If you haven't noticed, the north end of downtown has been developing. The former Big L tires has been revitalized into new and exciting businesses including Magpie, the Perch, and Chestnut Ridge Coffee Roasters. Joining the ranks and officially opening their doors the day of this posting is Sage Bird Ciderworks!
If you're anything like me, you have loved seeing downtown embrace the craft beer movement. I can remember when Jack Browns first opened their doors and had 100 beers available. My mind was blown. They knew that the craft beer movement was the future. Zach and Amberlee Carlson, the owners and founders of Sage Bird, are hoping on the craft cider wave that has begun to gain momentum.
If you aren't familiar with cider, I highly recommend watching the interview below or go in and strike up a conversation with Zach and Amberlee. Their passion for the craft is contagious. They will explain that while most people think Cider is similar to beer, it is actually classified as a wine. Cider finds itself in the middle with a plethora of apple varieties and infusions that will leave you always guessing what else could be possible.
At Sage Bird Ciderworks, Zach and Amberlee have decided to focus their craft to what is Virginia. What do I mean by that? They are only using native apples and other ingredients to Virginia. This pure taste of the Commonwealth will push their creative spirits to find new and exciting concoctions you may not find elsewhere.
What about the environment? It's great! Zach and Amberlee are both very artistic and it shows. From the murals on the walls to the graphic design, you are going to enjoy the experience. I highly recommend checking out the back patio space... you probably never knew about the cliffs of Rocktown.
The interview below occurred on July 22nd, 2020.
It's been a couple of months since I first caught wind of Elkton Brewing Co. The feedback was all positive and I immediately became curious. What would the atmosphere be like? What would the beer be like?
Finally, the stars aligned and I visited the brewery after a later afternoon showing in Elkton. And now I am a promoter. I have been back multiples times for pints and to grab crowlers. In fact, I still have a crowler in the refrigerator I am saving for a special occasion.
So, what can you expect? Why should you visit Elkton Brewing Co? Let's start with the beer.
The first thing to know about the brewing process is that there will be a lot of rotation. So, you can be sure to expect new and exciting things regularly. In fact, there is a good chance that this menu is already changed a little.
I think their website summarizes it well: "We are a small craft brewery specializing in natural artisan beers, concentrating less on volume and more on quality craftsmanship."
But how does the beer taste? Amazing. It has quickly become one of my favorites in our area. It also provides variety with a new favorite brewery to visit but also a new location. You can end do a river float on the Shenandoah river and grab beers afterwards. You can do a hike on Skyline and come back for Bella Luna pizza and beers afterwards! Or, you can just go to enjoy the atmosphere.
Shenandoah River Proximity
Skyline Drive Hikes
The home of Elkton Brewing Co was used as a storage building for the family's paper business. The downstairs was most recently used as a church with the upstairs being office rooms. The upstairs still offers really cool office space including a conference room that houses the inspiration for the brewery logo.
The conversion from a church to a brewery did not require that much renovating. The stage is perfect for live music events. There are a good number of indoor and outdoor seating depending on your preference. In addition, Bella Luna's wood fire pizza truck has been serving up fresh pies on the weekends. What's not to love about that!
The brewery is owned and run by brothers: August, Aaron, and Tristan Napotnik. That brotherly spirit comes out in the interview below but also if you go visit with them in person. It's a fun light-hearted vibe. If you're lucky enough to grab a beer while a train comes by, then you'll get the "Chugga-Chug Discount" or 10% off.
If you want more details on Elkton, listen to my interview with Tristan below. Also, be sure to stop by for a refreshing beer!
Most of us are familiar with traditional staging; the act of decorating and furnishing a home for sale to appeal to potential buyers. A well staged home can produce stunning listing photos that will encourage buyers to tour the home. It can also help buyers envision themselves living in the house. In recent years, a new trend has emerged in home staging: virtual staging.
What is Virtual Staging?
Virtual staging takes photos of empty rooms and then uses photo-editing software to add in attractive furniture and decor (like mirrors, plants, rugs, etc). While it is possible to download a DIY staging software, typically, you will get the best results by having a professional company virtually stage the photos. It’s also important that the photos you use are high-quality, preferably taken by a professional photographer.
Why opt for Virtual Staging?
When compared to traditional staging, virtual staging is much less expensive and saves the hassle of moving lots of furniture into the house or painting several rooms. According to realtor.com, “the average cost for most stagers is $300 to $600 for an initial design consultation, and $500 to $600 per month per staged room.” By comparison, most virtual staging companies will charge between $50-$200 per room depending on how much redecoration the room requires. Virtual staging can even include decluttering or “painting” rooms. In addition to saving money, virtual staging can be done quite quickly. Most companies offer a 2 day turn around on your photos.
