Housing Specialists Share Tips for Charlottesville Home Buyers

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Roxanne Carter-Johnston Roxanne Carter-Johnston
Matthew Sweetanos Matthew Sweetanos

Realtors say last year was a tricky time for people looking to buy and sell homes in the Charlottesville area.

First-time buyers are usually starting the process right now, and housing specialists say it's about an 18-month process from start to closing on a home.

Charlottesville and its surrounding area is a unique housing market. Realtor Roxanne Carter-Johnston says the market often sees a certain kind of buyer: the 'forever home' buyer. “This is first-time home buyers, repeat buyers, downsizers,” she said.

But, in 2017 that created a problem for buyers. “In 2017 we saw an inventory struggle,” said Carter-Johnston.

People looking to stay under $150,000 in Charlottesville found it nearly impossible. “In the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County that's a tough price point to be in. Really you're looking in the outlying areas. So Greene County, Fluvanna County, Orange,” said Matthew Sweetanos, director of mortgage services at the University of Virginia Community Credit Union.

And buyers were sticking to their budget, and that drove prices up. “We saw a rise to above about $370,000 for the average sales price, which also pushes up the median sales price,” Carter-Johnston said.

Many millennials today don't have as much money saved up as they think they need to buy a house, but mortgage loan officers say you don't necessarily need that 20 percent down payment to buy a home. That means good news for those looking to get the best interest rates.

“It's not necessarily related to down payment, so you can get the same kind of interest rate on a 5 percent down payment, a 3 percent down payment, as you can with a 20 percent down payment,” Sweetanos said.

Loan officers say a credit score of 740 and above will get you the best rate. They also advise looking into federal and veteran housing programs that help get low to no down payments.

The University of Virginia Credit Union is holding two housing seminars this month. It’s free and people will have a chance to talk with a loan officer, real estate agent, and others who ca help answer questions about buying a home in this market.