Housing & Real Estate
Updated On: 6/6/2013 3:14:32 PM
PLANNING YOUR MOVE read more...
Relocating to a new home can be one of the most stressful situations in life. Whether moving across town or across the nation, preparation and organization can make all the difference. First, decide to use a professional moving company or make it a do-it-yourself (DIY) move.
For a DIY move, consider distance, labor help and the costs to rent the moving van, gas, lodging during the move and insurance. A transportable storage unit can bridge a professional and DIY move. When the unit is delivered to your residence, you load and secure it for transport and then unload it at your new residence.
Whatever the method, be sure to obtain as many quotes from professional movers as possible as well as cost estimates for a DIY move. Next, compare the costs involved for each type of move, weighing the stress and physical exertion involved.
BUYING VERSUS RENTING
The decision to buy or rent is the most important step in your relocation process. Purchasing a home entails a long-term emotional and financial commitment with various pluses and minuses attached. The advantages include the possibility of building equity and the freedom to design and decorate your property or landscape. And don’t forget the tax benefits. Disadvantages involve upkeep, property taxes and fluctuating property value.
Renting, on the other hand, makes moving easier and someone else maintains the property. Amenities, such as laundry rooms, exercise rooms, swimming pools and tennis courts, vary from one rental complex to another. The main disadvantage is loss of control over the residence. Some complexes, for example, restrict or prohibit pets and personal touches such as painting. And the landlord or property managers can also raise the rent with proper notice. Before determining your best option, account for all of your needs, review your financial situation and research your options thoroughly.
BUYING A HOME
Hampton Roads is a prime mid-Atlantic location in southeastern Virginia. Since 1983, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget has recognized Hampton Roads as a group of communities having economic and social integration. It encompasses two areas: The South Hampton Roads region includes the cities of Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach — often referred to as the Tidewater area — and the Peninsula consists of the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson and Williamsburg and the counties of Gloucester, James City, and York.
The term “Hampton Roads” is a centuries-old reference that originated when the region was a struggling British outpost nearly 400 years ago. It was designated in the 17th century as the name of the large natural harbor where the James, Nansemond and Elizabeth rivers pour into the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay; signifying the safety of a port, “roads” in nautical terminology means “a place less sheltered than a harbor where ships may ride at anchor.”
Unlike many of the metropolitan areas across the country, Hampton Roads’ population nucleus is not confined to one central city but is spread among several growing cities of significant size. The area was recently recognized as the nation’s most diverse region, with a population of 1.6 million people, according to the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.
Enlist the help of a reputable real estate agent to help you sort through the area’s diverse home options. The Hampton Roads Realtors Association is a central source of local real estate information and services. Its members can provide expertise and professional services for those interested in purchasing a new home. Visit www.hrra.com for more information.
Buying a home is a complex process and, as the recent housing crisis demonstrated, requires a thorough education on the part of the buyer. First, fully understand your financial position — credit score, available savings, monthly income and expenditures. Subtracting your expenditures from your income, for instance, will yield the amount you can afford for housing.
Be sure to account for all insurance costs associated with owning a home, possible home owner association fees and property taxes in your monthly expenditures. According to www. ginniemae.gov, loan program rules vary on the percentage of your income used for housing related expenses. Most conventional loans allow 28 percent, with FHA at 29 percent and VA at 41 percent. Above all, avoid any advice about “affordable mortgages” from a real estate agent or a mortgage lender, rely instead on your own budgetary review to determine monthly housing expenses.
Next, research the different types of home loans to determine the right fi t for your financial situation. The two main types of mortgages are fixed-rate and adjustable-rate (ARM). A fixedrate loan offers one interest rate for the life of the loan, which means the same monthly payment.
The adjustable-rate loan generally starts with a fixed rate but after the introductory period the rate will adjust periodically based on fluctuations in the interest rate. The fixed-rate loan offers stability to long-term homeowners. The ARM saves money in the short run as the initial interest rate is typically lower than a fixed-rate mortgage. Once the initial period ends, the ARM rate will rise and fall at predetermined intervals stated in the terms of the loan, sometimes above the rate for a fixed-rate mortgage. This mortgage favors short-term homeowners. For a thorough explanation of these and variations of these mortgages, be sure to discuss your options with a lending professional. A preapproved loan before starting your search for a home can determine your spending limits and signal any potential issues in the way of receiving a loan.
