A guest recently asked me to recommend restaurants in/near Cville. Here is my quick take. For a more complete list with addresses and phones, see the Restaurant page on my website, listed under "Cville." If you want to recommend that I add others, or if you have a bad experience at any of these, please let me know!HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL! Yates
Expensive: Fleurie - French - 4th St off downtown mall - intimate
Fossetts (at Keswick Hall) - gorgeous view (ask for window seat)
Med Expensive: Inn at Court Square - lovely olden ambiance and intimate setting - across from
Court Square on Jefferson St downtown
C & O - continental - downtown on Water St - very different settings upstairs (all
white decor, intimate, more formal) main (casual and fun, more spread out)
and lower levels (bar and few tables) ... menus & prices may differ: ask them
Ivy Inn - continental - continental leaning toward French - just west of town -
lovely with fireplace on main floor, up is nice too
Petit Pois - French - downtown mall - tiny (owned by Fleurie but different menu)
Pomme - French - intimate -in Gordonsville about half hour away
Boar's Head Inn - very traditional - 250 W just outside town - lunch normally a
buffet for $19-21 depending on whether you choose hot entree. Holiday meals
sure to be special and more expensive - large dining rooms Tastings - Market St off downtown mall by parking garage
Hamiltons - downtown mall - be sure to request a booth or the window nook as it
can be noisy
Moderate: Now and Zen - Japanese - just north of Market St downtown across from
McGuffey Art Center - be sure to call ahead as
they are no longer open for lunch and not every night for dinner Brasserie Saison - downtown maill - continental, mostly French/Belgian
Maya - Central American - West Main
Mas - (continental with tapas too) - Belmont
Tavola - Italian but broad-ranged - Belmont
Ten - Japanese - upstairs near Cville Arts - fun at night with a NYC industrial
Bizous - downtown mall - purports to be French but American traditional
Hot Cakes - Barracks Rd Shopping Ctr - order from counter - good food from
deli-styled display plus fabulous desserts
Sky Bar - upstairs over Commonwealth Restaurant (good though a bit crowded) on
downtown mall (enter from side street) - (outside bar/and some food - with view of mall makes it fun and different, with fireplace and plastic walls
Michie Tavern - Tavern from Jefferson’s time near Monticello, open at lunch (not
sure about evening) - Buffet style colonial food & waitresses in colonial garb
Water Street - off downtown mall at 5th & Water - tapas-style and regular
dinners. Chef is French. Slow service. Nice bar
Budget priced: Whole Foods buffet Foods of All Nations - choose and take to the cafe Chang's (good fairly authentic Chinese) - Barracks Rd
Tara Thai - Barracks Rd shopping center
The Nook - American - downtown mall
Revolutionary Soup - downtown mall - self-serve from counter - soup, salad, sandwiches plus wine & beer
Sal's Pizza - downtown mall beside Violet Crown Cinema - self-serve from counter - yummy interesting c hoices)
Lampo - pizza in Belmont (just over the bridge) - many people swear by this but I haven't tried it yet
Best bakery in town if you want a treat: Albemarle Bakery in Main St Market on W Main) Remember Hot Cakes as close second - Barracks Rd Shopping Ctr
Burgers: Zinburger at Barracks Rd
Citizen Burger on downtown mall Authentic old time burgers and atmosphere at Riverside Grill on High St near Free Bridge
Beer: Court Square Tavern - pub downstairs off Court Sq on 5th St - beers from around the world
Also: the “Brew Trail” of micro-breweries SW of Cville down VSH 151 - best views from
Blue Ridge Brewery
Wine: About 40 vineyards in the area: see the wine guide
My present favorites are:
King Family Vineyard in Crozet (polo matches warm seasons, great views)
Pippin Hill Vieneyard down VSH 29-S - splendid views
Veritas - Afton area west of town - feels European inside
Barboursville Vineyard - Orange Co NE of Cville - restaurant Palladio is super but
Keswick Vineyard - NE of Cville
Improved educational performance, higher civic participation, lower crime rates, and improved health remain the biggest social benefits linked to homeownership, according to a new research paper by NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun and research economist Nadia Evangelou, which appears in The Journal of the Center for Real Estate Studies. Some findings from the latest research cited in the paper include:
Health. Children of homeowners tend to be happier and healthier than children of nonowners, even after factoring in income and education levels. More recently, studies have found the wealth-building effect of homeownership and the sense of control it often brings in a stable housing market can positively affect homeowners’ mental and physical health. On the other hand, some studies suggest that areas where housing distress is high tend to see greater rates of mental health and stress-related health diagnoses among residents.
Crime. Research has confirmed homeowners have a lower instance of involvement in crime than nonowners. Also, neighborhoods with stable housing options—regardless of ownership structure—are more likely to have lower crime rates. Some studies have found, however, that foreclosure levels do influence burglary and violent crime rates.
Education. Researchers have found homeowners tend to accrue more wealth and save more money—such financial practices are associated with lower rates of homeowners’ children dropping out of school.
Civic engagement. Homeownership and residential stability continues to be linked with an increased likelihood of electoral participation. Homeowners remain more likely to participate in local elections and civic groups than renters, the paper states.
“Owning a home embodies the promise of individual autonomy and is the aspiration of most American households,” the researchers note. “Homeownership allows households to accumulate wealth and social status, and is the basis for a number of positive social, economic, family, and civic outcomes.”
Source: “Social Benefits of Homeownership and Stable Housing,” The Journal of the Center for Real Estate Studies (2017)
The federal government is increasing the limit for conforming mortgages from $417,000 to $424,100 in most regions of the United States starting Jan. 1, 2017, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced Wednesday—the first such increase since 2006.
The approximately 1.7 percent bump in the baseline conforming loan limit follows the FHFA’s announcement that the average U.S. home price has returned to its pre-decline peak, which it hit in the third quarter of 2007. The FHFA bases the loan cap on its quarterly Housing Price Index, which gauges average single-family home prices. The index rose 1.5 percent during the third quarter of 2016 and is up 6.1 percent over the past year, enough to push it above its previous high point.
Conforming loan limits are significant because they apply to home loans that meet the underwriting guidelines of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored entities that acquire mortgages from lenders and ensure a steady flow of money to the mortgage market. Interest rates for nonconforming, or jumbo mortgages, are generally higher than rates for loans that fall under the cap, and these types of mortgages can be more difficult to obtain.
“Today’s conforming loan limit increase is a much-needed recognition of rising home prices in high-cost markets, and a help to first-time and lower-income borrowers looking to utilize an FHA mortgage,” said NAR President William E. Brown. “Credit remains tight, but this decision will help more qualified buyers address the hurdles and high costs standing between them and the dream of homeownership.”
Conforming loan limits are higher than the baseline cap in parts of the country where home prices are especially high, but cannot be more than 150 percent of the baseline limit—$636,150 for 2017—for the contiguous U.S. Exceptions are established for Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where loan limits in specific locations may exceed that amount.
Maximum loan limits for 2017 are up in all but 87 counties or county-equivalents in the U.S., according to the FHFA.
A county-by-county list of conforming mortgage limits for 2017 is available on the FHFA’s website.
More borrowers took advantage of low mortgage rates last week but housing experts say mortgage applications should be much higher.