Keep in Mind:
Bad virtual staging can immediately turn buyers off from perusing your listing photos and make them write off visiting your home. Alternatively, when you use a professional company, you should have a disclaimer in the caption of the photo that it has been virtually staged so the buyer is aware that when they visit the house, it will not look the exact same as the photos. You may decide you want to include the original photos of the empty rooms with the staged photos for this purpose. Virtual staging is not intended to trick buyers; it is a tool sellers use to help showcase a property while providing depth to the rooms so buyers can envision the space better. Ultimately, you may still decide to physically stage your house or use a mix of virtually and traditionally stages rooms for your listing. As always, a realtor can offer great advice and guidance for your particular situation.
As a buyer or a seller in the Harrisonburg and Rockingham housing market, you may be wondering what the average difference is between the listing price and sale price for a property. Ultimately, the difference represents the negotiation process. If you are a seller, this provides insight on how much you may want to list your house for, knowing negotiations may bring down the sale price slightly. If you are a buyer, this can help give you an idea of what is reasonable to offer for your housing market. Of course, your realtor will be the most valuable source of information during the listing and negotiation process; but, seeing the recent trends is a great place to start.
Harrisonburg Sale-to-List Ratio by Property Type
Let’s start with Harrisonburg. At the time of writing this, the average difference between the list price and sale price for all types of properties and price points is 98.5% (meaning the property sold at 98.5% of the list price) which is up from 97.34% from last year. So far this year, townhomes and duplexes have sold for 99.33% of their list price, condos have sold for 96.17%, and single family homes have sold for 98.2%. In 2019 townhomes/duplexes sold for 98.37%, condos for 96.23%, and single family homes for 96.63% of their listing price.
Harrisonburg Sale-to-List Ratio by Price Point
If we break down the Harrisonburg properties sold in 2020 by their price point* we find slight variations between categories. $0-$199,999 properties sold for 98.1%, $200,000-299,999 sold for 100.12%, $300,000-$449,999 sold for 95.89%, and $450,000 and up sold for 96.23% of their list prices. For reference, in 2019 the same price point categories sold as follows: $0-$199,999 properties sold for 96.96%, $200,000-299,999 sold for 98.46%, $300,000-$449,999 sold for 96.22%, and $450,000 and up sold for 93.53% of their list prices.
Rockingham Sale-to-List Ratio by Property Type
Now let’s look at Rockingham. The average difference between the list price and sale price for all types of properties and price points is 97.49% which is also up from 96.27% in 2019. Looking at property types, this year townhomes and duplexes have sold for 99.35% of their list price and single family homes have sold for 97.09%. In 2019 townhomes/duplexes sold for 99.29% and single family homes for 95.75% of their listing price.
Rockingham Sale-to-List Ratio by Price Point
The Rockingham properties also have slight variations between their price categories. For 2020, $0-$199,999 properties sold for 97.28%, $200,000-299,999 sold for 98.08%, $300,000-$449,999 sold for 97.85%, and $450,000 and up sold for 94.48% of their list prices. By comparison, in 2019 the same price point categories sold as follows: $0-$199,999 properties sold for 95.86%, $200,000-299,999 sold for 96.96%, $300,000-$449,999 sold for 96.36%, and $450,000 and up sold for 94.49% of their list prices.
If you want more details on the local sales statistics check out the monthly market reports.
*Price point was determined by the sell price, as opposed to the list price.
If you are considering putting your house on the market in the near future, you may be wondering what prospective homebuyers are looking for before investing in a home improvement project. Afterall, you don’t want to sink a lot of money and time into an upgrade that won’t appeal to buyers. These improvements go beyond fixing major issues that would come up during a home inspection (which should be addressed prior to putting your house on the market) or quick/ inexpensive fixes like cleaning the carpets or fixing chipped paint. So, what do buyers want in a house?
Renovated or Updated Kitchen
According to realtor.com, a survey they conducted in early April of this year found that 13.3% of 1,300 surveyed (both renters and owners of houses) rated an updated kitchen a must have for their next home. The 2019 Realtor Remodeling Impact Report found that 40% of realtors recommend sellers update their kitchen before listing their home (and 20% said it helped close a sale). Now more than ever, the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged more people to cook at home, thereby making a kitchen with updated appliances a sought-after commodity. Check out these blog posts on counters, cabinets, and DIY renovation tips for more ideas on how to update your current kitchen. Also keep in mind that 75% of agents surveyed in HomeLight’s Q3 2019 Top Agent Insights Report said that stainless steel appliances are the most in demand appliance finish among buyers.
