By Celeste M. Smucker –
A close-in Albemarle location, gorgeous views, convenience and lots of options: Pantops has it all. And thanks to Thomas Jefferson the area also enjoys a captivating and unusual name.
One of Pantops’ earliest property owners, Jefferson is believed to have called the area Pant-Ops, Greek for all seeing. Was this a reference to the great views that still bring buyers to this sought-after part of town? We may never know for sure, but the name stuck and from it also came the street named Spotnap, which is Pantops spelled backwards.
Today buyers also move to Pantops because it is a convenient place to live or have a business. Residents and business owners love the quick trip to the Interstate when heading east to Richmond or west to Staunton. The short—less than two mile—distance to the Downtown Mall is also a big plus as is easy access to the 29 North corridor.
Homebuyers also appreciate the growing number of local resources like restaurants and grocery stores that let them do errands or grab a quick bite to eat without visiting more congested parts of town.
And the close proximity of just about every kind of medical care is also a plus. Martha Jefferson Hospital—where parking is easy and free and which features single rooms—is a welcome Pantops neighbor as are the many assorted medical offices located nearby.
Pantops area homeowners looking for even more amenities can take a short drive east to Zion Crossroads to shop at Walmart and Lowes or go west to 5th Street Station with its host of shopping and entertainment venues including Wegmans, Krispy Kreme and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.
Like other real estate markets in our area, Pantops suffers from a lack of resale inventory. However, new construction is booming and buyers can choose from options ranging from condos and townhomes, to villas and detached single family homes.
Location is Key
Pantops is often described as an area that has everything people want. Two major grocery stores make it easy to do food shopping, and of course there are a growing number of restaurants including Shadwells featuring casual fine dining and Sunday brunch.
And more amenities are on the way. Riverside Village is a popular mixed-use project on Route 20 – Stony Point Road. Coming soon to this development are the Shops at Riverside Village that will offer a variety of retail services such as a restaurant, coffee shop and exercise studio all walkable from the homes there. For folks who work nearby and aren’t ready to buy, luxury apartments will be available above the shops.
When Simone Alley with Roy Wheeler Realty Co. decided to move closer in from her home in north Albemarle County, she and her family chose Cascadia, a popular new-home community in Pantops. She shared that the “ease of getting around town” from their Cascadia neighborhood was a big factor in why they decided to move there.
With two teenagers in her family, Alley also likes the idea of being near PVCC, while her children have expressed that the area is so much easier to navigate than where they used to live. She added that none of them realized how centrally and conveniently located their new home is until they moved in.
Being close to downtown is a real advantage, agrees Jodi Mills with Nest Realty Group who represents Stony Point Design/Build at Riverside Village. The approximately 1.5 miles to the Downtown Mall is an easy drive. Or residents can make it even easier and just take Uber, she added. Mills is another agent who fell in love with where she works and now resides at Riverside Village.
Pantops’ location near the interstate works well for two career households with one spouse working in Richmond, the other in Charlottesville. It also makes it a breeze to shop at 5th Street Station, which Alley says “definitely impacts” the desirability of Pantops and is part of what “keeps this area hopping.”
Mike Plecker with Roy Wheeler Realty Co., another Pantops resident, also appreciates the nearness of the Interstate. He added that, in spite of living in close proximity to this major roadway, the mountain protects them from the highway noise keeping their neighborhood safe and quiet.
Martha Jefferson Hospital’s Pantops location is a huge benefit for employees who live nearby, like the physician clients of Suzie Pace with Pace Real Estate Associates, LLC. Pantops is also a good location for her clients who work at UVA Hospital, she added.
For Pantops home owners who travel a lot, getting to the airport the back way via Stony Point Road—and without driving on Route 29—is another reason to live in the area.
And still another benefit is that while Pantops is near the best of what Charlottesville City has to offer, its residents pay the lower county taxes and attend county schools.
Views and Vistas
A good reason to settle in Pantops is the “gorgeous mountain views,” Plecker observed. He grew up in the Valley and lived for a few years in Northern Virginia before he and his wife decided to relocate to Charlottesville. He appreciates the topography in Pantops because “it’s not all flat,” and he also loves the wealth of trees.
Of course, more and more people now work out of their homes and can live anywhere, Pace said, and many choose this area in part to enjoy the spectacular views from their office windows while they work.