Total mortgage applications – including those for refinancings and home purchases – rose 2.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis compared to the previous week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports. Most of that increase was due to an uptick in refinance applications, which increased 4 percent week-over-week.
“The last time [mortgage] rates were at these levels, the refi index was almost twice as high,” says Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist. “At these rate levels, there are borrowers who still stand to benefit, but there are many home owners who have already taken advantage of refinancing and are not yet incentivized to do it again.”
MBA reports the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage held steady last week at 3.67 percent, still hovering near lows.
Meanwhile, applications last week for home purchases rose slightly by 1 percent and are 5 percent higher when compared to a year ago.
“The weak level indicates few home buyers in the market, likely due to the short supply of homes for sale and higher prices,” CNBC reports.
Mortgage applications have been slowing over the past few months.
"As the economy reaches full employment, the pace of job growth is slowing, and this will slow the growth in purchase activity as well, but we do continue to expect growth in home sales going forward," Fratantoni says.
Source: “Mortgage Applications Up 2.8% But Refinancing Applications Should Be Higher,” CNBC (Aug. 31, 2016)
Home sales will grow modestly this
year, but a continuing inventory shortage will keep upward pressure on
prices and make it hard for many people to buy, even though interest
rates remain low. That's according to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun,
who spoke to members Thursday morning at the 2016 REALTORS®?Legislative
Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C.
Read more: If They Don't Build Homes, You Can't Sell Them
Read more: If They Don't Build Homes, You Can't Sell Them
Yun predicted existing home sales will rise to 5.5 million at the end
of the year, up slightly from 5.4 million last year. New-home sales
will rise to 540,000 units from half a million, but because that segment
of the market is currently so far below historical levels, the gains
won’t come close to closing the inventory gap, Yun said.
What’s more, most new homes are at higher price points, exacerbating
affordability struggles for first-time and moderate-income home buyers.
Yun said larger homes are the most profitable for builders, who have to
worry about meeting local ordinances and other costs. He added that most
new homes come on the market at more than $300,000.
The West saw home prices rise 35 percent over the last three years,
making that the least affordable part of the country and dampening sales
there, he said. While sales increased almost 20 percent last year in
the Northeast, they dropped almost 10 percent in the West.
Inventory shortages continue to be a main driver of price increases,
which were almost 7 percent nationally last year. The increase far
outpaced wage gains, which were up only about 2 percent. Yun is
forecasting prices to rise another 4.5 percent this year.
Continuing low interest rates are a bright spot, but Yun warned that
when inflation picks up, mortgage rates will follow suit. Yun said
today’s low consumer price index (CPI), at about 1.7 percent, doesn’t
reflect the rise in prices people are seeing on everyday items because
low gas prices are keeping the broader index down.
But CPI won’t stay low forever. Yun said the monthly rental rate
tenants pay is going up (almost 4 percent this year, a seven-year high)
and that will send the broader index up. When that happens, the Federal
Reserve will raise the short-term interest rate it charges banks, which
in turn will impact mortgage rates.
Right now he’s forecasting mortgage rates to be at 3.9 percent at the
end of this year, about where they were last year, and to rise to 4.6
percent in 2017. Yun identified 6 percent as a mortgage-rate threshold,
noting anything much higher than that will curb home sales. “If rates
get to 7 or 8 percent,” he said, “watch out.”
Bottom line: Look for modest market growth this year and next, but as
long as inventory shortages persist, homes will become increasingly
unaffordable. Once mortgage rates start going up, which they could do as
rental rates continue rising, sales will be hurt.
—Rob Freedman, REALTOR® Magazine
—Rob Freedman, REALTOR® MagazineCharlottesville Area Market:Charlottesville is experiencing several of the factors discussed in this article. While home sales have been brisk so far this year, the inventory continues to be less than we could hope for. So attention Sellers: it is not too late to put your house on the market. Please contact me and we can evaluate your particular situation.The current favorable rates probably won't last much longer as the Fed is forewarning of increasing interest rates which, in turn, will nudge up real estate loan rates. With every increase in loan rates, a buyer could have afforded more home for the same payment as will be necessary with each increased rate hike. So attention Buyers: Don't wait for prices or rates to drop because neither should happen. Local housing prices have been rising rapidly this year and should continue to do so.
On the heels of last week's decision
by the Fed to keep rates unchanged, mortgage rates dropped slightly
this week, after four straight weeks of increases.
“The Federal Reserve’s decision last week to maintain the current
level of the Federal funds rate combined with the reduction in their
forecast for growth triggered a 3-basis point drop in the 10-year
Treasury yield,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “As a
consequence, the 30-year mortgage rate declined 2 basis points to 3.71
percent. However, comments this week by several members of the Fed,
including the presidents of the Richmond, San Francisco, and Atlanta
banks, indicated that a June rate hike is still on the table.”
Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending March 24:
Source: Freddie Mac
Charlottesville Area Year-End 2015 Highlights:
You cut coupons to save at the grocery store, maybe put money away in a jar for a special purchase, but are you doing anything to save on your home expenses? This infographic has a few tips you can use to make your home more efficient and keep money from falling through the cracks.
Inspired to make things greener? Find out more information on the Department of Housing and Urban Development‘s home improvement page. For information on financing, visit SunTrust, Avant and Wells Fargo
Upgrade Your Lights
Make the switch to LED bulbs
Unlike appliances and other energy-efficient products, LED bulbs that are Energy-Star rated are rated for quality as well as efficiency
LED bulbs feature many benefits like:
ROI – 100% in 24.9 months
Level of difficulty – Easy
Install Reflective Roofing
Reflective roofing can help you lower your energy costs by reflecting light and heat away from your home
Reflective roofing feature many benefits like:
ROI – 75%
Level of difficulty – Difficult.
You will need to hire professional roofers
Upgrade Your HVAC
Cleaning your HVAC system at least once a year will keep it operating smoothly
You can also make upgrades to your HVAC system:
Level of difficulty – Medium
Buy New Windows and Doors
New windows and doors can dramatically reduce the amount of heat loss or gain you experience in the winter and summer
Up to 40% on energy costs, depending on window efficiency and installation method
ROI – 85% for windows
98% for doors (depending on quality and construction)
Level of difficulty – Medium to Difficult
The differences between buying and renting are massive. According to
the Federal Reserve, a typical homeowner’s net worth was $195,400,
while that of renter’s was $5,400. The data reflects 2013 and the next
survey of household finances, which is conducted every three years, will
be out in 2016. Based on what has happened since 2013 and projecting a
conservative assumption of what could happen next year to home prices
if we see only 3% price growth, the wealth gap between homeowners and
renters will widen even further. The Fed is likely to show a figure of
$225,000 to $230,000 in median net worth for homeowners in 2016 and
around $5,000 for renters. That is, a typical homeowner will be ahead of
a typical renter by a multiple of 45 on a lifetime financial
Though there will always be discussion about whether to buy or rent,
or whether the stock market offers a bigger return than real estate, the
reality is that homeowners steadily build wealth. The simplest math
shouldn’t be overlooked. A vast majority of homebuyers take out a
30-year fixed rate mortgage to make a home purchase. After 30 years,
there is no mortgage payment (nor rent payment). So the home price
growth over that time period would be the equity that the homebuyer
would have accumulated. For example, the median home price of a
single-family dwelling in the U.S. thirty years ago in 1985 was $75,500.
