EVERYONE BUYS, EVEN IF THEY RENT!

Understandably, home ownership is daunting to many people.  For MOST people, writing a rent check is like hitting the Snooze button on homelessness.  Fear of equity stability, repairs, flooding or whatnot often keep people tithing to the Landlord.  However, what very few people realize is, even if they Rent, they are Actually Buying (just, not for themselves—for their LANDLORD!).  It is extremely rare to find a monthly rent that is Lower than the landlords mortgage.  Why else would one own rental property? 

Our current market is interestingly unique.  There is precious little inventory available, making competition for rentals fierce.  Often, it’s harder to Rent a home, than it is to Buy a home.  Think of it this way: When one sells a home, unless there are very unusual extenuating circumstances, the seller cares very little about who buys the home.  The deal is consummated, and the parties part company.  However, in a rental situation (especially when inventory is so tight), the landlord exercises greater and greater discretion as to who they will accept.  The rental contract is more like getting married, AND divorced, simultaneously!  The terms of occupancy must be spelled out, as do the terms of terminating the relationship. 

What many renters Don’t realize is, a LOT more of them qualify to Purchase.  There are new programs from VHDA (Virginia Housing Development Authority) and USDA (yes, That USDA!) that promote home ownership in rural parts of Virginia.  Also, there are VA and FHA loans that afford up to 103% of the purchase price, as well as buyers subsidies, that make no-money-down and moving-expense-free buying a reality. 

Debbie and I are offering VHDA-sponsored Homebuyer Classes beginning the end of April.  These classes feature six areas of home buying that often mystify and intimidate the first time buyer.  We will have professionals speak on the topics of

·         Personal Finance: how to most efficiently budget, spend, and save,

·         Credit and Credit Reporting: how to understand, contest, and improve your credit scores,

·         Working with a Lender: Fair Housing, and escrow and PITI (Principle, Interest, Tax, and Insurance)

·         The Role of the Real Estate Agent:  Buyer/Broker Agreements, Negotiating and Marketing

·         Home Inspections: “Life as a Homeowner”, How to find a qualified Inspector, Home Maintenance, and

·         Loan Closing: Preparing for the Closing Table, Closing Disclosures, and FORCLOSURE Prevention!

Because participants and graduates of this class realize a 33% reduction in over-ninety-day delinquencies, and FIFTY percent fewer foreclosures, as well as increased resale values due to greater knowledge on home care, some loans require participation in this class for loan approval.  Regardless, all banks look very favorably toward applicants that have taken this free class.  Watch this Space for information on scheduling! 

Lastly, if you have considered SELLING your home, or know anyone who IS considering selling, Debbie and I would be Most Beholden if you would reach out to us!  Allow us to put our brokerage’s 100+ cumulative years’ experience to work for you, utilizing the most modern and innovative marketing techniques in the industry!   

Our economy is booming, which is a mixed blessing for home owners.  First off, it’s SPRING, and houses are going to sell Very quickly this time of year.  The second advantage is, due to the inventory scarcity, it is currently very much a Sellers’ market.  If you have considered Upsizing or Downsizing, now may be the best time, because home values are up, but Third, the Fed has not YET adjusted the interest rates.  Houses sell FAST in this market, and at this time of year.  Acting soon may both realize current highs in the resale prices, while also capitalizing on currently historically low interest rates.  Consider: A $400,000 mortgage, at current 4.27%, equals both a monthly payment of $1,972, and a total repayment of $710,080 over the life of the loan.  Were the fed to raise the interest rate one point, that same $400,000 mortgage would go up to $2,214 a month, with a total repayment of $796,958! 

Debbie and I would Love to work with clients to find the right Rental unit, offer they our VHDA-sponsored Home Buying Course, assist them with finding your Dream home to Purchase, or find a Buyer for their current home! We are local to the Virginia Piedmont, Very Motivated, and have the horsepower to back it up! 

Beware of Resisting for the Sake of Resistance!

What makes living in Fauquier County special?  Why here, rather than Prince William, Loudoun, Stafford, perhaps Warren, Clark or even Culpeper (all fine counties, in their own regard)?  It’s a special blend of rural Piedmont, combined with culture and proximity.  What our county offers, and what we desire or require as a society, is a fine balance of development vs. conservation.  

