If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.
If you love the idea of living on the water, but don’t want to give up easy access to Charlottesville’s many amenities, talk to your agent about Lake Monticello. This popular gated community in nearby Fluvanna County comes with a resort lifestyle accessible to everyone from first timers needing a starter home to move-up buyers longing for an elegant waterfront property where they can dock their boat and enjoy the view. While the main attraction here is the beautiful lake, residents of this community also enjoy an easy commute to town along with lower home prices than are available in Charlottesville and Albemarle.
Lake Monticello offers swimming, golfing, tennis and boating, all big draws for families, young professionals, telecommuters and retirees many of whom also appreciate two other features of lake living, the laid back atmosphere and the security that comes with being in a gated community. The lake is also a popular place for second home buyers who want a place to go on weekends and get away from the day-to-day stress of their lives. However, after they experience the magic of being at the lake, many decide to sell their other home and enjoy their vacation lifestyle full time.
This popular lake community was originally the brain child of a group of developers who, back in the 1960s, envisioned a man-made lake surrounded by a residential community. Eventually the developers turned the community’s management over to the Home Owners Association (HOA), and by the early 1980s, Lake Monticello had developed into a modest 400 lot subdivision.
According to the HOA website the original lake had 35 to 40 feet of water, but it got a big boost from torrential rains that came with Hurricane Camille in 1969. This in turn weakened a nearby dam and caused an influx of water from another nearby lake. Today the 350-acre lake has 22.5 miles of shoreline surrounded by 4,200 homes and a large cross section of people lucky enough to enjoy the Lake Monticello vacation lifestyle.
For buyers who want to join them, now is the time. The market is rebounding strongly, but prices are still reasonable and combined with low interest rates that means many good deals are still available. But don’t wait. Agents are reporting inventory shortages and multiple offers on listings, all of which will begin to push up prices and make this vacation lifestyle increasingly inaccessible as time goes by.
Lake Monticello’s Real Estate Market
The second quarter market report from CAAR shows a 30.4 percent increase in home sales in Fluvanna County compared to the same time last year and these results are reflected in the optimism expressed by agents who work the Lake Monticello market.
“The Lake market is doing so much better,” said Maggie Gunnels Fornecker with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate III. She received eight offers on her listings last month, four in one weekend. Six of the eight offers were multiple offers on the same properties. She described the market as the best she’s seen in ten years.
“There are 180 homes sold to date this year, 2016, as compared to 160 homes sold to date this time last year,” said Vicki Wilson, with Monticello Country Realtors. She added that this year has also seen the sale of 18 lots, a sign that people have plans to build. “Lots are the lowest prices they have been in years,” Wilson said urging buyers with plans to build to jump in and take advantage of this opportunity while it lasts.
“The market has definitely picked up since August,” said Patsy Strong with Strong Team Realtors. “With a vibrant fall market already in place, I’m pleased to see more higher priced homes now going under contract. With the contracts we have pending, I expect 2016 to end on a high note! And I am anticipating a very strong start in 2017,” she added.
Why Lake Monticello
Lower prices compared to what are found in Charlottesville and Albemarle make the resort lifestyle available to a wide range of families willing to make the short commute. Residents also enjoy a variety of essential services that come with living there.
All residents are required to be members of the HOA and to pay annual dues that cover amenities such as common ground maintenance, trash pickup and snow removal. Fees also cover the security gate and a full time police force.
A fire and rescue squad stands ready to help just outside the gate and in the event of a fire or medical emergency, they and the police are quick to respond. Wilson described a winter night when she had an emergency at her home that prompted a call to the rescue squad. Even though the local roads were closed, help was there within five minutes.
The close in location is also a plus. “Buyers are willing to drive 30 minutes to work in order to enjoy the lifestyle of the lake,” Wilson said. She added that families with children also appreciate the quality of the local schools. Recently Fluvanna’s high school was one of 113 in the state to receive a medal from US News & World Report based on student levels of college readiness.
