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Our Nest Report Blog is a platform to educate the public about the changing real estate markets in Charlottesville, New River Valley, and Hampton Roads. Our team of agents contributes timely market updates and statistics, as well as hyper-local news and information for each community.

Meet the Agent: Tom Raney

Nest’s “Meet the Agent” blog series is back for 2014! We think we have some pretty awesome agents here at Nest and we want you to have the opportunity to get to know them too. In our first post of the series for 2014, we sat down with Charlottesville Nest agent, Tom Raney. Find out how Tom translated his experience from years spent in retail industry to real estate and fell in love with Charlottesville.


Nest Realty: Thanks so much for chatting with us, Tom. Would you first tell us how you got into real estate?

Tom Raney: In real estate terms, it was an unexpected relocation.  I was living in midtown Manhattan and yearning for a more bucolic life.  While exploring the Hudson River Valley, an opportunity arrived to take care of a family farm in southern Albemarle County.  12 months later I was sold on Charlottesville and was starting a real estate practice so I could help others buy and sell in this amazing area.

NR: What was the first property you ever sold for a client?

TR: My first and second transactions took place simultaneously.  I was representing a young family who were selling their cozy, city bungalow to trade up to a larger home with more bedrooms.  And I was working with a buyer who was purchasing and customizing a new construction home in Ivy for his family with a million dollar plus price.  There were differences in the transactions but it was the similarities in the needs and expectations of both clients that taught me the most.

NR: Sounds like a great start! What do you love most about being a Realtor?

TR: Prior to my real estate career, I was an executive for some of the most renowned stores in the world including Macy’s and Neiman Marcus.  Success in retail is all about finding the right product at the right price at the right time, keeping pace with changing market conditions and providing exceptional client service.  Transitioning from retailer to Realtor was an easy move for me.

NR: How has technology changed the way you do business?

TR: Many of my clients come to Charlottesville from other parts of the country. I excel at introducing the area to newcomers and explaining the surprising complexity of the market and helping them appreciate the numerous styles of living they can chose from here. Technology allows me to make start that introduction long before we meet face to face to explore “the lay of the land.”

NR: Speaking of “the lay of the land,”  what do you think makes the Central Virginia market so unique?

TR: I can recite a near endless list including the University of Virginia, Monticello, the strong cultural community, the number of local wineries and breweries, the growing locavore movement, the year-round festivals, and so on.  Maybe the most unique aspect of the area is the immense effort its citizens have historically made in preserving, maintaining and sustaining this verdant mid-Atlantic Eden.  When Nest says “Live where you love” we know of what we speak.

NR: As we wrap up we have one last question for you Tom. What’s the one thing you would tell a new homebuyer to keep in mind throughout the process?

TR: That a ratified contract is just one stop in our journey together, not the destination.  I explain that they will be buying the property three times: first upon negotiating an agreed contract, second when requesting and negotiating seller repairs after the home inspection and finally when reviewing the appraisal report, especially if a final loan commitment for the mortgage funding is a contingency of the contract closing.


First Impressions of a Country Property

Preparing a country property for sale is a little more complicated than just staging a house. It’s ALL about first impressions. And nothing says more about the stewardship of a property than the condition of the pasture and fencing. Well-maintained fencing and nicely kept fields are often the first impression one gets as they enter a property and set the tone for the showing.

First Impressions

Broken fence boards, crooked gates, and weedy pastures can make the difference between a perception of a fixer-upper and a well managed farm. Often, it’s just a weekend with some hand tools and mowers that turn the tide.

If your property is large enough that we might drive upon the land, make that as easy as possible. Make sure the gates swing well and stay put as we drive through. If there is an ideal route for Realtors in their four-wheel drive vehicles, you might consider bush-hogging a route to follow. Especially if there is a dramatic building site they should see.

First impressions apply to your home as well so take care of peeling or faded paint, wobbly porch rails, and muddy dog smudges. I have found country property buyers to be more forgiving of a home’s foibles when charm and character are evident, so show off those old wood floors, that classic woodwork, and those noisy old radiators. If there is a great view out that window, make sure the curtains are open.

Country property buyers are keenly interested in the land, often more so than the house, so make sure they have all the information they need to understand the property lines. A survey is the definitive tool, but sometimes an aerial view of the property is the easiest to understand and can even show the shape and sizes of the adjoining properties which is often of interest as well.

