwood forest?

50 acres forest and pasture for sale near Charlottesville VA

Even a charming 1920’s farmhouse?

Charlottesville VA 1920s farmhouse for sale

And 13 division rights?

Less than 30 minutes from Charlottesville?

Check it out.
mls 520933

Harvest

charlottesville country vineyard for sale

It’s that time  of year again when we reap what we sow, literally in the case of Virginia farmland. The corn is being threshed and spilled corn is gleaned from the side of the road by opportunistic birds and mammals knowing its time to start layering for winter. It looks like a third cutting of hay is coming off the hayfields but I’m not seeing cheaper hay prices.

Virginia hayfield virginia corn field

Virginia countryside

Soy beans are a bright yellow and the pumpkins are in the market and making appearances on front porches. The white grapes are being harvested from the vineyards with the reds a couple of weeks away yet. It’s fabulous time of year with weather you’d like to put up in a can to remember in February or Mid July.

virginia grape harvest

Madison County Horse Farm Price Reduction

Price Reduction: It Sounds Too Good to be True

What a buy! This beautifully crafted four bedroom, 4.5 bath brick home on 18.6 acres with Blue Ridge views seems almost too good to be true. Hillwood features a first floor master suite, three large bedrooms upstairs and a full apartment in the basement. There is a walnut paneled study with gun lockers and a wood burning fireplace, a dining room with fireplace, living room with fireplace and a wide open kitchen with new granite tops.

The 18.6 acres is mostly open with wide views to the southwest capturing brilliant sunsets over the Blue Ridge Mountains. The property is all fenced with three board horse fencing and includes a separate shop, equipment barn and a three stall stable. There is a stocked pond and a couple of acres of nice hardwoods for wildlife and firewood.

Pond at 325 Oneals Road, Madison VA

Located in Southern Madison County just off Route 29 for an easy 30 minute drive to Charlottesville and less than two hours to Washington DC. The motivated seller has just reduced the price $50,000 to $645,000, more than $100,000 under the county assessment.

View property listing for 325 Oneals Road, Madison VA
View listing brochure for 325 Oneals Road, Madison VA
MLS 510804

Happiness

The man who penned “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” into our Declaration of Independence must be smiling right now. Those unalienable rights, despite the inevitable disappointments, have flourished and we here in Charlottesville, Virginia are reaping the fruits of Thomas Jefferson’s hopes, dreams and brilliant plan like few places in this world.

downtown mall charlottesville va

From his beloved Monticello, which overlooks his University and the “Happiest city in America,” one can see the verdant farms still in place, one can feel the rich diversity below, living and loving together a little better each day. One can bask in music, art, fine food and Virginia wine while we celebrate America’s creativity, philosophy and intellect as our little town unfolds it’s riches and shares the passionate minds that call this place home.

virginia cornfield

We may not be the center of the universe but we are a bright spot on the map and we’re getting brighter every day. If we are to be known for anything 238 years after Thomas Jefferson proposed these truths to be self evident, “Happiness” pretty much covers all the bases. Pass it on.

First Quarter Market Report from CAAR

I just wrapped up my third radio interview about the first quarter market report from the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors. It’s a regular gig for the CAAR President and I was nervous about it at first but kind of like it now. It’s fine to read and get comfortable with the data but the richness comes from the discussions that ensue about what they really mean. First of all, having access to past presidents, current CAAR leaders, state and national movers and shakers and 30 of the finest minds in the business at the Nest Realty office is like having access to the Library of Congress when it comes to expertise in all the different market segments. What has become most obvious is that even in as small a market as ours, these broad statements cannot and should not be expected to apply universally. Each neighborhood, each region, has different dynamics and different levels of supply and demand. Ask the experts within those individual neighborhoods and you’ll learn even more about the best streets, the best builders,  the differences that truly apply to each home or property.


Audio not loading? Click here to listen to the interview on SoundCloud.

I have a few takeaways from not just this report but also my outlook, having soaked in CAAR leadership for a while. First, it’s a confidence that great Realtors are a vital part of our marketplace. When we have the opportunity to listen to true, experienced experts discourse on their area of expertise it’s obvious how much they can help the process and how blind one would be jumping in without that expertise at your side. Secondly, on a personal level I find myself much more of an expert than I was before I took on this leadership role. Being part of the process, looking over our market with a broad interest and even feeling some level of responsibility for it has turned me into a different Realtor, a better Realtor. There may never have been a more unlikely CAAR President than the John Ince most of my farm and estate colleagues have known for thirty years but I will say this now for anyone who thinks volunteering at CAAR is a waste of their valuable time: You’re missing something!

First Impressions

historic country residence

Preparing a country property for sale is a little more complicated than just staging a house. It’s all about first impressions and nothing says more about the stewardship of a property than the condition of the pasture and fencing. Well maintained fencing and nicely kept fields are often the first impression one gets as they enter a property and set the tone for the showing.