This year, it will be at least $220,000. That figure of $220,000 is the
housing component of the person’s wealth. Even had home prices not
risen, the person would still have $75,500 in wealth today – on top of
not paying any further monthly mortgage after 30 years.
This simple example does not play out nearly as neatly in the real
world, since people do not stay in one residence over the 30 year
period. Almost all homeowners trade up, change neighborhoods, or move to
a better school district at some point. However, they are able to make
those residential relocations due to the housing equity accumulated,
even over a shorter period, and can immediately apply that equity to the
next home as a downpayment. Therefore the conditions of steadily
building housing wealth still hold.
We also know that not everyone can or should be homeowners. The
memories of easily accessible subprime mortgages and subsequent harsh
foreclosure pains are still fresh, and remind us of the devastating
impact on the families involved, local communities, and to the broad
economy. In addition most young adults have not developed the financial
standing or have found a stable, desirable career and, therefore, choose
not be homeowners until later. The homeownership rate among households
under the age of 35 is 35% currently and rarely rises above 40%
historically. For those under the age of 25, the current ownership rate
is 23% and rarely rises above 25%. But the time will eventually come
when people want to convert to ownership. By the time people are in
their prime-earning years of 45-to-55, nearly three-fourths do
eventually become homeowners. By retirement, nearly 80% are homeowners.
Read the rest of the article at Forbes >
Yun is Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research at NAR. He
directs research activity for the association and regularly provides
commentary on real estate market trends for its 1 million REALTOR®
Virginia is home of the
"half backs" -- retirees from the north who tried out Florida, decided
it wasn't for them, and then came halfway back up the coast.
With its lush landscapes,
including the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains in the west and lovely
coastline to the east, experts say it's easy to see why. And while
Florida and other states to the south's hot and humid summers can be
tough on the over-65 set, Virginia offers a comparatively milder climate
all year round. Combine that with the state's plethora of recreational
activities and urban amenities, and advisers say you have a retiree's
paradise. "Virginia has a good climate, lots of colleges, beautiful
natural scenery, and you can golf nine or 10 months of the year here,"
says Robert G. Topping, a financial adviser at Covenant Wealth Advisors
Virginia has its financial perks, too. The median
home here goes for just $238,000, while state and local income taxes
are below those the national average. Sales tax is about 5%, compared to
6.8% on average across the country. And while cost-of-living in the
state in 8% above the national average, according to Sperling's Best
Places, it's far less pricey than many states to the north. Retirees who
are looking to continue working may also be in luck, as unemployment
statewide is only about 6%.
with any state, there are drawbacks. Millions of tourists descend on
the state each year -- Virginia Beach has more than 5 million annually,
while Colonial Williamsburg gets 1.7 million -- making some areas less
than ideal for retirees seeking quiet golden years. On top of that, some
of the most popular retirement spots are some of the state's least
affordable. In Williamsburg, for instance, the median home price is
$418,000 and the cost of living is 40.1% higher than the national
average, according to Sperling's Best Places.
But that doesn't
mean retirees can't find a beautiful beach community or mountain town
without breaking the bank. With the help of financial advisers and
natives of the Old Dominion State, SmartMoney.com identified four spots
that have all the charm and natural beauty of historic Williamsburg, but
at a fraction of the cost.
in the southwest corner of the state amid the Blue Ridge Mountains,
Roanoke offers some of Virginia's most beautiful landscapes, including
breath-taking mountain views and wandering miles of rivers and creeks.
The proximity to the mountains make Roanoke a hiker's haven, says Joyce
E. Williams, a retired school administrator who lives in town. The
Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club maintains more than 100 miles of trails
in the area and there are also more than 20 miles of riverfront hiking
and biking paths right in town. An hour's drive away is Smith Mountain
Lake, which has 500 miles of shoreline and is popular among boaters. All
this outdoor beauty comes at a significantly cheaper price than many
mountain towns like Boulder, Colo., or Lake Tahoe: Retires will pay just
$127,000 for the median home and the total cost of living is nearly 13%
lower than average.
Cultural activities in
Roanoke are a step above some other outdoorsy spots in the state, too,
says Williams. In addition to the symphony, ballet and opera, Roanoke is
home to the new Taubman Museum or Art -- designed by L.A. architect
Randall Stout, who once studied under Frank Gehry. Exhibits in
photography, painting and sculpture have attracted more than 300,000
visitors since the museum opened in late 2008.
But while Roanoke
does have its share of museums and stores, some residents complain the
shopping could be better (they hit up Richmond, about 2 ½ hours away, to
get to more large department stores and other big-city shopping
options). And the airport has direct flights to just nine cities.
Roanoke offers retirees many opportunities to get involved in the
community, Williams says. There a great number of neighborhood
associations and retirement communities in the area that can help
retirees easily integrate, she says. Volunteers can sign up with the
well-regarded League of Older Americans, which helps disadvantaged
seniors in the area or become a docent at the city's many museums.
understand the allure of Winchester, one must step back centuries. It
was here that the Pennsylvania Quakers came to settle in 1732; here that
George Washington had his first job, first military post, and first
elected office; here that six Civil War battles were fought (the city
was so important to both sides during the war that it changed hands more
than 70 times during the conflict). And it is here that the
history-loving retiree should consider settling, residents say.
One can easily get
lost in retro-thought in the 45-block historic district, which is paved
with old red-brick roads and dotted with landmark buildings from the
1800s. Many are drawn to the Old Court House Civil War Museum, built in
1840 that now features 3,000 artifacts and an exhibit of soldier-written
graffiti. There is also the George Washington Office Museum, an 18th
century building that's devoted to the first president's early years,
and the Patsy Cline Historic House, the former residence of the legend
country singer. "Lots of retirees volunteer to be docents at the many
museums here," says Renee Bayliss, the visitor and community relations
specialist for Winchester-Frederick County.
Though retirees enjoy all of these
historic offerings, some say the slower pace and affordable lifestyle
are just as important. The town has dozens of restaurants and shops and
even a few art galleries, but residents describe the surrounding area as
rustic. "It's a small town with a rural countryside surrounding it,"
says Bayliff. And it's not only tiny, but it's pretty homogeneous --
nearly three in four residents are white, according to City-Data.com.
no accident we've put two towns known for their past on this list --
history is Virginia's lifeblood. But living in Charlottesville is quite
different from living in Winchester, largely because it's home to the
top-rated University of Virginia, which gives the town a livelier,
This is a place where
many retirees proudly keep up with their studies. UVA offers the Osher
Lifelong Learning Institute with courses ranging from "21st Century
Retirement: Strategies for Women" to "Mediation: Why It Works." There is
also plenty of art and culture, says Brigitte Bélanger-Warner, the
director of sales & marketing at the Charlottesville Albemarle
Convention & Visitors Bureau, including annual opera and book
festivals as well as a lively, eclectic music scene. Independent
bookstores and coffee shops line the student-filled pedestrian mall
downtown. And Charlottesville sits in an award-winning wine region, a
fact Thomas Jefferson, who brought the first vines to the area, would
surely be proud of, says Bélanger-Warner.
historic claims to fame are Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate and Ash
Lawn-Highland, the home of James Monroe. The Rotunda, UVA's
centerpiece, is a brick-and-white-columned building designed by
Jefferson that is now a United Nations World Heritage site.
the outdoors lover, the Shenandoah National Park is a popular spot for
hikers (although the Skyline Drive -- which takes visitors through the
park -- gets crowded in the summer and fall), as is the Appalachian
Trail, which runs through the area. The artsy, youthful energy here
mixes with history and the outdoors in a way that produces a unique
retirement, Belanger-Warner adds. Charlottesville also has a major
airport and two major hospitals.