Bottom line…do what you can to make your property easy to show and understand. Make sure your Realtor is a country property specialist who can convey the special features of your land and your home.

Want to know more? Visit for more country property content from John Ince.

Importance of Proper Permitting for Buyers & Sellers

I spend a lot of time at the city and county offices, for all sorts of reasons for both buyers and sellers.  It’s part of the process as a residential agent.

If you’re a seller, you should be getting permits for any work you do that requires permitting.  Most municipalities have permitting requirements online, easily accessible, and some even have the paperwork for requesting a permit online, too, making it simple to do from home.   Sure, it’s an extra expense and paperwork can be a bit of a hassle, but it makes your property more valuable in several ways, once you’re ready to sell.  First, it gives the potential buyer peace of mind.  Don’t underestimate how important this is.  When I go into a property with buyers and it’s clear work has been done that seems inconsistent with the rest of the property, my first thought is, ‘did they get a permit?’ and I share this concern with my buyers.  If you can show me that as the seller, you took the time to be sure you were in compliance with the law, buyers and their agents then reasonably assume the rest of the property is probably pretty well cared for and above board, too.  Additionally, work that was not done with a permit can often be a health or safety hazard, and that is going to get caught by a savvy home inspector, so it’ll come up again anyway.

If you’re a buyer why is this important?  You and your buyer agent should be looking for additions to properties, remodeling, finished basements, attics and garages as places to start. Looking at an old home but with a brand new kitchen perhaps?  This project probably needed an electrical and plumbing permit.  Unfinished basement now a killer man-cave?  Ditto.  Buyers should be aware that permits alert the county that improvements have been made, so that properties can be taxed correctly.  Not only is paying your fair share right (and if you feel like the assessment is too high, an appeals process is available), but it also helps catch deficiencies in safety, structural issues, potential problems with encroachments onto adjacent parcels and the like along the way.

City Hall

Most sellers don’t have their permits or don’t keep them, so this requires leg work on the buying side.  While lots of municipalities have past permits now online for reference, some of them don’t go back as far as they might need to, so that means a trip into town.  Be prepared to spend a few dollars for copies, and some places may require a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) application.  Be sure to start this process early so you’re not waiting for results that come after the inspection period.

Virginia’s home inspection addendum does not consider grandfathered code non-compliance issues as a material defect.  The building code is constantly being updated as measurements for safety, building materials, and installation approaches get better and better–a house that is even a few years old likely is likely not meeting 100% current-code standards.  This is why getting permits is so important.  As the rules change, sellers should keep up so that buyers and sellers both reap the benefits once a house is on the market!

Recap: Virginia CRS 2014 Sell-a-Bration

Earlier this month, the Virginia CRS Chapter gathered for their annual Sell-a-Bration event in at the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Council of Residential Specialists (CRS) is a national network of nearly 33,000 residential real estate professionals that are committed to continuing education in their industry and providing the highest level of service to their clients. Each state has it’s own local chapter which is responsible for helping provide ongoing education and training for its members.


The annual Virginia CRS Sell-a-Bration event is the premier training event each year that brings nationally-known speakers, instructors, and industry experts to local members of the chapter. With Nest agent Arleen Yobs serving as the 2014 Chapter President, this year’s event was hosted right here in Charlottesville, Virginia. “One of our chapter goals is to bring national speakers to our members, enabling them to learn best practices to help them achieve success in their businesses,” said Arleen. This year’s event featured CRS Instructor, Jackie Leavenworth, and focused on the importance negotiating skills during the buying and selling process. The event was a great success with over 100 members in attendance from across the state and the surrounding area.

We are proud of our Nest agent’s involvement in organizations such as CRS and their commitment to continuing education in their field. It is this level of dedication that make Nest Realty a different breed of broker.

Affordable Housing Opportunities Back in the Market

In 2007, I was involved with the sale of the first proffered affordable housing units created by Albemarle County policies on this matter. The County has the vision of requiring developers to create housing options that meet requirements based on median income levels. These housing options are designed to serve the workforce in our area that cannot afford to live within the area they serve. Unfortunately, there are loopholes in the policy and these opportunities do not always come to fruition.