Way back in prehistory, around about the early 1980’s, a Local Hero by the name of Till Hazel owned a bit of land on which he wanted to exercise his rights to develop.  It’s what he did.  Some say it’s in his blood.  This land was in the bucolic backwater of Gainesville.  At the time, the only thing there was an old floundering iron foundry and a handful of gas stations.  His parcel was adjacent to property that backed up to the Manassas Battlefield.  The time was right, the stars aligned, awareness came along and BANG!  Protesting his audacity became Hip.  Chic!  One was in the “In” crowd if they hosted benefit balls and protest lines.  Editorials flew like moths on an August night.  Socialites rallied to the defense of the Proud Memory of the United States Civil War (ironic, now, innit?).  Enough bad press was created to motivate the United States Government to step in and perform the theretofore unprecedented (and, as exercised, completely unconstitutional) act of seizing his land through Imminent Domain.  I put it to YOU; How many of you have enjoyed the lovingly preserved piece of battlefield known as Stuart’s Hill?  How many of you even know where it is, or that it exists?  

Yeah!, Victory!  Today, the Eternal Protection of our Heritage is damn near palpable, as one drives through Atlas Walk, to the Target, the Best Buy, the Lowes Hardware, to any one of the thirty or more Fine Dining establishments, perhaps to the Multiplex.  Or, maybe one zooms past all the aforementioned Progress and Development, over the eight lanes of Flyover, en-rout to the OTHER Multiplex, and Duluth Trading, perhaps to dine at Pizzeria Uno and a Golden Corral (Yum!), at Parkland Center, a shopping center actually CARVED from the Real Battlefield.  Aren’t we all so glad we railed and fought and defended the Honor and Memory of our Heritage??  

Let’s revisit an incident a few years later.  Same area.  Same argument.  This time, Disney sniffs around the prospect of bringing grand, first-class commercial development.  Hundreds of construction jobs, hundreds of perpetual jobs.  Good, secure, retirement-fund sort of jobs.  And people went ballistic.  “How DARE Disney even Propose to build an amusement park (An AMUSEMENT Park!!??) near our Hallowed Grounds of the Battlefields!!  How DARE they even suggest such a thing?!  They must be STOPPED!!  We must protect our Battlefields!! Just last month, Fauquier County buried one of it’s Favorite Sons, a Philanthropist and Conservationist who’s crowning achievement was the promotion of the Piedmont Environmental Council.  He was instrumental in the protection and conservation of the precious Heritage lands Disney was coveting.  

Well, due to the relentless media black coverage and endless hyperbole, Disney concluded that shoving prosperity and security across the table at an unwelcoming community wasn’t worth the bad publicity worldwide.  So they pulled out.  Again, “Yay!!” Victory for the “Conservationists”!!  Let’s remember that victory, as we sit in yet more bumper to bumper traffic.  The entirety of Dominion Valley sits completely, perfectly in the exact same footprint that Disney WAS going to occupy.  Aren’t WE proud of our efforts of Battlefield Preservation?!  Aren’t WE grand, having kept the commercial specter of Disney at bay?  Aren’t we glad we’ve kept that “Sprawl” from the doorstep of our precious Battlefield?  I wonder what the Late, Great Mr. Prince thought, as he drove past Dominion Valley.  Did he golf there?  Was he a member of the Club?  Was Dominion Valley REALLY the goal of all that Preservation of our Precious Battlefield?

Our county has, contrary to occasional belief, remained comparatively unscathed from this relentless urban sprawl.  This county does not know true, real, unmitigated sprawl of quarter acre lots across the horizon, far as the eye can see.  We have no Dale Cities, no Bristows, no Leesburgs, no Purcellvilles, no Centrevilles or Manassas Parks. 

There are things that we want for our county.  We want Libraries.  We want County-wide High Speed Internet.  We want spotless cell coverage.  Top-notch fire, rescue and police protection.  But we are rabidly protective of our rural nature.  How to achieve both?  How to receive revenue, but avoid the trappings of sprawling development? 