Broken fence boards, crooked gates and weedy pastures can make the difference between between a perception a fixer upper and well managed farm and often its just a weekend with some hand tools and mowers that turn the tide.

Split rail fences

If your property is large enough that we might drive upon the land, make that as easy as possible. Make sure the gates swing well and stay put as we drive through. If there is an ideal route for Realtors in their four wheel drive vehicles you might consider bush-hogging a route to follow especially if there is a dramatic building site they should see.

First impressions apply to your home as well so take care of peeling or faded paint, wobbly porch rails and muddy dog smudges. I have found country property buyers to be more forgiving of a home’s foibles when charm and character are evident so show off those old wood floors, that classic woodwork and those noisy old radiators. If there is a great view out that window make sure the curtains are open.

Mountain vista from the deck

Country property buyers are keenly interested in the land, often more so than the house, so make sure they have all the information they need to understand the property lines. A survey is the definitive tool but sometimes an aerial view of the property is the easiest to understand and can even show the shape and sizes of adjoining properties which is often of interest.

Bottom line, do what you can to make your property easy to show and to understand. Make sure your Realtor is a country property specialist who can convey the special features of your land and your home.

Charlottesville farms selling quickly

Orange County farm with mountain view and pond

For the second time this year I’ve had a new listing go under contract after the first showing.

This may not seem that remarkable to a residential agent specializing in homes close to Charlottesville in the $350,000 to $450,000 range where median days on the market are less than 50 days but for country properties it’s definitely noteworthy. The first was an Orange County horse farm on 18 acres listed for $795,000 and just last week a lovely Greene County farm with 85 acres listed for $849,000 went under contract within 5 days.

What is important to realize is that the instant the listing goes live, every buyer’s saved search that brackets the new listing lights up. This is no time for an overpriced listing or poor photos. This is the all important first impression. This is where that sense of urgency comes into play and a good listing, priced right, will get the attention and will sell. If the first impression is less than the best it can be, this one chance is past and can never be regained. There is a pent up demand right now as we unwind from four years of slow sales. For sellers, getting off to a good start has never been more important.

No news is good news!

Lawrence Yun and John Ince

John Ince and NAR Chief Economist Dr Lawrence Yun

Two days after I was installed as President of the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors our year end market report came out. Suddenly I found myself as the source for this vital information for all the media outlets in and around Charlottesville. I had my first bout of red light fright when the cute, local TV gal popped the first question that wasn’t on my notes. I stared at the camera for what seemed like an hour then ducked aside to make them start over. I was OK after that and felt downright snappy with my answers by the end of the day. By Friday evening I think I really was the expert they had been hoping for but all my interviews were done.

This is the jist of it. 2013 marked the second year in a row of increased number of sales, increased median prices, lower days on the market, happier clients and happier Realtors. It’s nice to bring such good news forward but Channel 29 didn’t even call on the report. Not only is much of the drama missing from real estate news with foreclosures and short sales down but “Real Estate Back to Normal!” doesn’t make a very good headline.

Tomorrow morning our Realtor Association is hosting Dr. Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtors Chief Economist who will address our membership and share with us  his expectations for our nations economy and how it will affect real estate. We expect to hear more of the same. It’s not a great headline but it’s real good news.

UPDATE: Our Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors hosted Dr. Lawrence Yun this morning and was all ears as he gave us a broad perspective about economic trends that will affect the housing market. We should expect a trend of rising interest rates, continued supply deficits and reliable appreciation of housing stocks. One of the most impressive statistics was the relationship of individual net worth of home owners vs, renters indicating that home ownership is at the core of personal financial security in America.


Looking at Land in the Winter

Anyone who has tried to walk their way through hay fields or woodland during high summer knows what a blessing the dormancy of winter can be, especially when it’s below freezing. It’s easy going in the winter without the threat of poison ivy, blackberry brambles or snakes and you can see all there is to see once the leaves are off the trees.

Pond on 165 acres of fenced farmland near Scottsville Virginia

Ever wonder what the view might be like if you cleared off a couple of trees? Ever wonder if you’ll see that neighbor’s house that seems so nicely screened with trees in the summer?

Camp Buckingham forest

Winter is the best time to look at land especially when it’s nice and frozen and mud is not an issue. Make sure you are aware of hunting seasons and enjoy walking the land without sweating the summer stuff.

Creek at Camp Buckingham

Speaking of land, there’s no better offering on the market right now than Camp Buckingham near Scottsville, 168 acres of fenced pasture and mature hardwood forest with significant timber value, two ponds, gorgeous building sites and lots of division rights. It’s a great value too at just $471,000. MLS# 512843.

Camp Buckingham land for sale near Scottsville VA