Monday, February 04, 2008

Pondering a second home? We too!

It's a time of strange confluence. On the one hand the economy wobbles; on the other, it's the time in my husband's and my lives that we are pondering a second home. And, statistics be true, we're not alone.

It's not that we need two homes, or that we can even use them just now. But we can see a time in the years to come that The Husband might have more flexibility in his job life than is now the case. And with the real estate market slipping, perhaps this is the moment for getting a good deal.

Our plan: Look for raw land. Because we can't use a second home just now, getting a house -- with all those real estate taxes -- doesn't work for us. So we're thinking to snag a piece of land and wait until our lives have shifted to actually build on it.

Heading to the mountains

We've followed in the footsteps of many South Floridians and headed north. But while many of our neighbors have landed in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, we thought we'd try something different (though we'll surely make it to N.C., my birthplace, before we make a final decision.)

This past weekend, we headed off to the mountains of Virginia, concentrating our search on Little Washington and Staunton, with stops in Culpeper and Charlottesville.

Friends have a place in Little Washington, a 1700s town of 200 that is probably best known for the spectacular Inn at Little Washington. The surrounding county is protected by strict zoning, leaving the aged and rounded shoulders of the Blue Ridge pristine save for the odd farmhouse, silo and cows. Rappahannock County lies just over an hour from Dulles Airport, making the region reasonably accessible.

Therein lies part of the problem. Zoning requires most countryside land tracts to measure at least 25 acres; smaller tracts (some with homes) do exist, but they're relatively rare, explained realtors Rick and Kaye Kohler, who showed us around.

If that arrangements works for you, it's a spot well worth considering. Shenandoah National Park lies but a dozen miles away, and Luray Caverns another 10 miles further. Several excellent restaurants dot the area, and there's a fine fresh-roast Central Coffee in Sperryville. The upbeat and historic town of Culpepper (good gourmet shop, fun art galleries and shops, plus loads of Civil War history) lies less than 30 minutes away. An hour's drive will take you to Charlottesville, Monticello and the University of Virginia.

But cheap it isn't. A 50-acre tract just outside town was priced at more than $750,000. A double tract of 1.5 acres in town was priced $359. Friends, we learned, had recently bought a two-bedroom house on 3 acres for about $500,000. (It was fully updated and had a spectacular view.)

The most affordable land we saw was a 5-acre parcel priced around $200,000. But we didn't much like the idea of investing that much in property with a view of the least-attractive houses we'd seen in the entire county.

So it was on to cozy Staunton, home of the Blackfriars Shakespeare theater and soon, to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library. Check back tomorrow to find out what we discovered.

2 comments:

brett said...

Most of us who live in the county desire the zoning and land preservation that our county BOS uphold. There are not many places like this left in the US and we prefer it that way. If you cant afford it, then there are plenty of places for low acreage and higher dollar houses. Just step across the border to the mentioned Culpeper County and you will see the pillage of land but find more economical housing.
Perhaps owning only ONE house would make the option of beautiful Rappahannock county more feasible.

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