It's a buyer's market for country manors

It's a buyer's market for country manors

If you’ve been putting off buying that seven bedroom, nine bathroom country manor with several hundred acres of land, you might want to stop procrastinating: It’s a buyer’s market.

Built in 1740, 0 Gordonsville Road tops the price list at $18 million: It includes a manor, three additional cottages, a carriage house and 16 stall barn.

Local listings for estates $5 million and up have roughly doubled compared to normal times. In Charlottesville and Albemarle, a dozen such properties are now for sale, many established in the 1700s and 1800s on sprawling farms in Keswick. Indeed, a 10,000-square-foot house at 0 Gordonsville Road tops the price list at $18 million. The Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors’ (CAAR) website shows the property comes with three cottages and stables and abuts 15,000 permanently protected acres of land. Down the road, $12.5 million could buy you Keswick Vineyards. The 393-acre property includes the 43-acre vineyard, the main house from 1911, and a guest house with home theater and exercise space. Unfortunately, “the market seems rather flat,” says Keswick’s General Manager Stephen Barnard. The property has been listed since the summer without eliciting any interest.

Keswick Vineyards, built in 1911, sits at $12.5 million and it includes 43-acre vineyard, tasting room, Gunnite Pool, three-bedroom guest house, exercise room and home theatre.

According to Realtor Justin Wiley, whose company Frank Hardy Inc. handles many upper-echelon properties, sales prices have sagged. He explains sellers may not advertise reduced rates, but they are accepting lower bids, sometimes 30 percent lower, similar to much of the rest of the real estate market. “I think prices will continue to come under asking price until some sellers begin to see where the price ought to be. More people are definitely looking. Maybe we’ll see more offers,” says Wiley. 

Statistics from CAAR as of September 25 showed 3,502 active listings for the entire local market, which extends into Fauquier, Goochland, Augusta, and other counties. Of these homes, 134 sold this month for a median price of $262,000 after 133 days on market. That pace is a bit slower but at slightly higher prices than August. In the $5 million and up range, in contrast, the entire CAAR region has 33 homes for sale. They have been sitting on the market for an average of 403 days, and for September, none has been sold.

Not all the lavish properties, however, may stay as they are if they are sold. For a $14.95 million property on Woodlands Road, one selling point—or caveat—is the absence of a conservation easement. Meanwhile, an 86-acre farm pinched between the Mosby Mountain and Redfields subdivisions just south of Charlottesville has, according to its listing, “Development potential as well…. County has indicated higher zoning would be approved.” 
Yet, mere looking in the luxury bracket reflects progress. “This time last year was completely dead,” Wiley says. The usual buyers from outside the Commonwealth, occasionally even from Europe, were staying away, although Charlottesville and Albemarle typically fare better than other high-end markets in Virginia, such as the Chesapeake Bay area. Now his phone is ringing again. “Look at what $10 million buys you in Albemarle versus the Hamptons or Palm Beach. It’s a much better value here.”

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