Just 15 minutes east of Charlottesville at the intersection of Route 15 and interstate 64 is Zion Crossroads, a vibrant and growing residential and commercial center. While recent challenges in the local real estate market have had an impact here like elsewhere in our region, today the market is picking up steam and both commercial and residential real estate is thriving.
Maury Atkins is an agent in Roy Wheeler Realty’s office in Zion Crossroads, which just opened its doors in February of 2012. He said not only is he very busy, but for the first time in five years he is experiencing what he calls a “true spring market.”
Susan Stewart from the same office agreed. She explained that since Roy Wheeler Realty opened the new Zion Crossroads location, they have added 14 agents to the roster and everyone is staying busy.
Favorable Prices Promote a Strong Residential Market
Stewart offered several reasons for the strong spring market. One is that new construction is starting to sell again in part because prices have come down.
“Many people prefer a new home,” she said, “and in this area they can often find what they want in new construction for a price similar to a resale property.”
She added that the Zion Crossroads area was not as hard hit by the real estate slow down as were other areas, so recovery is happening faster.
Stewart’s company, Roy Wheeler Realty, has just teamed up with Spring Creek Land Developer, LLC to list and sell lots at Spring Creek, a local gated community, and everyone is excited about the potential there.
David Garono, an agent with Nest Realty Group who represents Piedmont Realty and Construction at Spring Creek, is also upbeat about the current residential market. He explained that buyers comparing a new super energy efficient home in Zion Crossroads with a resale in Charlottesville that requires work and costs more to heat and cool, may well decide that comfort and utility savings, along with other benefits of the area, make it well worthwhile to move a few miles east of town.
He was especially positive about the market in his subdivision stating that while 2008 was one of the worst years for real estate in Charlottesville, it was one of the best at Spring Creek. Subsequent years have shown steady numbers, he said, and today there are 6-8 homes under construction, all of them custom, which means they are under contract and not builder spec homes.
Donna Patton, managing broker at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate III, also mentioned favorable home prices as a big reason Zion Crossroads looks good to buyers. She explained that most prices are less than in either Charlottesville or Richmond for comparable homes and this contributes to the strong market.
Patton said people are also starting to list their homes again. In the recent past, some people who didn’t have to sell held off listing because they didn’t want to compete with foreclosures and short sales.
“However, now people are starting to list again and the agents are very busy,” she said.
She indicated though that while prices are good compared to elsewhere in the region, one of her agents’ biggest challenges is working with people who get their information from the media and expect super bargains.
“They (the media) are not talking about our area,” she said. “Every market is local.” For that reason she cautioned that it’s important for both buyers and sellers to work with a REALTOR® who is familiar with the area and understands the local market.
Location a Plus for Zion Crossroads
What draws people to Zion Crossroads?
According to Patton, “you can’t beat the accessbility.” She stressed how easy it is for Zion Crossroads residents to jump on I-64 and get to either Charlottesville or Richmond. “Lots of people prefer to drive into Short Pump to shop,” she said, “because it’s almost as quick and there is less congestion than in Charlottesville.” Of course residents also go to both Charlottesville and Richmond for work.
Garono agrees that accessibility is an important part of why this area is popular. “Until I started working in the Zion Crossroads area I never realized there are so many households with one spouse working in Richmond and the other in Charlottesville,” he said.
He added that Gordonsville and Orange are within easy reach of Zion Crossroads, as is Northern Virginia.
Jack Crocker, a REALTOR® with Re/Max Assured Properties, described Zion Crossroads as “the next growth area,” stressing that it offers the best of city amenities with a country lifestyle. You can get away from the noise and congestion, but restaurants and essential shopping are nearby, while malls, sporting events and cultural activities, such as concerts and museums, are just a short drive away in Charlottesville or Richmond.
He summed it up by saying “In Zion Crossroads you have all of the benefits of city living, but at the same time you can still see the stars at night.”
Crocker pointed out that Zion Crossroads also offers a lot of benefits for people living on the east end of Charlottesville. For many of them he explained, it is often quicker to drive east to Zion Crossroads to go to Wal-Mart and Lowes than it is to try to navigate Route 29 North in Charlottesville.