In one case, though, they have. The developer of Willow Glen has partnered with Stanley Martin Homes and The Piedmont Housing Alliance (PHA) to allow six of these affordable homes to become available in the market. The lots were sold to the builder at a discounted rate and the builder agreed to build them at their cost and sell them to PHA. Without PHA’s investment and a builder and developer interested in making this happen, this probably would have never occurred and these lots would have passed through the loopholes in the policy.

2943 Tempelhof Court-Exterior

Two of the six homes are sold and two are available right now at the price of $199,900. You can learn more about this community and opportunity here. These are brand new, energy efficient townhomes built in a new community within Hollymead Town Center north of town. There are income limits for those who can qualify to purchase.  For a household with 1-2 persons the income limit is $59,472 and for households with 3 or more persons it’s $72,688.

2943 Tempelhof Court-Kitchen

It gets even better for first-time homebuyers. PHA recently received a $2.7 million allocation of low-cost mortgage money for first-time homebuyers. Those who complete the VHDA First Time Homebuyer’s Class through PHA can apply through any local VHDA lender for these 30-year mortgages at 0.5% rate reduction over the standard VHDA rates (calculated daily; recently 3.125 percent). The income profile includes buyers with gross family incomes up to $87,400 (1-2 family members) and $101,200 (3+ family members); lower income limits apply in Louisa County. Additionally, buyers may be eligible for down payment assistance from PHA for up to 20% of the purchase price. Call PHA’s Karen Reifenberger at 434-817-2436 Ext. 106 to learn more!

Finally, there is another non-profit trying to impact the area’s housing needs as well. The Thomas Jefferson Community Land Trust (TJCLT) is currently offering a brand new townhome in the city for $135,000. A partnership with the City of Charlottesville made this possible. The TJCLT’s vision is to create affordable housing that will remain affordable beyond the first ownership of the home.

Greg Slater is the Listing Broker for the townhomes offered by PHA at Willow Glen and serves on the Board of Directors for the TJCLT. Contact him here or at 434-981-6655.

Nest Principal Broker, Jonathan Kauffmann, Featured in Charlottesville Home Magazine

2014 promises to be an interesting year in the Charlottesville area real estate market. The market will be influenced by wide array of external factors. One of those factors that will be influecing the marketplace, is the impact of the retiring “Baby Boomer” generation.

Charlottesville Home, a new, local lifestyle and home resource publication, published an article on this very topic in their inaugural issue. Nest Realty’s founder and Principal Broker, Jonathan Kauffmann, had the honor of being featured in this article and providing his insight on the trends developing in the Charlottesville real estate market. The article highlights how baby boomers make up a significant portion of the current homebuyer population and the ways in which their preferences have been changing. Kauffmann specifically notes the decrease in demand for homes in the 6,000+ square feet category and the emphasis on energy costs and eliminating wasted space.

Whether you fall into the “Baby Boomer” demographic or not, it is important to know how this segment of buyers impacts the market as a whole. You can read the full article online at At Nest, our goal is to ensure you are equipped to make confident, informed decisions, which is why we welcome the opportunity to discuss the market with you in greater depth. If you have questions about this article or the market in general, don’t hesitate to check out our 2013 Nest Annual Report or contact us and get connected with a Nest agent.

The Hearth: The Centerpiece of the Home

Been bundled up this winter season? Let Smith & Robertson build you the magnificent fireplace you’ve always dreamed of to warm you up when you come in from the cold.

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At Charlottesville-based Smith & Robertson, they understand that the hearth is the classic centerpiece of the home. The hearth conjures up warmth, security and a sense of place.

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As a custom builder, they pay particular attention to the detailing of a fireplace to ensure it fulfills your vision and is a perfect focal point to a family or living room, library, kitchen, bedroom or porch.

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A Smith & Robertson fireplace transcends the ordinary and will keep you cozy for years to come! Check out more Smith & Robertson fireplaces here!

Kelly Ceppa Awarded CAAR Good Neighbor Award

Nest Realty would like to extend hearty congratulations to Kelly Ceppa for being awarded the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtor’s (CAAR) Good Neighbor Award for the month of February.