Revenue is a tricky thing.  It takes money to make money.  Consider this:  Let’s say we want to encourage industry.  We hear that Delphi Corporation wants to build and operate an automotive electronics plant in the Piedmont region.  Hypothetically, they are seeking a location for a one billion dollar factory.  They’ll employ 1700 people, and the county will realize a revenue stream of up to two hundred million dollars.  Sounds great!  Lots of employment, lots of revenue.  Alas, lots of families, lots of housing, lots of commuters, new schools, a new hospital, a fire house, shopping centers, and playgrounds and fast food and Starbucks and El Taco Bells.  Before you know it, the entire region becomes indistinguishable from Dulles Town Center (!).  Before you blink, that $200,000,000.00 is consumed and swallowed up in infrastructural support.  

A medium to large Data Center can easily represent a Billion Dollar investment.  The county Can realize construction jobs, real estate taxes, income taxes, and improvements to the surrounding infrastructure.  A Two Hundred Million dollar revenue steam is an easy realization from a billion dollar Data Center installation.  The Center will also improve local roads, power infrastructure, cooling water systems.  High Speed Internet naturally goes where Data Centers are.  Cellular communications infrastructure are automatically improved.  No, Data Centers do NOT employ many people in their continuing operation.  But that’s actually the point.  We receive the billion dollar installation, and two hundred million dollars in revenue, without having to provide the infrastructure that supports one thousand seven hundred families moving into an otherwise virgin area.  We may THEN take that revenue, improve our County Wide infrastructures, and we can THEN entertain Certain growth, Certain Select developments.  Imagine being able to exercise discretion and discrimination, being able to Elect and Chose which developments we Allow into our proximity! 

Yes, they are huge monolithic structures.  Some may object to them based entirely on their aesthetics.  Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but, if the LOOKS of a structure are Truly That much of a deal killer, the buildings could be mandated to look like Dairy Barns.  How the building is shaped, what color it is, is really irrelevant to the “ones and zeros” flowing into and out of the structure.    

But I beseech you all.  Please, PLEASE learn from Recent history.  For some reason, it seems our immediate reaction to any Development, Progress, Construction, or Innovation is Knee Jerk resistance.  Consider the public’s skepticism towards the innovative approaches to traffic control being proposed along Routs 15, 29, Broadview Avenue, and the Lord Fairfax interchange.  If it’s unfamiliar or new, we recoil in horror and doubt.  Believe me, if we summarily dismiss the prospect of “Clean” prosperity offered by Data Centers, we WILL suffer the eventual sprawl and congestion and housing and housing and housing and Burger Kings and Traffic and before you can BLINK, Fauquier County will become indistinguishable from Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford.  

And that’s not a Piedmont Horse Hunt Country I want to live in.  I’m a Realtor.  I could make a fortune peddling McMansions all across our county.  But at what cost, to what makes life here desirable in the first place?

When a Guilty Pleasure becomes a Public Nuisance

So, recently I drove down our bucolic and beautiful Crest Hill Road, for perhaps the five thousandth time.  Perhaps it was because it had been so long since I drove it in the middle of winter.  Perhaps it was because the VDOT had recently finished their aggressive mowing and trimming of the brush along the road.  Regardless, I was struck by the amazing, disgraceful, and disrespectful amount of litter along the road.  

Seeing all this litter brought back two very vivid memories of my youth.  The first, I was very young, perhaps five or six.  Mom and the five or six of us kids (often a revolving cast of characters) were driving home from Woodbridge to where we lived in Harbor View, near Occoquan.  My oldest brother nonchalantly tossed his soda can out the window.  My mother flipped her lid.  She stopped the car, and forced my then-twelve-year-old brother to not only pick up THAT soda can, but to walk in front of the car, with her flashers on, and pick up every piece of garbage he found for a quarter mile.  He was humiliated, and an impression was made on us all. 