Many Residential Opportunities
Given the rural nature of Zion Crossroads, you may be surprised at the number of subdivisions, some older, some with large wooded lots tucked away but still accessible. These lovely spots are what Andy Wade, Director of Economic Development for Louisa County, calls “hidden residential pockets.”
Those who prefer to rent, or who need a place to live while their home is under construction, may soon have some upscale apartments to choose from as well. According to Wade, a mixed use development is under consideration, which includes 282 upper end apartments along with commercial space. The property, which is across the street from Spring Creek, is going through the rezoning process now. It has passed the first two stages of a four step process with a meeting before the Planning Commission scheduled very soon.
For Zion Crossroads home buyers looking for lots of amenities a good choice is Spring Creek, the well-planned gated community that offers lots of extras. Approved for 1,200 homes, it currently has 350, with several currently under construction. While there are two main builders, Ryan Homes and Piedmont Realty and Construction, a third one, Tatum Builders from the Lake Anna area, has just purchased a lot and plans to build a model home soon, according to Dan Girouard, Spring Creek’s Sales Director.
Girouard explained they are seeing lots of traffic at Spring Creek with people coming from Richmond, Northern Virginia and Charlottesville shopping for the perfect lot for their new home. He believes this spring’s uptick in activity is a positive sign reflecting consumer confidence.
One of Spring Creek’s biggest draws is the golf course, which Girouard says has a growing membership reflecting heightened interest in Zion Crossroads.
The course is “the best in our area,” added Garono. In fact Golf Week Magazine rated it one of the best residential courses in the country in 2012. At number 70 in the country, it was one of only two golf courses in all of Virginia that placed in the top 100 on this prestigious list.
Other amenities at Spring Creek include a 9,500 square foot sports club with banquet rooms for parties and other functions as well as a junior olympic sized pool and a state of the art fitness center which, said Garono, overlooks the pool. In addition, each of the locker rooms includes a cedar lined sauna. Tennis courts and a basketball court are nearby, and walking and jogging trails wind throughout the subdivision. All homeowners have access to the sports club as the fees are included in their homeowner dues.
While many people shopping in Spring Creek are ready to build their dream home, Stewart offered that it is also now possible for them to buy a lot today, but hold off building until later. “There are 900 lots open to the public,” she said, “and builders are also welcome.”
Garono added that in some instances, the developer may even do owner financing on lots.
Commercial Real Estate is Alive and Well in Zion Crossroads
The busy residential market in Zion Crossroads provides an incentive for increased commercial development, and of course, the opposite is true as well. Commercial development is a big plus for residential buyers who can shop, eat out and find the services they need and stay close to home. Patton described the new businesses in the area as a huge plus because they are such a convenience, with most less than 15 minutes from residential areas.
At the moment the two big retail tenants are Lowes and a Super Wal-Mart, however rumor has it that another big retailer may join them soon. There are a number of options for quick meals. Just about everyone mentioned the new Arby’s which has recently joined IHOP, a Subway and McDonalds. For those seeking ethnic food, Chinese and Thai cuisine are available at Made in Asia restaurant and residents can also look forward to eating Italian very soon.
There is a lot of excitement about the new Sheetz which opens in the very near future and there is a Best Western for out of town home buyers and visitors to the area who want a centrally located place to stay overnight.
A variety of personal services are also available according to Patton who said local residents can get a hair cut, visit a nail salon and work out at Anytime Fitness without leaving the area.
In addition to being a retail center, Zion Crossroads also offers a variety of medical offices and services with more on the way.
Martha Jefferson Hospital has a local center called Health Services at Spring Creek which offers imaging services including digital X-rays and mammograms, lab and EKG services and two full time family physicians.This means patients can stop by for digital X-rays which can be processed in a short amount of time and sent electronically to their physician for quick viewing and evaluation.
The UVA Health System has a dialysis center in this area and will soon be opening a new 50,000 square foot facility on five acres, which Garono described as “massive.”
Pet owners also have a local option. The Crossroads Animal Hospital is a full service clinic across from Lowes that treats both dogs and cats.
Celeste Smucker is a writer, editor and author of Sold on Me, Daily Inspiration for Real Estate Agents. She lives near Charlottesville.
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