Beach is a popular spot for active retirees, especially former members
of the military, says Marc Davis, a spokesman for the city. (The area is
home to five military bases and is next door to Norfolk's large naval
base.) "We have one of the highest concentrations of military retirees
in the country," he says.
Many retirees flock to
the city's 35 miles of wide, white sandy shoreline and other natural
wonders such as the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, with its
thousands of acres of marsh and dunes. Hikers can walk through the
trails along the waters in First Landing State Park, the most visited
park in the state. And athletic retirees will find they're not alone.
The area hosts the nation's longest running surf competition and Men's
Health magazine ranked Virginia Beach as one of the fittest cities in
There is plenty to do beyond the beach. The heart of the
city's entertainment is Town Center, a 17-city block area with
shopping, restaurants, music venues and the Sandler Center for the
Performing Arts. When the grandkids come to visit, take them to the
Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center or the observation area in
POW/MIA Flame of Hope Memorial Park, where they can watch fighter pilots
do aerial acrobatics. But despite all these offerings, and its bustling
Town Center, most of the city has a suburban feel, says Davis. "You can
have a quiet retirement here but still have lots to do."
beach-meets-city lifestyle brings one big downside: crowds, especially
in the summer on weekends. Each year, roughly 5.5 million visitors spend
the night in the area, says Davis. But retirees say they simply escape
to the quieter suburbs to avoid the crowds. Escape is made easier by the
fact that Virginia Beach has a large airport nearby.
The average completion time of a
single-family home is about seven months, according to the 2014 Survey
of Construction from the Census Bureau. That includes around 25 days
from authorization to start and then another six months to finish the
Read more: Average Wait Time for New Home: 6 Months
Read more: Average Wait Time for New Home: 6 Months
The average build time of single-family homes built for sale and
built for rent has grown by one month longer in the latest data from
2014, compared to a prior 2012 analysis.
Homes constructed for sale took the shortest time to complete at six
months, while homes built by owners averaged the longest time at 11.5
months. Homes built for rent averaged between nine and 10 months to
However, timelines for new-home construction fluctuate greatly
depending on location. The Middle Atlantic region had the longest
building times at 9.5 months, followed by New England at nine months,
and Pacific and East North Central regions at eight months. On the other
hand, the shortest construction times were found in the Mountain region
of the U.S. at six months. That region also had the shortest amount of
days from building permit to when construction started at an average of
Source: "How Long Does It Take to Build a Single-Family Home?" National Association of Home Builders Eye on Housing (Aug. 17, 2015)
Media Contact: Adam DeSanctis / 202-383-1178 / Email
(August 11, 2015) — A promising climb in home sales throughout the
country amidst insufficient supply caused home prices to steadily rise
in most metro areas during the second quarter, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of Realtors®.
The median existing single-family home price increased in 93 percent of measured markets1, with 163 out of 176 metropolitan statistical areas2
(MSAs) showing gains based on closings in the second quarter compared
with the second quarter of 2014. Thirteen areas (7 percent) recorded
lower median prices from a year earlier.
The number of rising markets in the second quarter increased compared
to the first quarter, when price gains were recorded in 85 percent of
metro areas. Thirty-four metro areas in the second quarter (19 percent)
experienced double-digit increases, a decline from the 51 metro areas in
the first quarter. Nineteen metro areas (11 percent) experienced
double-digit increases in the second quarter of 2014.
NAR chief economist, says the housing market has shifted into a higher
gear in recent months. "Steady rent increases, the slow rise in mortgage
rates and stronger local job markets fueled demand throughout most of
the country this spring," he said. "While this led to a boost in sales
paces not seen since before the downturn, overall supply failed to keep
up and pushed prices higher in a majority of metro areas."
Adds Yun, "With home prices and rents continuing to rise and wages
showing only modest growth, declining affordability remains a hurdle for
renters considering homeownership — especially in higher-priced
The national median existing single-family home price in the second
quarter was $229,400, up 8.2 percent from the second quarter of 2014
($212,000). The median price during the first quarter of this year
increased 7.1 percent from a year earlier.
The five most expensive housing markets in the second quarter were
the San Jose, Calif., metro area, where the median existing
single-family price was $980,000; San Francisco, $841,600; Anaheim-Santa
Ana, Calif., $685,700; Honolulu, $698,600; and San Diego, $547,800.
The five lowest-cost metro areas in the second quarter were
Cumberland, Md., where the median single-family home price was $82,400;
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio, $85,000; Rockford, Ill., $94,700;
Decatur, Ill., $96,000; and Elmira, N.Y., $98,300.
Total existing-home sales3, including single family and
condo, increased 6.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of
5.30 million in the second quarter from 4.97 million in the first
quarter, and are 8.5 percent higher than the 4.89 million pace during
the second quarter of 2014.
"The ongoing rise in home values in recent years has greatly
benefited homeowners by increasing their household wealth," says Yun.
"In the meantime, inequality is growing in America because the downward
trend in the homeownership rate means these equity gains are going to
At the end of the second quarter, there were 2.30 million existing homes available for sale4,
slightly above the 2.29 million homes for sale at the end of the second
quarter in 2014. The average supply during the second quarter was 5.1
months — down from 5.5 months a year ago.
Metro area condominium and cooperative prices — covering changes in
61 metro areas — showed the national median existing-condo price was
$217,400 in the second quarter, up 3.1 percent from the second quarter
of 2014 ($210,800). Fifty metro areas (82 percent) showed gains in their
median condo price from a year ago; 11 areas had declines.
Rising home prices weighed on affordability in the second quarter
compared to the second quarter of last year despite an uptick in the
national family median income ($66,637)5. To purchase a
single-family home at the national median price, a buyer making a 5
percent downpayment would need an income of $49,195, a 10 percent
downpayment would require an income of $46,605, and $41,427 would be
needed for a 20 percent downpayment.
NAR President Chris Polychron,
executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., says
Realtors® are reporting strong competition and limited days on market
for available homes — especially at the entry-level price range. "Buyers
should work with their Realtor® to deploy a negotiation strategy that
helps their offer stand out," he said. "If a bidding war occurs, it's
important for the buyer to stay patient and only counteroffer up to what
he or she can comfortably afford. It's better to walk away and wait for
the right home instead of being in a situation where one has purchased a
home above their means."
Total existing-home sales in the Northeast increased 10.3 percent in
the second quarter and are 8.6 percent above the second quarter of 2014.
The median existing single-family home price in the Northeast was
$269,300 in the second quarter, up 5.2 percent from a year ago.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales jumped 13.4 percent in the second
quarter and are 12.7 percent higher than a year ago. The median
existing single-family home price in the Midwest increased 8.7 percent
to $182,000 in the second quarter from the same quarter a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the South fell rose 1.1 percent in the second
quarter and are 6.3 percent above the second quarter of 2014. The median
existing single-family home price in the South was $202,900 in the
second quarter, 8.7 percent above a year earlier.