Alas, the impression was deadened in me some years later by the effects of copious amounts of alcohol.  Fast forward to the spring of 1984.  Spring Break, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida!  I, along with a bevy of high school friends, drove down in two cars.  One fantastic sunny early spring day, I was passenger in one car as we crept and crawled along A1A.  I upended my beer (yes, underage, yes, in a vehicle, YES, this was an entirely OTHER time), and casually dropped the can out the door.  Not three seconds later, the can smacked me in my head, and Very Large, gruff hands grabbed my shirt collar and lifted me out of the car!!  A burly face yelled in my rapidly sobering face, “LISTEN, Yankee!!  We BARELY tolerate you maggots down here At ALL!!  You litter in MY street again, and I’ll kick your punk ass all the way back to Virginia, where you Belong!!  Bravo, to my unknown hero!   

So, back in present day, and with a respect for not littering that has lasted to date, I determined to follow up and pursue the group that had ostensibly “Adopted” this section of roadway.  It was “Friends of Lake Athlone” (the lake around which we, and perhaps thirty other homes, lived).  After further inspection, I discovered the Friends of Lake Athlone had consisted of one elderly couple, who had retired to Florida some two years earlier!  I proposed to Debbie that we take that stretch of road over, contacted Warrenton VDOT, and put this ball in motion.  

The receptionist/organizer of the local Adopt A Highway program was very encouraging, and promised we could have a new sign installed after our second cleaning and servicing of the road.  We loaded up with reflective vests and some twenty orange trash bags, and were promptly met with relentless cold front after frigid air after light snow.  

This week, we were blessed with two glorious days, between bouts of sub teen zero temps and rain squalls.  We attacked the project, thinking we would perhaps complete half the road (one “Adopts” a two mile stretch).  After two days, we completed the first quarter mile of road, and are exhausted and sore everywhere.  While the remainder of the road is sprinkled with trash here and there, the first three quarters of a mile are right out of a third world country.  We gathered up EIGHT TRASH BAGS of garbage.  I learned a few things about human nature, and what I believe are motives for the horrible quantity of garbage right at the headland of Crest Hill.  

First, that there is a surprising similarity in the garbage.  This would indicate that either the same perpetrator is responsible for the garbage (a hefty achievement, tossing some ten CASES of beer out their window!!), or that we are rather predictable animals.  

Second, that the motive is secrecy.  Folks are stopping off at either McDonalds, 7-11, or Fosters on their way home, snatching up the guilty pleasure of their choice (hot dog, pizza, beer, burger, canned or fountain sodas, candy), scarfing them down in rabid desperation, then realizing even the trash, if left in their car, would betray them to their significant others or their families (“you’r CHEATING on your Diet??  You’re Diabetic!!”, or “you Promised you would quit drinking, or drinking and driving!!”)

Third, that familiarity breeds contempt.  We ignore and become contemptible of what we are around all the time, regardless of how beautiful it is.  

Forth, perhaps, is that once litter starts, it simply continues unabated and often accelerated.  I’m reminded of the old joke, “They never put up a ‘No Dumping’ sign, until it’s Too Late!!”  I’m afraid people just don’t think their wee tiny little contribution to the mess really matters or would even be noticed.  Also, I think (and HOPE) that, once cleaned, people will be more reluctant to BEGIN the process.  Who wants to be the First to cast that stone?  

Hopefully, in due course, we’ll find out that people are reluctant to litter on a Now Clean roadway.  At least, discouraged….

Our work on the road continues.  It will take Many days to complete our entire two mile stretch.  If you see us out on 647, Crest Hill Rd., tap the horn, wave, and know, We are Volunteers—NOT on Work Release!  😀    

Everybody Knew This Was Nowhere…..

Way back in 1969, Neil Young released a song and album titled “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere”.  As the youngest member of a family growing up (at that time, in Woodbridge, then Haymarket, then ultimately Marshall in Northern Fauquier County), I heard that refrain sung, mumbled, grumbled, and shouted dozens of times.  There were Precious few attractions, restaurants, venues, and general overall “Things To DO” in Fauquier County then.  

Back in the early seventies and eighties, the Northern Virginia Piedmont was, frankly, Nowhere.  And that was a major appeal to my parents, and many other parents.   Much to the chagrin of so many adolescents, young adults, and teenagers.

Upon returning to Fauquier County as an adult, I realize the region has certainly Grown Up!  Contrast those languid, often boring summers and seemingly endless winters hibernating, with the amazing evolution of activities, attractions, events, venues, and entertainment the area offers today!  