Knowing your monthly budget and the amount of your loan are invaluable during the next phase, especially finding the answers to questions before the hunt for a home begins. First, determine your home preferences. Do single family houses, condos, town homes and duplexes fit your needs and budget? Do you prefer a new home, an existing home or to build one? Though new homes generally cost more, existing homes may come with maintenance issues and renovation costs. What is the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you’d like? Do you want an attached garage? Will you live in the city, a suburb or in the country? How close to work, school, shopping or public transportation do you want to be? Answers to the majority of these questions will greatly assist your search and the next stage — hiring a real estate agent.
The ideal agent will help find your ideal home and guide you through the purchase process. First, interview potential candidates to ensure they understand your needs, know your home buying preferences and neighborhoods and are readily accessible. You can find many local real estate agents in the yellow pages of this guide.
Once you have found the right home, have it inspected and have your offer accepted, initiate a purchase contract. This document should detail the fi nal terms for the purchase of your home, including a description of the property, the price, the closing date and an estimate of closing costs. The contract also includes the standard clauses that specify the broker’s commission, inspection results and payment agreements for unforeseen damage and details of the closing documents. Closing day ends your home-buying experience. Once you’ve signed all the documents, paid the closing and secured the keys, you now own a home. The escrow company, attorney or title company will record the sale with the county.
HAMPTON ROADS COMMUNITIES
The City of Hampton is the hub for Hampton Roads. The waterfront city is known as “America’s First” — it was the first point of land touched by the English colonists who continued upriver to settle Jamestown and, after being settled in 1610, Hampton became the country’s first continuously English-speaking settlement. Today, Hampton strives to be a regional shopping and entertainment destination and boasts easy access to more than 100 attractions.
The City of Hampton offers several resources to help newcomers make a well-informed decision when considering home-buying options in the local area. For information on neighborhood profiles, hometown ambassadors, home ownership programs, home rehabilitation programs and preferred Realtors, visit www.hampton.va.us/neighborhoods/newcomer_info.html.
The City of Newport News — on the Virginia Peninsula, midway between Williamsburg and Virginia Beach — started as a tiny fishing settlement on the north side of the James River, but today it is home to one of the fi nest natural harbors in the world. Newport News, Norfolk and Portsmouth constitute the Port of Hampton Roads.
The city is home to one the largest municipal parks in the U.S. Newport News Parks offers hiking, biking, boating, fishing, archery and camping.
To view a City of Newport News community profile online, visit the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce at www.virginiapeninsulachamber.com.
The City of Poquoson is an eclectic mix of new and old. New homes contrast with old farm houses, and families whose roots are generations deep mingle with newcomers looking to escape big city living. This former fishing village at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula is surrounded by water on three sides and revels in more than 84 miles of shoreline on Chesapeake Bay.
In 2011 CNBC rated Poquoson No. 5 among its list of Ten Perfect Suburbs, based on ratings for affordable housing, good schools, educated neighborhoods, low crime, employment and reasonable commutes, according to the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
View the city’s online Poquoson Tourbook for more information about local education, quality of life, real estate and relocation and the business community at www.ci.poquoson.va.us/general/poquoson_tourbook.
The City of Chesapeake’s heritage stretches back to Colonial times, but the independent city itself is relatively new, coming into being only in 1963 when the city of South Norfolk and the former Norfolk County consolidated and voters picked the name “Chesapeake.”
Developed enclaves alternate with protected farmland, forests and wetlands; a large portion of the Great Dismal Swamp lies within the city limits, and so does the Dismal Swamp Canal, the nation’s oldest continuously used man-made canal, which George Washington helped survey.
Chesapeake is a quiet and family-friendly town; many of the homes have ample yards for play, and numerous military retirees opt to stay or to return. The website www.cityofchesapeake.net provides an overview of the city.
The City of Norfolk has been rated No. 2 in the country for military retirees in a joint study by www.bestplaces.net, military.com and the financial services firm USAA, and the city hosts the world’s largest naval base and the busiest port on the East Coast.
It’s a bustling place, jam-packed with people in a hurry. All that bustle crowds the roads: A joint study by Avis Rent A Car, Motorola and Sterling’s Best Places ranked the Norfolk-Newport News-Virginia Beach as the nation’s 10th-worst in ease of navigation.
Residents praise the weather (warm and humid, but with sea breezes and no winter to speak of), the beaches, especially Ocean View, and the Norfolk Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The housing stock skews older, and gentrification is in full flower; those who have always yearned for a Victorian cottage with porches should be able to find one. Helpful informational websites include www.norfolk.gov and www.hamptonroadschamber.com.
