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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
I was honored on Thursday, January 9th by our Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors by being installed as their 2014 President. Thanks to decades of dynamic leadership by our dedicated members and tireless staff, CAAR is one of the most respected Realtor Association in the country. I will do my best to guide our Board of Directors and represent our Association during 2014.
Here’s your chance to be a stop on The Monticello Wine Trail. There are now over 200 wineries in Virginia and Virginia wines are impressing more and more critics in international blind tastings. South River Vineyard just north of Charlottesville is a small (seven acres) vineyard with mature vines growing in a near perfect Terroir (the set of special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place, interacting with the plant’s genetics, express in agricultural products such as wine, coffee and chocolate). South River Vineyard produces Chardonnay, Petit Mensang and Viognier grapes for several nearby wineries that have won significant awards with their exceptional fruit.
The vineyard is just a small part of this spectacular property of 92 choice acres overlooking the pristine South River Valley, nestled into the Blue Ridge mountains just south of Charlottesville, Virginia in Greene County. The current owners built a custom home on the property at the highest point overlooking the vineyards and the spectacle of this pristine valley where time seems to stand still. The home, with four bedrooms and three and a half baths, has been meticulously maintained and upgraded since it was built in 1992. Its timeless design and iconic Deck House quality assure it will stand for the ages. There is also a two bedroom manager’s residence above the equipment garage situated below the main residence.
Like most of the surrounding farms, South River Vineyard is protected with a conservation easement which precludes subdivision but allows for the construction of another residence and a winery that could be open to the public. All options are viable, from leasing the vineyard to a nearby winery for cash and wine, managing the vineyard and selling the fruit or expanding the vineyard and creating your own winery in one of the most spectacular settings in the Piedmont.
Please call or email John Ince for more details or to set up a tour of South River Vineyard.