Even Martha Jefferson has exceptional views, worth considering if a job or visit there is in your future.
Those who want to revel in the views from outside can pack a lunch and walk to Darden Towe Park for a picnic. Or, Mills said, they can play tennis or watch an event at the playing fields. A nice walk or run along the river is available for those who want to take advantage of the nearby Rivanna Trail.
“Direct connectivity to the Rivanna Trail System is a big selling point” for people considering a move to Pantops, Mills observed.
The Real Estate Market at Pantops
Pantops’ market is busy and lack of inventory an issue as it is elsewhere in our region.
Alley described it as a “great market.” In contrast, last year was almost “chaotic,” she said because it was so, so busy. One of her well-qualified buyer clients was looking at homes at the $500 thousand price point and wanted one that was all on one level. Although he made some great offers he lost out on several because his competition was able to pay cash.
Alley noted that this year’s market is much “healthier.” This may mean it is a little more buyer- friendly, but serious contenders still must be prepared to act quickly as overall inventory is low and competition is still a factor.
Pace, who represents the upscale neighborhood, Ashcroft, said that she is extremely busy, especially with new construction. “In 30 years of working this area, I have never seen as much activity,” she explained. She also can’t remember a time when $1million plus homes were so popular.
“The resale market is also busy,” Pace continued. She referenced a $550 thousand home that went on the market and had seven showings in the first week.
Plecker described the Pantops market as “steady,” adding that he is pleased with the spring market that is doing “very well.”
There are appealing housing options for everyone including townhome resales at Pavilions of Pantops ranging from $270 to the low $300 thousands that appeal to many first timers, Plecker said.
He explained that sales at the low end of the market benefit everyone as they start a ripple effect allowing starter home sellers to move up to something bigger and nicer. Often that move-up buyer finds a home in the immediate area such as one Plecker expects to list soon in the Fontana neighborhood. This community is doing well, he observed, and features homes from the low $400 thousands to $570 thousand.
Next to Fontana is a community called Hyland Ridge with houses on half-acre lots built by Southern Development Homes. In a great example of market health, Plecker pointed out that these homes came on the market just a few years ago and sold out quickly at prices ranging from $700 thousand to $1 million.
“Upper end homes are selling well,” Mills agreed citing the success of Cascadia with prices ranging from $600 to $900 thousand. These homes come with basements, she said, and are popular with families with kids. However, the neighborhood also has townhomes that appeal to singles and Millennials.
She is also impressed with the sales at Riverside Village that offers single family and villa homes as well as the Riverhouse Condominiums.
Condo prices start in the low $200 thousands on up to a recent sale at just over $521 thousand. The developers anticipated the condos would appeal to young professionals. While that has been the case to some extent, they have been even more popular with the 50+ crowd, Mills said.
No doubt part of the appeal is that the condos are the first EarthCraft Multi-family project in Charlottesville. A unique feature is its solar canopy over the covered parking that helps offset utility costs in the common areas, benefitting every homeowner there.
Villa homes are also popular at Riverside Village, Mills noted, because they have in-demand floor plans with a first floor master suite, popular among retirees.
She also has a new plan with a second full bedroom on the first floor, which she described as “very, very popular,” and selling quickly. The new plan was prompted by feedback from buyers who want space for visitors in their same age group that prefer not to climb stairs.
Rental properties are a good investment in Pantops, thanks in part to the proximity of the hospital that employs so many people. Agents report that often physicians and other hospital employees rent when they first arrive, and then buy one of the nearby homes after they become better acquainted with the area.
One indication of the popularity of rental properties is the apartments that come with some of the homes at Riverside Village. These carriage house garage apartments are just 500 square feet, Mills said, and rent for $1,100 a month. When they come available they usually go within 24 hours she continued, often to hospital employees, but they also attract renters commuting to INGIC.
Pantops has something for everyone. If your first Pantops home is a rental, you may find you like the local amenities so much you choose to stay, buying a townhome or condo.
And down the line, as your circumstances change, you can continue to enjoy the Pantops’ lifestyle in a single family or villa home. Meanwhile, all of the amenities of our beautiful area are easily accessible and just a short drive (or Uber ride) away.
Celeste Smucker is a writer and blogger who lives near Charlottesville.