The City of Portsmouth was born as a shipbuilding town when John Wood, an early English colonist, recognized its potential and asked King James I for a land grant to build a shipyard in 1620. These days the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth builds, remodels and repairs naval vessels, and the city has in addition busy port facilities and much waterfront along the Elizabeth River, part of the harbor of Hampton Roads. The U.S. Coast Guard named Portsmouth a “Coast Guard City” in 2009.
The Olde Towne section contains one of the greatest numbers of historically significant homes between Alexandria, Va., and Charleston, S.C., and since 2000, the downtown has been undergoing urban renewal. Tree-lined streets lead to a charming waterfront.
See portsmouthva.gov for more information, or www.hamptonroadschamber.com.
The City of Suffolk, birthplace of Mr. Peanut and the largest city in Virginia by area (400 square miles of land) was founded by English colonists in 1742 as a port on the Nansemond River, and the city always has been a land transportation gateway, with highways, trains and, of course, its waterways.
Early on, the colonists’ major cash crop was tobacco, but they later turned to mixed farming. In 1912, Planters’ Peanuts set up shop, and peanut growing became a major industry, aided in national marketing by introduction of the company’s mascot, Mr. Peanut. For many years, the call letters of local WLPM, Suffolk’s AM radio station, stood for World’s Largest Peanut Market.
More recently the city’s economy has diversified into high-tech areas, thanks to the location there of various major military commands. Learn more at the city’s website, www.suffolk.va.us; www.hamptonroadschamber.com has an overview.
The resort City of Virginia Beach, population 442,707 in 2011, had more residents in 2012 than any other city in Virginia, and was the 39th largest in the U.S. Its major industry is tourism, and hundreds of motels, hotels, restaurants and high-rises line the miles of oceanfront beach (the Guinness Book of Records calls it the longest pleasure beach in the world).
The sleepy little vacation community of Virginia Beach didn’t really take off until the late 19th century, when railroad, electricity and the Princess Anne Hotel all began service. The resort incorporated as a town in 1906. The city is blessed by its location north of the pummeling from southern storms and south of blustery northern weather systems, giving it a languorous, subtropical climate that marks the northern limit for Spanish moss. Mild winters are rarely marked by snowfall, and any that does fall is light.
The website www.vbgov.com has more information.
The City of Williamsburg, onetime capital of Colonial Virginia, stretches along a high, wooded spine occupied by the original Middle Plantation between the James and the York rivers on the Virginia Peninsula, and these days is a mecca for history buffs, retirees and ardent golfers.
Its elevation worked against it in the early days when transportation was arduous and mostly along waterways, and the railroads came late. In general, history rushed by without touching the city harshly, but now its restored Historic Area, Colonial Williamsburg, is one anchor of Colonial Virginia’s Historic Triangle, along with Jamestown and Yorktown, and draws more than 4 million tourists every year.
Williamsburg is a college town as well, site of the prestigious William & Mary College, founded in 1693, and the Williamsburg Regional Library is known as one of the best in the country. In 1698 Williamsburg became the capital of Colonial Virginia, a position it held until 1780 when then-Gov. Thomas Jefferson moved state government to Richmond because he believed Williamsburg was more vulnerable to British attack.
The first hospital for psychiatric patients in the nation was built in Williamsburg in the 1770s — the Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds — and continues today as Eastern State Hospital.
Visit the Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce at www.williamsburgcc.com for more information.
The City of Franklin is a manufacturing and productive farming community. It began modestly as a railroad stop on the Blackwater River in the 1830s but its real financial growth kicked off in 1887 with development of a sawmill, and with World War I’s demand for lumber, its future was assured. The sawmill-based operation merged in 1956 with a New York paper bag company and thrived until 1999, when the operation was purchased by International Paper. The International Paper Mill along the Blackwater River produced lumber, pulp and paper products, and chemical byproducts until it shut down in May 2010, but it has since resumed limited operations.
Franklin ranks as the 13th most profitable and 12th largest farming community in Virginia. Its location along its lifeline river has also made it vulnerable to flooding, particularly after hurricanes. In 1999 in the wake of Hurricane Floyd, downtown Franklin was sunk under 12 feet of water from the raging Blackwater.
Keep up with local events through the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, www.fsachamber.com, which in addition to helpful contacts and basic data mentions such treats as November’s Annual Gingerbread Gala.