“Buyers are attracted to Lake Monticello because of the quality of life offered by the community and the entire Charlottesville area,” Strong said. “Whether people are looking for the fun and relaxing waterfront lifestyle, or the world-class experiences in Charlottesville, Lake Monticello offers an opportunity for people to have both.”
Affordability is also a benefit for people who live in Lake Monticello. Fornecker used to live in town in what she described as a “70s rancher.” Now she has a nicer home at Lake Monticello where she estimates that buyers can enjoy as much as two and a half times the square footage for the money as is available in town.
Many of the lake’s residents so love their lifestyle that they encourage family and friends to join them there. Strong said, “one of the most interesting things we see is people who move here and enjoy it so much they end up getting family members and friends to join them…it says a lot about the quality of life at Lake Monticello that people would move here, and then convince friends and family to do the same.”
Others find Lake Monticello when they are in the market for a second home, although often after they experience the magic of being on the water they choose to move there permanently. “I have sold several homes in the past couple of years, where buyers have bought a second home with plans of retiring in the future. Most of them have taken an early retirement and moved here permanently,” Wilson said. “They fall in love with the lake and the ‘vacation at home’ feeling, so they move sooner than later. Some bring their work to their weekend home and decide this is the place to be. Lake Monticello offers high speed internet, which is very important these days for those who work from home,” she continued.
“I have seen it over and over again,” Strong said. “Buyers purchase a waterfront home for weekend use, then they start extending their weekends and working there on Fridays and Mondays. Eventually I run into them in the store in the middle of the week and they confide that they have made the move to the water permanent…and they are always smiling when they say it.”
Where Buyers Come From
Back in the 1980s, the original developers looked for buyers in New York and other northern cities explained Keith Smith with Roy Wheeler Realty Co. Back in the 1980s he and his wife Yonna, also an agent, traveled down from New York City in response to an ad offering to pay visitors $150 to come and experience Lake Monticello. Like many others, they fell in love with the area and the lake, bought a lot and relocated. Although they soon realized they had over-paid for the lot, they urged Smith’s father to move there too. He in turn invited friends to join him in settling at the lake after experiencing the beauty of an area that was such a pleasant contrast to life in the City.
Today buyers still come to Lake Monticello from the northeast and from Northern Virginia Wilson explained. They come for the “low home and land prices, the proximity to Charlottesville and Richmond and the community activities and involvement. Many of my clients get involved in the volunteer opportunities within Lake Monticello and Fluvanna County once they are here,” she said.
“Our waterfront buyers this year have been a mixture of retirees and second-home buyers,” Strong said. Most have come from Northern Virginia, but we’ve also worked with local owners who are looking to live the waterfront lifestyle.”
Fornecker has a number of clients from out of the area, several of whom chose the lake lifestyle after being transferred here for jobs at places like NGIC and Martha Jefferson. One of her buyers, from New Hampshire, chose Lake Monticello for the laid-back feel and the variety of home styles available, all very different from what she termed “cookie cutter” neighborhoods.
Fornecker also has local clients including a recent first timer who looked at two properties and could not make up his mind. When he finally made a decision there were already two other offers on the property, and although he offered more than the list price, he still lost out. Another set of clients moved to the lake from Crozet, selling a $300,000 house there. These buyers were ready for a home with one level living and chose Lake Monticello in part because they got so much more for their money there than elsewhere in the area.
Essentials Close at Hand
Back in the 1980s, in Lake Monticello’s early days, residents drove to Charlottesville for everything from groceries to medical, dental and vet care and even gas. Today essential services such as medical facilities, dentists, attorneys, veterinary care, a pharmacy, a grocery store and restaurants are all immediately nearby and at Zion Crossroads where shoppers will also find Lowes and Walmart. In addition, very soon they can jump on the interstate and head west to Charlottesville where they can enjoy shopping at Wegmans and all the other great stores at the new 5th Street Station.
If you are someone who longs to live near the water and don’t mind a short commute to work, or someone who telecommutes or has a home-based business, or better yet is ready to retire and live the good life, ask your agent about Lake Monticello. The natural beauty and laid-back lifestyle may be just what you are looking for.
Celeste Smucker is a writer, blogger and author who lives near Charlottesville.