Kelly Ceppa receives CAAR Good Neighbor Award

Kelly Ceppa with CAAR President-Elect Anita Dunbar and Kids Lift Foundation Volunteer Coordinator Patty Dombrowe.
Photo courtesy: CAAR

Kelly was awarded this honor for her volunteer work with the annual Toy Lift event, sponsored by local non-profit, the Kids Lift Foundation. Started in 1988, the Toy Lift is an annual event that serves to provide presents to children who otherwise would not have any during the holiday season. Thousands of local area children are served each year as a result of this event.

With the event in great need of volunteers this year, Kelly went above and beyond to support the cause for which she has great passion. Kelly designated the Nest Realty office as an early drop-off location, organized an office-wide toy shopping trip, and rallied her colleagues to volunteer at the drop-off location and distribution center the day of the event. Due in part to Kelly’s efforts, the Toy Lift was an overwhelming success for yet another year.

Congratulations again on this receiving this honor Kelly and thanks for giving back to the greater Charlottesville community. We’re proud to have you as a member of the Nest family.

Southern Development Homes Earns EasyLiving Home Certification for Dunlora Forest Community

I’m proud to announce that Southern Development Homes, one of Nest’s builder partners whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with, has earned the first EasyLiving Home community in the state of Virginia for it’s development of Dunlora Forest in Albemarle County. This is an exciting honor and I offer a hearty congratulations to the entire Southern Development team.


One of the many homes in Dunlora Forest that is EasyLiving Home certified.

EasyLiving Home is a certification program designed to promote easy access to homes for everyone by aiming to increase convenience, safety, and inclusion. In order to receive the EasyLiving Home certification, a home must feature:

  • Step-less entrance
  • Ample hallway space and door widths to allow for easy passage throughout the home
  • Master bedroom, kitchen, entertainment area, and bathroom with ample maneuvering space located on the first floor

Thirty-six of the ninety-nine homes in the Dunlora Forest community, which features a mix of styles, have been EasyLiving Home certified and are being well-received by homebuyers.

EasyLiving Home will be hosting a press tour of the Dunlora Forest community from 1pm to 3pm today to recognize Southern Development for this honorable distinction. Representatives from EasyLiving Home, Southern Development Homes, and residents of the community will all be present for event.

It’s truly an honor to work with the forward-thinking team at Southern Development and I am excited that their hard work is being recognized. Congratulations again to the entire team at Southern on receiving this unique distinction and leading the way in modern construction.

CAAR Welcomes a New Board of Directors

The Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors (CAAR) recently inducted it’s new 2014 Board of Directors at an induction ceremony held at the Boar’s Head Pavilion. Nest Realty is proud that among this group of new officers is our very own John Ince, who will be serving as Board President.

John Ince Speech

John Ince delivers his induction speech.

At the recent induction ceremony, John shared his vision for leading CAAR in 2014, focusing on the importance of maintaining a strong association in the midst of changing times. Below you’ll find an excerpt from John’s induction speech.

We’ve been moving and changing awfully fast, people. These winds of change are not going to die down so we will shift our sails and keep our eyes on the horizon as creative, innovative people always do. We’ve been taking some quick, quick steps forward just  to keep up but let us not forget where we came from, why we are gathered here together right now, why we are associated in the first place. I’d like to take a careful step back for a moment. Just take a breath.

I have heard several Realtors who I respect say to me, the Association is for MLS and Lock boxes. That’s all we need and want, they should just stay out of my hair! That’s what I want to talk about today. MLS and Lock boxes are vendors. We purchase products and services from them. Our association is people, you people, who adhere to a common code of ethics and insist on keeping our profession honorable and valid. You can’t purchase that. Our Code of Ethics is 101 years old this year. That’s our backbone . That’s why this association was formed in 1920. That is why we’re here today!

We are not here to provide you the tools of your trade though you can surely find some useful items at our new Realtor Store. We are not here to teach you how to sell real estate. That is your broker’s job.  We are not here just to provide MLS and Lockboxes though we will soon be working with the coolest new MLS system in the industry. We are here because you Realtors recognize that we are strong together and that we must be vigilant to maintain the integrity of our business which is being assaulted  from every direction.

Again, we wish a hearty congratulations to John and the entire new board of directors. Stay tuned throughout the year as we’ll be checking back with John from time to time for updates on CAAR’s activity and the local real estate market.