These days, Virginia Gold Cup, is just ONE brief, passing event held at Great Meadows.  They offer events year long, including Polo, the best Fireworks in the tri-county area, and myriad other activities.  

Just last week, I had a completely unexpectedly appealing evening at the sprawling and hugely diverse Orlean Market.  They had excellent live music, a hopping bar, an excellent and extensive dinner menu, indoor and outdoor seating, a great, authentic old-time Country General Store and Market, and even a Gasoline Pump!  Rumor has it the venue is only going to grow and expand, offering rooms and event services!

One can spend DAYS travelling the now famed and world renowned Fauquier County Winery and Vineyard Trail.  I understand Pearmund Cellars has been voted the Best Winery in Virginia!  

When one pauses to consider the evolution and development of our smaller villages and hamlets, and the attractions they offer, one begins to realize that Northern Fauquier County has indeed “Come into it’s Own”. Warrenton, Deleplane, Orlean, The Plains, and Especially MARSHALL (I’ll dedicate an entire paragraph to Marshall–watch this space, there will be entire Blogs dedicated to Marshall!), are in the midst of a culinary and cultural Renaissance.  

The Plains has remained a “one-t-intersection-hamlet”, with only four stop signs, yet offers some amazing new dining and shopping.  With the advent of The Front Porch, and Happy Creek Coffee and Tea (and Bicycles!), Griasole, and the Benchmark Standby, The Rail Stop Cafe, The Plains is ever-refreshing and interesting.  It is a delightful place to shop, view beautiful architecture, and people-watch from any one of it’s cafes and restaurants.  

And as for Marshall!  To witness an historic village undergo a true awakening, a Renaissance without the pretense of Gentrification, is a truly remarkable thing.  Main Street in Marshall is rapidly becoming a mecca for new, innovative, world class dining.  With the imminent burial of all power and utility lines, as well as the renovation of over a dozen historic buildings, Marshall truly will be the one to watch!  There are too many fine dining spots, and exciting events and activities to list here in this blog.  Marshall is even getting a double decker BUS cafe!  I can (and likely will!) devote and entire blog to the next generation of Marshall.  

Horses, Racing, Touring, Dining, Dining, and Dining!, Shopping, Live Music!, Festivals, Hiking, Sightseeing, and more History, Heritage, and Culture than one can find in many States, makes Northern Fauquier truly a Bloom worth watching, and Very little like the culturally barren tundra our Fine Mr. Young sang about some fifty years ago.

Sure, it isn’t, and never will be, Metropolis.  And that’s why we love it here! 

The CLOUD Difference is that we not only are involved in real estate, more importantly its the people, their lives and the lifestyle within their community.

Working together ensures our communities and our lifestyles.  Please spend some time to be aware, be informed and take action with in your community.  Show up at hearings.  Read the paper everyday.  Be involved in your community events & groups.

THE CONUNDRUM of BALANCING PROGRESS with HERITAGE

Since time began, there has been a continuous and delicate balance between Development and Conservation.  The desire and need for expansion and accommodation drives humankind to discover, settle, grow, build, and prosper. 

Throughout the evolution of humans, the Adventurous Ones have ventured into the unknown, claiming new territory, fighting off threats, and staking claim to spaces to be Civilized and Developed.  Simultaneously, we have had Settlers, who have made the Known Areas bigger, more comfortable, with added amenities and safeguards, and developed societies and social norms. 

It has long been that precious area, between the Frontier and the City, that area that has been “Settled”, in the minds of those who came before any newcomers, that is often embroiled in Conservation vs. Development controversy.  What the Settlers of generations back call “Invasion”, and “Sprawl”, the newcomer often calls “Quaint”, or “Remote”.  And they are both referring to the SAME area! 

Perspective has a Very intoxicating and pervasive affect.  That same Settler may venture further afield someday, on an adventure or a vacation.  They “discover” a New place, and ascribe the same adjectives to that New area that the Newcomer uses to describe the hometown they ventured from! 