In the West, existing-home sales climbed 8.1 percent in the second
quarter and are 8.1 percent above a year ago. The median existing
single-family home price in the West increased 9.6 percent to $325,200
in the second quarter from the second quarter of 2014.
The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate,"
is America's largest trade association, representing 1 million members
involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate
# # #
NOTE: NAR releases quarterly median single-family price data for
approximately 170 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). In some cases
the MSA prices may not coincide with data released by state and local
Realtor® associations. Any discrepancy may be due to differences in
geographic coverage, product mix, and timing. In the event of
discrepancies, Realtors® are advised that for business purposes, local
data from their association may be more relevant.
Data tables for MSA home prices (single family and condo) are posted at http://www.realtor.org/topics/metropolitan-median-area-prices-and-affordability.
If insufficient data is reported for a MSA in particular quarter, it is
listed as N/A..
Everyone knows the three main rules when it comes to real
estate: location, location, location. But analysts say that old adage
needs a new word for the selling points that make homes valuable to
consumers: "walkability." That's for living in walkable areas.
According to City Observatory,
a Portland, Oregon-based website that analyzes urban regions and policy
issues, growing demand for housing in walkable neighborhoods has
ignited the resurgence of cities across the U.S.
"One of the best sources of evidence of the value of walkability is home values," the site said in a recent commentary,
"and some new evidence confirms that walkability adds to home values,
and also shows that walkable homes have held and increased their value
more even in turbulent real estate markets."
Several factors are
behind this shift for demand to urban areas. America's decades-long love
affair with cars, and especially with commuting from suburban to urban
centers, has cooled off. And analysts suggest
that younger workers want to save the time and money their parents
previously spent on automobiles by living in areas where they have ready
access to shopping, entertainment and public transportation.
This trend has been underway for some time now. A 2013 Community Preference Survey
by the National Association of Realtors found that 57 percent of
respondents would prefer houses with smaller yards and shorter commutes
to work, while 55 percent said they'd go with the house/smaller yard
equation if it meant and "an easy walk to schools, stores and
The overall economy is another consideration. The Brookings Institution reports
that as of last year, only 60 percent of the world's metropolitan areas
had recovered to their prerecession levels of employment and per-capita
GDP. And that economic uncertainty is making city life more attractive
to many workers who also have to deal with a very competitive job
"In today's environment, the association between job
growth and smart growth is coming more and more into focus," reporter
Brad Broberg wrote on the National Association of Realtors website.
you find the features of smart growth -- walkability, access to
transit, a mix of uses, compact development -- you often find job
growth," he continued. "The opposite is also true. How communities
respond to the choices and opportunities created by this dynamic can
make a big difference in their ability to compete in a new and
As home prices rise, more home
owners are regaining equity. During the first quarter of this year,
about 254,000 properties regained equity, according to CoreLogic’s
latest equity report. That now brings the total number of residential
properties with a mortgage that have equity to about 44.9 million – or
90 percent – by the end of the first quarter.
5 States With Highest Negative Equity
Five states alone accounted for 31 percent of negative equity in the
U.S., according to the report. Those states with the highest percentage
of properties with a mortgage in the negative equity position in the
first quarter are:
Nevada: 23.1%Florida: 21.2%Illinois: 16.8%Arizona: 16.8%Rhode Island: 15.7%
5 States With Highest Negative Equity
Five states alone accounted for 31 percent of negative equity in the
U.S., according to the report. Those states with the highest percentage
of properties with a mortgage in the negative equity position in the
first quarter are:
“About 90 percent of home owners now have housing equity and, as a
result, have experienced an increase in wealth, which can spur
additional consumption and investment expenditures,” says Frank Nothaft,
chief economist for CoreLogic. “The remaining 10 percent of owners with
negative equity will find their home value rising while they continue
to pay down principal on their amortizing mortgage loan.”
The still elevated number of home owners who have negative equity
remains a concern, however. The number of negative equity households
stood at 5.1 million, or 10.2 percent of all properties with a mortgage
in the first quarter of this year, according to CoreLogic’s report. That
represents a slight drop from 5.4 million homes, or 10.8 percent, that
had negative equity in the fourth quarter of 2014.
“Many home owners are emerging from the negative equity trap, which
bodes well for a continued recovery in the housing market,” says Anand
Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “With the economy improving
and home owners building equity, albeit slowly, the potential exists
for an increase in housing stock available for sale, which would ease
the current imbalance in supply and demand. There are still about 5
million home owners who are underwater and we estimate that a further 5
percent appreciation in home values across the U.S. would reduce the
number of owners with negative equity by about one million.”
The following states had the highest percentage of properties in the positive equity territory by the end of the first quarter:
In general, the majority of positive equity properties are centered
at the high end of the housing market, according to the report. For
example, 94 percent of homes valued at greater than $200,000 have
equity, compared with 85 percent of homes valued at less than $200,000.
Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia, is a college
town with a growing appeal to retirees fleeing the congested,
high-priced suburbs of northern Virginia and the Northeast. Baby boomers
from Washington, Philadelphia, New York and other big cities seem
delighted to find this central Virginia combination of livability,
affordability and sophistication.
The four-season climate in Charlottesville is inviting to many
retirees. In one survey of weather professionals, the American
Association of State Climatologists, Charlottesville rated behind only
Asheville, NC, as having the “most desirable climate in the Eastern
Nearby are mountains to climb, slopes to explore, golf courses to
conquer and lakes to fish. A good number retirees who relocate to
Charlottesville say the presence of the University of Virginia was what
first attracted them to the area. Retirees say the cultural activities,
bookstores, sports and youthful sense of intellectual curiosity that
accompany campus life are, for them, the most important aspects of a
university town. For example, Charlottesville has more than twenty-two
bookstores, and the University of Virginia has 14 libraries with more
than 4.5 million volumes. UVa has an active drama department, and there
are several community theater groups in the area.
The Medical Center has been rated one of the top 100 hospitals in the
United States by BOA-Sachs, a health-care information research firm,
and the Health Network, a health-oriented cable television network. It
has specialty treatment centers for heart disease, cancer, digestive and
neurological disorders and other health problems. Also in
Charlottesville is Martha Jefferson Hospital, a well-regarded, 200-bed
Having moved to a college town, many retirees find they develop a new
interest in college sports, especially less-well-known sports. Football
and men’s basketball are the big-time sports at UVA, and the Cavaliers ?
or Wahoos or ‘Hoos, ? have had nationally ranked teams.
Retirees who want to stay active find a lot to do at the Senior
Center, a nonprofit community organization open to anyone age 50 or
over. The Senior Center, in its own modern building, has more than 90
groups and activities such as investment clubs, lecture series, arts and
crafts groups, fitness classes and computer classes, according to
executive director Peter Thompson. A travel program through the center
offers day trips to Washington, DC, for $30 per guest: as well as other
You will also find homes of presidents James Madison and James
Monroe, both open to visitors. Several museums in the area focus the
history of Virginia, and the Civil battlefields of Chancellorsville and
Fredericksburg are within easy driving distance.
