So you’re considering relocating to the Charlottesville area, but just how do you go about figuring out where to settle? North, south, east or west — which one suits you and your family best? Unsurprisingly, the answer depends on your individual wants and needs. Whether you dream of a sleek, modern, maintenance-free home, a tastefully refurbished cottage in the city, a bit of acreage where you can hone your homesteading skills, or an upscale residence overlooking a golf-course fairway, you can almost certainly find that dream home if you just know where to look.
Northern Albemarle offers a wide variety of housing choices including everything from new communities like Abington Place and Laurel Park, which feature attached, maintenance-free homes, to established subdivisions like Carrsbrook and Bentivar, where stately, spacious houses are situated on multi-acre lots. Easy access to the dining and shopping found along Route 29 North at Stonefield, Fashion Square and Hollymead Town Center, as well as proxmity to the airport, NGIC, GE and the North Fork Research Park make the neighborhoods in this part of the county a popular choice for many homeowners.
At the opposite end of the county, neighborhoods and developments are centered around the historic Downtown Mall, the UVA hospital and the University of Virginia Grounds. Dining and shopping options in this area tend toward the locally owned and eclectic rather than national chains, and there are several farmer’s market sites as well as a thriving music scene downtown. Housing choices range from the vintage bungalows found in Belmont and Woolen Mills to the new and affordable townhomes at Avon Park to the new and significantly less affordable choices at Bundoran Farm. Venture farther south down Route 29 and the landscape opens up and becomes more agrarian, with historic estates situated on significant parcels of land. In the southernmost portion of the county, the town of Scottsville allows residents to take advantage of the beauty and recreation afforded by the James River.
East of Charlottesville, the Pantops area offers shopping and dining of its own, as well as Darden Towe Park and the newly relocated Martha Jefferson Hospital. Venture a bit farther out and enjoy the fabulous scenery in the Keswick area, home to majestic estates, horse farms, vineyards, and even a newly established cidery. Housing options on the east side of town range from the affordable townhomes found at the Pavillions at Pantops to the gated communities of Glenmore and Keswick Estates, both of which are centered around country clubs and golf courses and homes that fetch multi-million-dollar sale prices. For those who want the showcase home without the neighbors or the HOA, properties like Airslie, most recently listed with over 500 acres for $11,750,000, pop up on the market from time to time.
Western Albemarle County has long had a reputation as a desirable place to live, due in no small measure to the natural beauty of such areas as Ivy, Crozet, and Free Union, all of which enjoy proximity to and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Whether you’re inclined toward an upscale condo in White Gables, an ivy-covered manse in the Farmington County Club community, or a significant estate in Free Union, there’s no shortage of upscale options in this corner of the county. For those seeking something more affordable, neighborhoods like Peacock Hill, Langford Farms and Meriwether Hills offer a variety of possibilities. Farther west in the town of Crozet, the Highlands at Mechums River, Bargamin Park, and Old Trail cover the housing spectrum. With dining options, vineyards, and numerous recreational opportunities, Western Albemarle remains a popular choice for many families.
Highs and lows
2013 saw a very slight increase overall in sales activity, but it was due to improvements in the outlying counties of the Charlottesville MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area), according to the 2013 Charlottesville market first quarter report produced by Nest Realty. Charlottesville city sales were down more than 26% year-over-year, and Albemarle sales were down more than 6%.
The bottom line
$227,500K is our median, says the CAAR (Charlottesville Albemarle Association of Realtors) 2013 1st Quarter Market Report.
Median sales prices for both Charlottesville and Albemarle were also down, although Nest reports that sales below the $250,000 mark were up, indicating that there are more buyers in the lower price ranges, a trend that pulled the median price down.
Good things and those who wait
Days on the market increased somewhat in the first quarter of 2013 with condos and attached homes taking slightly longer to sell than detached homes (144 DOM vs. 122). Inventory edged up somewhat, as well, although the number of distressed properties on the market decreased.
Show me the money
With over 20,000 sq. ft. of living space and a sales price of $9,650,000, the lovely Free Union estate of Tra Vigne took top honors as the area's biggest sale of 2012. With current listings like Anchorage Farm, listed at $11,900,000, Old Keswick Farm, presently offered at $12,000,000, and Emerald Hill, now at $13,995,000, there are several strong contenders for the 2013 top honor.
Not your average city
Smart, tasty, romantic, book-loving and great for the working woman — that's our fair city of Charlottesville. For a more comprehensive list of accolades, visit charlottesville.org and check the "Awards and Recognitions" section.
Area assessments, based by law on market value, have been steadily decreasing, providing some homeowners with much-appreciated tax relief while others find themselves "upside down"— owing more than their property is worth. The Equalization Board, a three-person, court-appointed body that has the power to adjust assessment amounts, may be able to help, but in many cases the solution may lie in the passage of time.
ALBEMARLE – Though Albemarle County experienced a 3.05% residential drop from 2011-2012, and that decline continued in 2013 with a decrease of 2.3% in fair market value. Assessor: Bob Willingham 296-5856
Apartment search: Prospective apartment dwellers can check the local inventory through the Blue Ridge Apartment Council or investigate Apartment Search of Charlottesville/Albemarle, which is published four times a year and is also available online (817-2000). Looking for a house rather than an apartment? Try the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors, CAAR at 817-2227. But since only members of the BRAC are listed, don't forget to check out the Hook's classified ads.
