By Celeste M. Smucker –
Gracious, older homes dating back to the 1950s and 60s, quiet tree-lined streets and spacious lots are just a few of the reasons neighborhoods that are part of the Rugby area continue to be popular with homebuyers, and why they may be frustrated by a serious lack of inventory.
And there is more. Residents love the close-in location that includes neighborhoods extending from the University on the south to the shops and restaurants of Barracks Road and the bypass on the west and north.
A bike may be useful to reach Barracks Road and the University from parts of the region, but walkscore.com rates the Venable neighborhood as the third most walkable in Charlottesville. Its score of 76 out of 100 means “most errands can be accomplished on foot,” making it a popular choice for locals who prefer to leave their car at home as often as possible.
And, while the Downtown Mall may be considered an ambitious walk, it too is accessible by bike. Meanwhile walkers can make their way to the Rotunda and enjoy a quick ride to the Mall on the trolley.
Rugby is known for being a place where people watch out for each other. When neighbors are out for a stroll or driving by in a car, count on them to give a friendly wave to joggers, other walkers and friends enjoying the area’s ambiance from their porch or deck.
This feature is perhaps a big part of the reason many UVA grads choose Rugby when moving back to the area. Not only is the location attractive, but for these graduates, it is also the friendly spot they remember from their student days.
About half of the homes have been updated, agents say, but many buyers will want to do more renovations to open up the space, bring in more light, and perhaps add an addition, while retaining many of the special features and character of these stately older homes.
The real estate market is healthy, with a list of eager buyers ready and willing to purchase as soon as more listings come on the market. (Sellers take note!)
If your dream is to live in a unique older home on a shady, tree-lined street, this may be just the neighborhood for you. But be prepared to make a quick decision and write a seller-oriented offer when you find the one you like the best.
Hot Market, Limited Inventory
REALTORS® in our area anticipate an active market this year and those who work the Rugby neighborhoods are no exception.
The market is going “full force,” said Inessa Telefus with Loring Woodriff Real Estate Associates, who described Rugby as an area with a “unique vibe,” being “established with distinguished properties.”
Bobby Montgomery with Nest Realty Group explained it is not unusual for homes on the market to sell quickly for a great price. He referenced a home purchased at a foreclosure auction for $400 thousand that sold for over $1 million after renovations that included an addition.
However, in a regional real estate market where inventory is short just about everywhere, this area’s options are “really low now,” Montgomery emphasized.
Even in a more normal market there is not a lot of turnover here, said Jim McVay, Associate Broker with Roy Wheeler Realty Co. He described the Rugby area as a place where people move in with the intention to stay long term. Buyers purchase homes to renovate and hold because they value the local lifestyle and feel they can reasonably expect their house to increase in value. All of this contributes to a market he described as “very active.”
Examples of both the stability and marketability of homes here include McVay’s recent sale of what he described as “a modest home built in the 50s.”
The owners planned to put it on the market as soon as they updated it a bit to make it more saleable. They were just beginning to talk to contractors when word got out and an investor purchased it (as is) before it was ever officially listed.
This was the second home McVay sold in that same Rugby neighborhood in the last twelve months. In both cases he was contacted by the adult children of recently deceased parents.
Both sets of offspring had grown up in these houses and mom and dad had chosen to stay on in residences that had been only marginally updated to keep them functioning, but not substantially modernized, yet they still sold quickly.
Why Home Buyers Love Rugby
Lots of different kinds of buyers find the Rugby neighborhoods appealing. Families like the large two story homes, while young professionals, telecommuters and retirees appreciate the peace, quiet and safety of a neighborhood where there is not a lot of through traffic.
However, long before the current market and the popularity of rural counties it was UVA professors and others at the University and the Med Center who built many of the spacious Rugby homes. At that time the area was in the County outside of Charlottesville City boundaries. Eventually, though, it was annexed by the City.
Today it is still often UVA professors and administrators who live in and continue to buy homes in Rugby, McVay said.
Telefus agrees describing some recent clients, a young couple, both physicians in private practice who also teach at UVA. For them this area is “perfect,” she said.