Charlottesville is not for those seeking a consistently warm climate,
however. The area gets an average of about two feet of snow a year, and
snow skiing is a winter sport at ‘Wintergreen and other ski areas in
the mountains just to the west of Charlottesville. Summers can be warm,
with temperatures hitting the 90s Humidity, while much higher than in
dry ‘Western states, is lower in the Shenandoah Valley area than in
roost of the rest of the East Coast except parts of New England. The
growing season extends to 200 days or more, making it an ideal climate
Although Charlottesville itself is in Virginia’s Piedmont Plateau at
an elevation of just 480 feet, it is within shouting distance of some of
the East’s most beautiful mountain scenery in the Shenandoah Valley and
Blue Ridge Mountains.
Those relocating to Charlottesville have a variety of options for
housing, from moderately priced downtown condos catering to retirees to
gated golf communities to horse farms, going for a million dollars and
One drawback, or advantage, depending on your point of view, about
Albemarle County is that a significant part of the land is tied up in
large family owned farms and estates, some of several thousand acres.
This keeps the area looking rural in the Jeffersonian gentleman farmer
tradition, but it means that land is expensive. In Charlottesville,
buildable lots can cost $110,000 to $160,000 or more. The Jefferson
Highway area, for example, has been called the area’s Millionaire’s Row.
This is fox hunt country, and working horse farms and estates line the
But the Charlottesville area has many middle-class communities as
well. For example, Forest Lakes is a planned community of townhomes and
single-family homes north of town, with prices starting at around
$200.000. Land and housing generally are cheaper in surrounding counties
including Fluvanna to the southeast and Greene to the north. Parts of
both counties are less than a half-hour commute from Charlottesville.
5% (4% state and 14 local) Sales tax exemptions: Prescription and
non-prescription medicine, some medical equipment utilities and most
services. Reduced sales tax rate on groceries.
For married couples filing jointly and single filers, the rate is
graduated from 2% of taxable income up to $3,000 to 5.75% on amounts
Social Security benefits are exempt. There is a $12,000 deduction
per person for residents 65 or older. However, the deduction is reduced
dollar for dollar if the adjusted federal gross income exceeds $50,000
for single filers and $75,000 for married couples. There is no deduction
for singles with incomes above $62,000 and couples with incomes above
On estates over $2 million, Virginia imposes a “pick-up tax” portion
of the federal tax. The Virginia estate tax has been repealed for
deaths after July 1, 2007.
Albemarle County property taxes are $.819 per $1,000 of assessed
value. Charlottesville residents pay $.95 per $1,000 of assessed value. Homes
are assessed at I00% (often less recently) of market value. Estimated tax on a $328,000 home in
Charlottesville, would be about $3,401 per year. Personal property taxes are assessed
on automobiles - other vehicles; the rate is $4.20 per $100 of
Low-income persons 65 and older may qualify reductions in property tax rates.
The metropolitan area is to more than 200 churches and synagogues
representing most religions denominations, including Buddy Greek
Orthodox and Mennonite.
Retirees can take courses at the University of Virginia or at Pied
Virginia Community College. Virginias Citizen Scholar Program allows
residents age 60 and older who have lived in Virginia at least one year
to audit credit courses or enroll in noncredit courses a space available
basis, at no charge. Participants may attend any of Virginal gel
institutions of higher learning, including Piedmont Virginia Community
Code/ and the University of Virginia through Division of Continuing
Education. Credit classes also are free for those with incomes of
$15,000 or less; for others, tuition for credit courses at UVA is $242
per credit hour, but may very by class.
The University of Virginia Medical Center, a 552-bed regional
acute-care research and teaching hospital, has been rated among the top
hospitals in the Country Martha Jefferson is a private 200-bed
acute-care hospital that has won a national award for its design and is appreciated in the community for excellent patient care.
A touch of French, a dash of farm fresh, and the creativity of a young energetic chef are what makes this place special. This is what Charlottesville has to offer right off the pedestrian path. Romantic and special and a staff that has the best descriptions of the food your will ever find.
Great food in an old homestead with a well thought out wine list. I will be back to this restaurant
I believe I've been going to Pomme for about 8 years. It is a favorite and always a treat. The menu offerings always pose the problem of what to have -- everything looks so good. And the meals are consistently delicious. The service is wonderful and allows for a leisurely brunch, lunch, or dinner in a delightful but casual atmosphere.
We've been here 3 times and have enjoyed the gracious hospitality of the staff, and the consistent quality and imaginativeness of the food and cocktails. The inside can get a tad loud, but not annoyingly so; frankly it adds to the vibrancy of the bar area. For a more quiet experience, you can dine outside on the mall and people-watch too. Zocalo is a consistent outperformer, and I recommend it highly.
Was in town for my son's graduation. Was able to get a reservation last minute. Sushi was excellent! Our waiter was very good. Would definitely go back.
The service at Fossett's makes you feel so welcoming. They make sure not to rush you. We came here for graduation weekend and they made sure to cater to us. Their recommendation on wine fit perfectly with our seafood. At first we were unsure since its a much nicer place and we are a young couple, but in the end they make you feel so welcome. Never did they treat us any differently due to our age or made us feel out of place.
Three of us celebrated a birthday, and the Downtowne Grille made our celebration one to remember for years. It was simply outstanding.
If you love oysters, this is the place. Delicious! Great service in an elegant but relaxed environment. We have already shared our experience with others. We will be back!!
The Boar's Head is a high-end restaurant in the "nice side" of Charlottesville, VA (where other quality restaurants can be found). The night we went was a special time -- my wife's birthday -- and they did not disappoint. The ambiance was nice; a 1800s theme, with beautiful flowers, etc. It was busy, but quiet. The food was outstanding (we had a group of six that had everything from meat to fish, and all entrees were terrific). The service was a bit "meh" -- seldom did the waitress ask how we were doing, whether we liked the food, or if we needed anything else. It wasn't a large oversight, because everything was fine, and, frankly, having a little less attention is sometimes better than having too much! The cost is certainly high-end (approx. $500 for the six of us, including two bottles of $40 wine), but overall worth the price. We would return!
Travelers Today By Will Walker
There are a lot of great things that go into making a good college. There's the academic quality, the level of school spirit, the vibrancy of nightlife, and, of course, the aesthetic beauty of the campus. But one factor that often gets overlooked (but shouldn't) is the vibe given off by the local college town.
Indeed, especially for small or remote schools, having a good town to go into can make or break your college experience, affecting whether and how often you leave campus and meet people from the "real world." For that reason, we have listed, below, the 5 best college towns in the country, places that strike that perfect balance between fun, safety, and a chill, adolescent atmosphere.
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5. Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home of the University of Michigan, one of the largest and best colleges in the country, Ann Arbor certainly has a lot to live up to if it wants to meet the high expectations set by its resident school. Luckily, Ann Arbor's just a nice enough place to meet and exceed that bar. Indeed, the combo of small-town simplicity with large-town facilities allows Ann Arbor to do it all, making its student-residents feel happy and safe without also feeling bored.
4. Ithaca, New York
Home of Cornell University and Ithaca College, this small city is one of the most beautiful in the country. Built in the middle of grassy hills and valleys, Ithaca is famous for its waterfalls, with literally dozens within walking distance from town. The city also has some of the best boutique shops, wineries, and hipster restaurants in the country, making it the perfect place for most college students to hang out on a Thursday evening, or procrastinate on a Sunday afternoon.