Rights and responsibilities: Students can get free advice from Student Legal Services (924-7524). UVA's housing office (924-6873) offers a pamphlet called "The Off-Grounds Living Guide" that explains city ordinances. Non-students might want to take a peek at the Virginia Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, which governs rental dealings.
Buying and selling
Real Estate Weekly: Among local real estate publications, this one has the greatest array of ads and even some how-to tips. 817-9330
Property search: The best local search engine is run by the local realtor group, the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors (817-2227), and is available on the CAAR website at the bottom of their homepage.
FSBO: The DIY way to sell a house that has worked in hot neighborhoods as a way to avoid paying that nettlesome six percent commission. For prospective sellers who don't want to go it completely alone, there are several discount brokers willing to help. Assist-2-Sell says it'll sell your house for as low as $2,995, HomeSell offers to do the job for 50% of the standard commission, and Help-U-Sell has a sliding scale.
Assessment data can be found online at gisweb.charlottesville.org or by phoning or visiting the City Assessor's Office on the top floor of City Hall. 970-3136.
The deeds are located a few blocks away in the clerk's office in the basement of the Circuit Court at 315 E. High St. 970-3766
Circuit Court Clerk: Llezelle Dugger
Assessment data can be found online at gisweb.albemarle.org or by visiting or phoning the County Assessor's Office in the County Office Building. 296-5856
The actual deeds are located on the second floor of the Courthouse Annex by Jackson Park in Court Square. 972-4083
Circuit Court Clerk: Debra Shipp
–>>For more info on neighborhoods, check out our Newcomer section.
Novice home buyers
Piedmont Housing Alliance (817-2436) is a regional nonprofit that offers free three-hour seminars to first-time home-buyers twice a month and shares information on various assistance programs including low-interest loans and the Albemarle Housing Program (296-5839). There's also a local chapter of Jimmy Carter's favorite house-building charity, Habitat for Humanity, 293-9066.
Can we build it? Yes, we can!
ALBEMARLE – The rules can be obtained from the Community Development Office in the County Office Building. 296-5832
CHARLOTTESVILLE – Taking a cue from Albemarle, the City also consolidated its zoning, building, and neighborhood offices intohttp://www.charlottesville.org/Index.aspx?page=3441 "> Neighborhood Development Services in City Hall. 970-3182
Can you dig it?
Call "Miss Utility" at 811 or 800-552-7001 at least 48 hours before you plan to dig, so you don't hit an underground pipe or wire and hurt yourself and/or others.
"I saw the sign"
When Albemarle County developers request a zoning change, officials put up a beige sign with a code number to alert neighbors about an upcoming public hearing. Besides checking the number online, interested citizens can call the Community Development Office (296-5832) for more information.
What's a proffer? There's no secretive or dirty trick involved; it's basically an above-the-table bribe from a developer to the County to get a zoning amendment. Check out all the proffers dating back to 1979 on Albemarle's website.
Relief for elderly/disabled
ALBEMARLE -- If you're 65 and over and/or permanently/totally disabled, make less than $69,452, and have a net worth under $200K (excluding your house), you may be eligible for real estate tax relief. 296-5851 x3442
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Similar situation. The City offers a "wealth" of relief measures for disabled and elderly homeowners and renters including a package administered by the Commissioner of Revenue that offers tax relief, free trash stickers, and several hundred dollars off one's annual utility bills. Must be 65 or over, and/or permanently/totally disabled, have an annual income of less than $50K, and a net worth of $125K or less (excluding your house) to qualify. 970-3160
Help for the other half
Farmette owners are notorious for taking advantage of something called "Land Use Taxation," which means that a mogul with an 8,900-square-foot palace can pay just $976 in taxes on his 50 acres if the land is devoted solely to agricultural, forestry, or open-space use. This is about as much as the owner of a one-acre lot in Forest Lakes pays. Defenders of the program claim the discount keeps Albemarle healthy and beautiful. Albemarle County supervisors decided to continue the program in 2008, but to ease some pain they required that participating farmers to "re-validate."
Probably the single most controversial land preservation program ever created. As the Biscuit Run state park deal revealed, they can be used not just to save land from development but to bail out millionaire speculators. Even Albemarle County buys development rights through its ACE, or Acquisition of Conservation Easements program. Learn more at 296-5832
Blue Ridge Home Builders Association– This trade association represents builders and suppliers, and every spring it hosts the three-day "Home and Garden Show" and the newly minted "Earthcraft House Tour," which features resource and energy efficient homes in various phases of construction. Every fall it sponsors the "Parade of Homes." 973-8652
PHAR - The Charlottesville Public Housing Association of Residents helps educate and empower low income residents about protecting and improving communities through collective action. 984-3255
PEC-- The Piedmont Environmental Council, although based in Warrenton, has a strong presence here as a voice for moderating growth and launching side projects like "Buy Fresh, Buy Local." 540-347-2334
ASAP– Advocates for a Sustainable Population goes farther than PEC as ASAP actually wants to stop growth. 872-0044
SELC – The Southern Environmental Law Center is a multi-state organization headquartered on West Main Street that tries to work from within all branches of government to conserve and sustain. Most recently, though, they lost a big battle when the state's transportation secretary suddenly decided to build the U.S. 29 Western Bypass. 977-4090