Montgomery also noted that many UVA professors prefer homes in this neighborhood. Proximity to UVA is a big selling point, of course, and if they are willing to invest in updates, the area is a great choice. “The majority of buyers renovate to some degree,” he added.
While homes under $300 thousand are hard to find, Montgomery said, there are smaller homes in the Greenleaf Park area that can be had for prices between $300 and $500 thousand. Moderately priced Rugby area homes include those in the $500 to $850 thousand price range and of course there are also pockets of homes that sell for $1 million and above.
Lower priced homes in this area can be small. Telefus showed a $500 thousand house recently that she described as “charming and adorable,” but which would not be considered spacious. Some buyers, though, are alright with a smaller size home or one with an antiquated floor plan, she said. They just like the area and want to be there.
Walkability is high on the list of what makes the Rugby area attractive, Montgomery said. A resident of the area, he described his neighborhood as a pleasant place to walk his dog. He and his wife also enjoy walking to The Corner and to sporting events.
They also appreciate being near the students who, he said, always have a lot of energy. On the other hand, in the summer when students are on break, Montgomery and his wife enjoy the quiet of what he described as “their own little paradise.”
Location was a big reason one of Telefus’ buyers chose to buy a home in the Rugby area. The client looked at homes in the County, but chose Rugby because “it was close to everything, it was charming and she had trees.”
Rugby is often the top choice of alumni who “love UVA and would do anything they can to get back here,” Montgomery said. These may be young retirees from high-paying jobs like company CEOs who have attended reunions and always dreamed of returning to Charlottesville permanently.
Meanwhile, they have amassed enough wealth to make it possible to buy an expensive home and spend even more to update it and make their dream of retiring to Charlottesville a reality.
It is also Rugby’s “old town feel,” McVay explained that makes it attractive to retirees such as UVA alums.
Telecommuters and entrepreneurs of all kinds who could live anywhere, choose Charlottesville because of the beautiful scenery and its cultural amenities. For many of these folks it is the quiet tree-lined streets that draw them to Rugby, which becomes their haven from the stress of owning a business, as well as a lovely place to walk or go for a run when they need a break.
The Rugby lifestyle is also enhanced by University Police officers explained Tommy
Brannock with Loring Woodriff Real Estate Associates. Although their responsibility ends with UVA’s grounds, Brannock calls them “great neighbors” stating they are both friendly and comfortable dealing with students.
Most of all, though, they are adept at defusing situations that might otherwise cause problems for nearby residents.
Safe and Family Friendly
Charlottesville is considered to be a “great place for kids,” Brannock said, adding that families love the community feel and the sense of safety that are both part of living the Rugby lifestyle.
Of course the large two story houses are perfect for couples who want a home with all the bedrooms on the same floor in order to be near their children when they are still young, McVay said.
In addition, the layout of this older neighborhood characterized by streets that loop around rather than going straight through adds to the safety factor.
Anyone looking for a shortcut to elsewhere in town, who has mistakenly turned onto a Rugby area street, understands how frustrating it can be to find a way back out again. On the other hand, if you are a resident and see a car, chances are it’s someone you know. The street layout also means less traffic overall, and cars that drive slowly.
Venable, the local Elementary School, draws high praise from many parents. According to greatschools.org, Venable’s test scores are above average for both math and English reading. In addition, its student-teacher ratio of 12:1 is less than the state average and 96 percent of teachers have three or more years of experience.
Parents give it high marks with glowing comments about the environment there: “There is a refreshing lack of cliques or bullying,” one said. Others commented on the quality of the education stressing the involvement of both the teachers and the principal.
Nearby Greenleaf Park is a relaxing place where parents can sit in the shelter and read a book or enjoy the scenery while kids take advantage of the playground and the touch sensitive “spray ground” with its mushroom fountain and interactive water pole to cool off on a hot day.
If you are in the market for a home and you want to live in, and possibly renovate a unique older house full of grace and charm, and if you also like to be near where the action is at the University, Barracks Road or the Downtown Mall, ask your agent about the Rugby neighborhoods.
Then prepare to act quickly before our current hot market depletes existing inventory even further making it especially challenging to find your dream home in one of our region’s most popular areas.
Celeste Smucker is a writer and blogger who lives near Charlottesville.