3. Boulder, Colorado
If you know anything about Boulder, it's that it's a fun place to be. From the weather (literally 80% sunny skies), to the shops (almost all locally-owned and full of character), to the very layout of the city (eminently bikeable), Boulder seems like it was designed by and for college students. And if that didn't sell you, did we mention it's located in the middle of one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world? In other words, no matter what you're looking for, Boulder is sure to have it in spades.
2. Burlington, Vermont
Home to UVM and Ben & Jerry's, Burlington is the place to live if you're a hippy born two generations too late. Indeed, from their new artisanal food movement to the huge amount of live music funneling through the city (especially impressive given its size and relative isolation), Burlington has opportunities and resources that rival the hipster Meccas of Portland and Seattle. The only difference is, Burlington is also small enough to be manageable on a bike or by foot, making it just that more appealing to young, unemployed college students.
1. Charlottesville, Virginia
However, the number one spot is reserved for a more Southern town. Indeed, Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, does the best job of any city on the list of combining traditional metropolitan interests with the interests of the students who frequent it. The result is a harmonious whole, balancing the resources of an urban area with the desires of the students who live there. From the historical aura of Monticello, to the entertainment provided in the famous (and recently redecorated) Paramount theater, Charlottesville has it all, a place any college student would be proud to call home. Which is why we at Traveler's Today have listed it as the best college town in America.
By age 61, the majority of people feel free to choose where they most want to live, according to a new study by Merrill Lynch, "Home in Retirement: More Freedom, New Choices."
"Throughout most of people's lives, where they live is determined by
their responsibilities," according to the report. "Most careers demand
that people live within a reasonable commuting distance from where they
and/or their spouse work. However, as people enter their 50s and 60s,
they begin to cross what this study reveals to be the 'Freedom
Threshold.'" That’s the age when people say they can finally choose
where they want to live, according to the survey of more than 3,600
Read more: Baby Boomers to Face Serious Housing Crunch
Read more: Baby Boomers to Face Serious Housing Crunch
Indeed, two-thirds of the retirees surveyed say they are now living in the best home of their lives.
Most retirees move at least once during retirement. But surprisingly,
only half choose to downsize into a smaller home. Three in ten of
retirees decide to upsize into a larger home. The top reason to upsize:
They want to have a home that's comfortable enough for family members
to visit and stay with them, according to the survey.
"Retirees often find their homes become places for family to come
together and reconnect, particularly during holidays or summer
vacations," according to the report. Some choose to upsize so that
family members can live with them too.
Retirees say the ideal place allows spending time with others their
own age yet they also seek to be around those of diverse ages. Compared
to younger people, older Americans are far more likely to want diversity
in age and generation among their communities and neighbors. As such,
just 7 percent of retirees surveyed have opted to move into
age-restricted retirement communities.
Source: "Home in Retirement: More Freedom, New Choices," Merrill Lynch
More lenders expect mortgage demand
and profit margins to increase over the next three months, according to
Fannie Mae's first quarter 2015 Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey.
Opening the Credit Box
3% Down Payments May Be Game Changer
Smaller Down Payments Lure More Buyers
FHA Lowers Mortgage Costs
Opening the Credit Box
3% Down Payments May Be Game Changer
Smaller Down Payments Lure More Buyers
FHA Lowers Mortgage Costs
More lenders say the credit tightening is softening, according to the
survey. Seventy-one percent of lenders surveyed about
government-sponsored enterprise purchase loans say they expect purchase
mortgage demand to rise over the next three months. That’s a notable
increase from last year, when 59 percent of lenders were optimistic
about an increase.
What’s more, 41 percent of lenders report they expect their profit
margins to rise, compared to only 21 percent who were upbeat about their
profits last year.
"These results are consistent with our view that an improving
economy, strengthening employment, and increasing consumer confidence
should support a modest housing expansion in 2015, after an uneven and
disappointing year for housing activity in 2014," says Doug Duncan,
Fannie Mae’s chief economist.
The message seems to be getting out to consumers too. Fannie Mae’s recent National Housing Survey,
a poll of around 1,000 Americans, showed that 54 percent of consumers
say that they believe getting a mortgage is now easy – a survey high.
Source: Fannie Mae
Just before the morning bell silences homeroom classes at Charlottesville High School, 31 different languages buzz in the air. In neighboring Albemarle County, a homeroom might burst with any of the 79 languages spoken in the public schools.
But these aren’t the voices of students learning French or Spanish for
graduation credit. They are the voices of students for whom English is a
second language, and for whom Charlottesville is a safe haven from the suffering they faced in their home countries.
“We’re so fortunate that Charlottesville is a welcoming community for refugees,” said Harriet Kuhr, executive director of the International Rescue Committee. “Refugees fleeing from persecution find this to be a safe and comfortable place to live and raise their families.”
Located in downtown Charlottesville, the International Rescue Committee
has made the city one of 22 in the nation to receive refugees from
countries as diverse as Bhutan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Colombia. As a
result, both local school divisions have a significant refugee
population supported by specialized English language programs.
The IRC works in 40 countries to resettle people who have been
displaced by violence or disaster. Additionally, the IRC works to help
refugees find mental health and medical support. Locally, this means
working with refugees to place them in homes, jobs and schools.
In Albemarle, the IRC has placed newly arrived refugees in the
University Heights apartment complex, which is just across the County
line but with access to public transportation into Charlottesville.
“We have to place newly arrived refugees on the bus lines, so we don’t
go too far into the County,” Kuhr said, adding that they want to
diversify the housing opportunities.
Apartments along Angus Road, Hydraulic Road,
and Commonwealth Drive have also seen a boost in refugee occupants.
Kuhr said that residents in those areas have typically spent the past
year or more in the United States.
While Kuhr and the IRC focus on welcoming the residents and connecting
them to their new communities, the school division's take on the
responsibility of educating the families’ children for the rest of their
“From our point of view, we really focus on people when they first
come,” Kuhr said. “For schools, they’re accumulating and keeping people
for five or six years.”
Impact on the Schools
The IRC and the school systems work together to support students as
they are immersed in American culture and the English language.
In the past 10 years, the number of refugee students in
Charlottesville’s schools has grown to a total of about 200 students in
the last school year.
“[Forty-seven] percent of our ESL population are refugees,” said Beverly Catlin, Charlottesville’s ESL program director.
“They come in with great enthusiasm and significant challenges
depending on how much education they've received from their country of
origin, how long they've been in a refugee camp and the trauma that they
may have experienced,” Catlin added.
The refugee population in Albemarle schools is smaller, about 114
students, but still a significant group. County schools have enrolled 90
new students in the past two years. Refugee students make up about 13
percent of the county’s English language learners.
In both the City and the County, English language learners are
simultaneously integrated into the student body and given support in
smaller, ESL-only settings designed to help students acclimate to life
in the United States.
“When students come in and speak no English at the high school level,
typically about half their day will be in an ESL class with an ESL
teacher and other ESL students focused specifically on learning
English,” said Russell Carlock, Albemarle’s international and ESOL
“The other half of the day is going to be in electives,” Carlock added.
“They have an opportunity to participate fully, and then also create
those social relationships with the native English speakers that are
important to feeling a part of the school.”
In both County and City schools, students move fluidly between
specialized ESL classes and traditional classes such as homeroom,
physical education, art and other electives.