One’s perspective on a place is indelibly influenced and molded by the point at which they are introduced.  I spent almost two decades in Very remote parts of the world—places that are considerably different than they were when I arrived.  When I return for visits, I sit at a beach bar, and lament how things have Changed, how Built Up the place has become.  “They’ve RUINED it!!”, I lament to the guy sitting next to me.  Meanwhile, He’s thinking the place is just the Bees Knees!  So Remote!  So Primitive!  So Exclusive!  “Yeah, but, you should have seen it WHEN!!”, I say… 

The halted interchange at I 66 and Rt. 55 between the Plaines and Thoroughfare Gap, Way back when I 66 was installed, the proposed Buckland Bypass(s), The Old Town Warrenton Bypass-Bypass, Van Metre in Marshall, Leckner Fords Expansion, the list goes on ad infinitum.  Urban, and suburban sprawl, building, development, and “Progress” are the inevitable consequences of time, population, influx, discovery, and prosperity.  So often, and so easily, we fall prey to the hypocrisy of, “I’m Here now!!  We must STOP this insane Development!!”.   

Researching the recent developments on the proposals being bantered about regarding the traffic problems on the Rt. 29 corridor between Warrenton and Gainesville, I came across an article in the Washington Post about this.  Dateline, November 26, 2006. 

As I read online commentary regarding the recent (non)development about the proposals, I was reminded of an article from the News Optomist.  How do we avoid the seduction of adopting the all-around counterproductive N.I.M.B.Y., or “Not in My Backyard!”, not to be outdone are the B.A.N.A.N.A. folks—“Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone!”, who’s usual followers are C.A.V.E.’s—“Citizens Against Virtually Everything!” attitude? 

How do we accept, influence, control, and determine our own destiny?  How do we manage the inevitability of progress, yet avoid catching “The Tiger by the Tail” (can you Hear me, Gainesville?  Can you Hear me, Centreville?  Bristow?  Woodbridge?), being consumed by Crisis Response to a population and development explosion, one we have not Prepared and Accommodated for?  Equally important, how do we protect, promote, maintain and safeguard our Heritage Legacy, without becoming stiflingly restrictive (Hello, Middleburg!)? 

Our Heritage is a double-edged sword.  One that makes this area so attractive to newcomers, yet is at the heart of what we wish to preserve. 

I fully subscribe to a philosophy of Awareness, that Sunlight makes the Best Disinfectant.  I believe that we all, anyone that has a vested interest or concern for the beauty of our homeland, have an obligation to be as informed and aware as we possibly can.  Attend citizens meetings, attend zoning board hearings, petition your LOCAL government representatives.  Know what the issues are, be Informed about plans, proposals, and problems in the works.  We may not feel like we have much influence or impact, but if we neglect our God given and American Rights to Know about our public hearings, we acquiesce what real power we DO have.  It may not feel like much, but it’s even More valuable and important, as our impact may be minor.  What little we Can do must be fiercely guarded and exercised. 

I am reminded of my staunch position regarding two Major multibillion dollar global industries (that shall remain nameless) that I boycott.  On more than one occasion, they behaved in a manner that federal courts found criminal.  Their actions directly resulted in several deaths.  Their response and decades-long litigation has led me to refuse to ever purchase their goods.  My effect is admittedly infinitesimal.  Completely insignificant, in the grand scheme of things.  But it is ALL I can do, legally.  I Chose to exercise my rights to the Fullest extent of the law.  And because my influence and impact is so tiny, it is ever more important to ME that I exercise it. 

Daylight is the Best Disinfectant.  Be aware.  Be informed.  Be Concerned. 

Debbie and I, Chris Cloud, want to motivate the citizens of Fauquier County to attend Community Meetings, to know, be aware, and be informed of proposed changes to the slice of paradise we call home.  Whether you are for or against any proposal, the important thing is to be Informed!  We recognize the positive position we are in; one of being concerned with Limiting growth, rather than contending (as so many communities are) with contracting demographics and budget shortfalls.  We are blessed with opportunity.  With Prosperity.  

The CLOUD Difference is Debbie’s and my desire to facilitate decisions, either pro growth, development and expansion, or pro conservation, regulation, and throttling.  Our desire is to promote Educated citizens.  

We are available for collaboration and to discuss ideas!