Price range: $135,000-$279,000
Schools: Hollymead, Sutherland, Albemarle
Pros: location, affordability, schools
Cons: age of homes, some in need of updating
Where can buyers find three types of homes to choose from within the same subdivision, situated close to restaurants, big box discounters and gourmet coffee shops? In Hollymead, of course.
Located north of Charlottesville on Route 29, Hollymead offers a mix of attached homes, condos, detached homes, and even apartments with easy access to GE, NGIC, the North Fork Research Park, and the Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Airport. Community amenities include walking trails, a pool, fine dining at the Silver Thatch Inn, and both an elementary and a middle school within walking distance of many of the houses. Hollymead Association dues average around $520 per year and cover snow and trash removal as well as the upkeep of over 30 acres of common area, including Lake Hollymead.
The location and the schools are big draws for purchasers, according to Judy Savage of the Savage Team at RE/MAX Assured Properties. “It’s convenient to everything and if people want these school districts, Hollymead is more affordable than Forest Lakes,” says Savage, who has participated in a number of listings and sales in the community over the last couple of years.
“It’s walkable, it’s close to shopping, the yards are nicely sized, it’s geared for families, and a number of the homes are priced under $300,000," she says. "A lot of families find it very attractive because of the school system.”
Anything someone might find unattractive? Savage mentions the age of the homes, the majority of which were built in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s and reflect the designs and characteristics of those eras. “Some of the houses are beginning to show their age,” she says. “Some have already been updated while others are still in need of renovation, and that’s reflected in the asking prices.”
According to Savage, the Hollymead market has been brisk so far this year, a fact that comes as no surprise to her. “Even during the downturn, the houses tended to sell within a reasonable period of time,” she says.
Somer Chase, a small subset of Hollymead that features newer townhomes and offers the option of contemporary floor plans with exterior maintenance included for an additional $115 per month, is also seeing growth, says Joan Esposito, a realtor with Roy Wheeler Realty Co.
“As soon as they opened the Hollymead Town Center with Harris Teeter and Starbucks, things really took off,” she says. “Abingdon Place was in direct competition with these townhomes, but the Somer Chase community is smaller and more convenient and, of course, the schools are a big draw.”
For investors, there’s another positive. “The rental market there is huge,” Esposito says, “because a lot of people can’t afford to buy and it’s so much harder to get a loan.” The Somer Chase sales market, she adds, is still in recovery.
Hollymead Square Townhome Condominiums offer the most affordable ownership option in the neighborhood with 1, 2 and 3-bedroom floor plans.
Debbie Cash, managing broker of RE/MAX Affinity Group, has participated in numerous transactions in Hollymead Square— what she calls "a wonderful location and a very nice setting.” And unlike the units at Somer Chase, the condos at Hollymead Square are not subject to the Hollymead Association dues. “The maintenance fees depend on the size of the unit,” she explains. “And the residents have the option of joining the community pool if they want.”
The condos, like the detached homes in Hollymead, are in the process of being updated as the leases on the units owned by Hollymead Square LLC expire. “They redo everything,” Cash says, “including countertops and cabinet door faces.”
There are limitations, however. The condos are small, with current listings ranging from 958-1140 sq. ft. and the bedrooms, as Cash points out, are all upstairs. “A lot of people want something a little more modern with a first-floor master,” she says.
And then there’s financing, which can be tricky on condo purchases, especially in a community where a landlord owns and rents the majority of the units.
But this is Hollymead, and if a purchaser can’t find a suitable option among the available listings, there’s a fallback–– The Greens at Hollymead, which offers remodeled one, two, and three-bedroom apartments with a 24-hour fitness center and rent rates ranging from $964-$1086.