“In general, the younger the child, the better they do,” Kuhr said.
Students who have more time to progress through the English Language
Proficiency (ELP) levels before high school graduation experience the
full scope of the English language learner programs.
“The one issue that we always struggle with is what to do with older
kids who come with a big educational deficit,” Kuhr said, citing cases
of interrupted schooling that may place a student behind grade level.
However, Carlock said that age is not necessarily a definitive
predictor of success, noting that as students progress with English,
they start to spend more time in mainstream classes earning graduation
“This happens at the high school and middle school level extremely
quickly,” Carlock said. “Kids work extremely hard in order to meet the
same graduation requirements that all other students in the state of
Virginia are expected to meet, but then also learn a second language on
top of that.”
Standardizing a non-traditional experience
All students enrolled in Virginia’s public schools are held to the Standards of Learning. This means that like traditional students, English language learners are also required to take the SOL exams.
While the SOLs cannot be given through an interpreter, English language
learners may be able to take modified exams, such as a plain English
version of the math SOL test.
“On a case by case basis, we determine the accommodations that are
available,” said Catlin, citing English proficiency and time spent in
the United States as possible reasons for accommodation.
Still, Catlin emphasized that accommodations were an exception rather than the rule.
In addition to state SOL tests, Virginia is one of 33 states that
requires an annual English language learner’s assessment known as ACCESS
The exam divides K-12 students into five clusters based on grade level,
testing their knowledge of social and academic English language. Test
scores are used to place students into the five language proficiency
Students are expected to advance one level for each year spent in
American schools, which becomes challenging if a high school student is
placed at a low level of proficiency.
In 2013, 47 percent of Charlottesville’s students placed into the
beginner level (English Language Proficiency levels 1-2). Forty-four
percent scored in the intermediate level (ELP levels 3-4), and only 9
percent registered as advanced (ELP level 5).
English language learners in Albemarle schools achieved similar results
last year. Forty-four percent of students placed into the beginner
level, 48 percent scored in the intermediate level and 8 percent were
identified as advanced.
At the lowest proficiency levels, English is very basic, and depending
on a student’s country of origin, he or she may also need to be taught
the Latin alphabet.
“You can’t just put a textbook in their hands,” Catlin said.
The highest proficiency level indicates that a student is nearly at
grade level and is expected to reach proficiency within the next year.
English language proficiency is not the only measure of success.
Refugee students often need support to adjust to a new culture with
unfamiliar foods and customs.
“It's not just about teaching the academics,” Catlin said. ”It’s about
connecting with the family, the culture of the community and the IRC,
and trying to create a network of support for the student.”
In the City, Catlin explained that ESL teachers work in classrooms
where students speak different languages from each other and the
teacher, but learning English gets everyone on the same page.
“The only common misconception is the sense that we have to be able to
speak all of their languages in order to teach them,” Catlin said.
In the County, newcomer students may have spent part of this summer in
programs designed to help them acclimate to life in the Charlottesville
“We have a pretty good program that gets them out in the community,”
Carlock said. “They're not only learning English, but also learning
about Albemarle County and Charlottesville and the history of the
The IRC’s Kuhr also said that despite a high value placed on education,
expectations of parental involvement may be higher in the American
school system as compared to other countries.
“We orient the parents so that they have a continuing role and know what’s going on in the schools,” Kuhr said.
In Albemarle, Carlock has seen refugees overcome many obstacles to achieve fluency and acclimation.
“I was really struck with the stories of resiliency and determination
of my students, who were often teenagers but who had experienced more of
life than I had as a student fresh out of graduate school,” said
Carlock, remembering his first years teaching English language learners a
“Their stories have been extremely powerful and oftentimes heartbreaking,” Carlock added.
Despite the challenges refugee students face, Carlock characterizes
them as highly motivated to learn, with families who place a high value
on educational opportunities available in the United States.
“Some of our greatest success stories are in the ESOL programs,”
Carlock said. “We have refugee students who have come from very
difficult backgrounds and circumstances, sometimes with interrupted
schooling, and have learned English extremely quickly and graduated and
gone on to PVCC and then gone on to [the University of Virginia].”
On the whole, Kuhr praises both school systems’ efforts.
“The best part is when we see children who first came to this country
as refugees graduate from high school, prepared to start their own lives
as Americans,” Kuhr said.
Travelers Today By Will Walker
Updated: Jun 30, 2014 10:50 AM EDT
are a lot of great things that go into making a good college. There's
the academic quality, the level of school spirit, the vibrancy of
nightlife, and, of course, the aesthetic beauty of the campus. But one
factor that often gets overlooked (but shouldn't) is the vibe given off
by the local college town.
Indeed, especially for small or remote schools, having a good town to
go into can make or break your college experience, affecting whether
and how often you leave campus and meet people from the "real world."
For that reason, we have listed, below, the 5 best college towns in the country, places that strike that perfect balance between fun, safety, and a chill, adolescent atmosphere.
of the University of Michigan, one of the largest and best colleges in
the country, Ann Arbor certainly has a lot to live up to if it wants to
meet the high expectations set by its resident school. Luckily, Ann
Arbor's just a nice enough place to meet and exceed that bar. Indeed,
the combo of small-town simplicity with large-town facilities allows Ann
Arbor to do it all, making its student-residents feel happy and safe
without also feeling bored.
Home of Cornell University and Ithaca College, this small city is one
of the most beautiful in the country. Built in the middle of grassy
hills and valleys, Ithaca is famous for its waterfalls, with literally
dozens within walking distance from town. The city also has some of the
best boutique shops, wineries, and hipster restaurants in the country,
making it the perfect place for most college students to hang out on a
Thursday evening, or procrastinate on a Sunday afternoon.
If you know anything about Boulder, it's that it's a fun place to be.
From the weather (literally 80% sunny skies), to the shops (almost all
locally-owned and full of character), to the very layout of the city
(eminently bikeable), Boulder seems like it was designed by and for
college students. And if that didn't sell you, did we mention it's
located in the middle of one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in
the world? In other words, no matter what you're looking for, Boulder is
sure to have it in spades.
Home to UVM and Ben & Jerry's, Burlington is the place
to live if you're a hippy born two generations too late. Indeed, from
there new artisanal food movement to the huge amount of live music
funneling through the city (especially impressive given its size and
relative isolation), Burlington has opportunities and resources that
rival the hipster Meccas of Portland and Seattle. The only difference
is, Burlington is also small enough to be manageable on a bike or by
foot, making it just that more appealing to young, unemployed college
However, the number one spot is reserved for a more Southern town.
Indeed, Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, does the
best job of any city on the list of combining traditional metropolitan
interests with the interests of the students who frequent it. The result
is a harmonious whole, balancing the resources of an urban area with
the desires of the students who live there. From the historical aura of
Monticello, to the entertainment provided in the famous (and recently
redecorated) Paramount theater, Charlottesville has it all, a place any
college student would be proud to call home. Which is why we at
Traveler's Today have listed it as the best college town in America.
Preparation for Moving
Here is a checklist of tasks to take care of prior to moving:
your children or pets the day of the move.
Disclaimer: Hopefully, this list is helpful and as comprehensive as possible, although I do disclaim all liability for any inaccuracies or omissions. Please let me know if you have suggestions for changes or additions. Yates Nobles