Gone are the days of wall-to-wall carpeting, homebuyers of recent years want hardwood floors. This home project has one of the best ROIs you can find in home remodeling; there is a 106% cost recovery of new hardwood flooring and 100% cost recovery to refinish existing hardwood floors (according to the same Realtor Remodeling Impact Report). If hardwood throughout the house is not in the budget, opting for another hard surface, like laminate, is still preferred over carpeting. Prioritize the main living areas and keep the carpet in the bedrooms if you can’t update all the flooring. The best practice is to keep the flooring consistent in the house by using the same color and material in all the rooms you plan to make hard surface floors.
Buyers today want modern interiors with clean lines. Bathrooms are similar to kitchens in that they are a high traffic area for family members and so they can wear out faster than other rooms in the house. Buyers like bathrooms with big showers that give off a spa-like environment. If you are not in a position to remodel a bathroom, re-grouting tile and replacing water stained ceilings will go a long way to refresh the space.
Even if you have all the amenities a prospective buyer could dream up inside your home, it’s the exterior of the house that will immediately create an impression on the buyers before they even step foot inside. Create some curb appeal to ensure you impress the buyer from the start. For a quick and relatively inexpensive face-lift, keep the yard mowed and powerwash the exterior of the house. Homebuyers also want ample exterior lighting for both aesthetic and safety reasons. If you can take on a bigger project, the number one outdoor feature buyers want in a house is a patio. Check out this blog post for tips on how to upgrade your existing patio or talk to a contractor about building one.
To get an offer on your house it’s important to help potential buyers envision making your house their new home. There are several ways to accomplish this, particularly with proper staging, but one of the best ways is to paint all the walls neutral colors. A neutral palette (think whites and grays) makes the furniture pop and gives the home a move-in ready appearance.
Let’s face it, Americans today have a lot of stuff. Minimalism, while trendy, is a challenge for most of us. We want to live in simple, calm spaces without sacrificing our beloved possessions. This creates a demand for more storage areas in the house. Homebuyers want walk-in closets, garages with shelving, large pantries, and laundry rooms. While it’s not always possible to create these spaces if they are not part of your floorplan, with a bit of creativity, you can still improve these areas. Try installing an organizational system with shelves and hanging rods to optimize the space in a reach-in closet. Similarly, you can add shelves and a peg wall for tools to increase the storage capacity for your garage or even invest in a shed.
Energy Efficiency and Smart Technology
According to 2019 survey results from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), energy-saving features such as Energy Star appliances, windows and whole house certification are among the most wanted home features. Buyers are willing to spend a little more upfront in the interest of saving money on utilities down the road. In addition to replacing old windows and appliances with energy-efficient ones, consider installing ceiling fans and smart thermostats which will also help lower utility costs. You may also decide to upgrade your insulation which boasts a recovery value of 83%. Be sure to have these features highlighted in your listing since they can be overlooked in a typical home tour.
When in doubt about which projects to focus on, ask your realtor! They will have the most up-to-date data and trends, plus know what appeals to buyers specific to your local housing market.
COVID-19 has changed just about every aspect of our lives, from the way we interact with others to our work environment. In the past four months, several companies have instituted work from home policies and have found that employees are not only still able to get their work done, but many of them enjoy working remotely. Working remote means that employees cut out their commute time, giving them more time to spend with their family. It also cuts down expenses for the company in utilities and rent on the office space they lease. Many companies are now considering keeping some of their workforce remote, even as restrictions ease. Aside from lowering their costs, they are also able to hire from a much broader pool of candidates by allowing employees to work virtually anywhere. So, if you don’t have to live close to where you work, what does this mean for the housing market?
In general, potential homebuyers are house hunting in the suburbs and more rural areas. Many of the attractive aspects of city life have been put on hold during the pandemic in the name of social distancing. Meanwhile, urbanites may feel cooped up in small apartments, apprehensive about sharing amenities and common spaces (elevators, laundry rooms, on-site gyms) with their neighbors.
A survey of 1,004 people by the International Council of Shopping Centers found that twenty-seven percent of adults in the U.S. are considering moving because of COVID-19, and many of them are looking to the suburbs or rural towns. Realtor.com surveyed 1,300 people over the first two weeks of April and found that 15.7% of homebuyers want more space in their next house and 13.6% want “more and better outdoor space.”
For many people, being able to work remotely means they can afford their dream home by moving away from the city, where the cost of living is often quite high. In fact, Vic Lederman of Stansberry Research makes the case that remote workers in the tech industry (like Facebook or Twitter) will make well above the U.S. median household income level and so if they settle in these more rural towns, the entire area will experience a rising-tide effect.
That said, working from home isn’t everyone’s ideal situation. Some employees are anxious to get back to the office, away from the distractions of home. While these employees may want to stay within driving distance of the office, we could see more offices move to the suburbs as they seek more affordable buildings with sprawling floors that are conducive for social distancing. Whether or not this trend will be short-lived or the new way of doing business, the need for social distancing has certainly created a desire for more space on both a personal and commercial level.
With the Fourth of July right around the corner, you may be brainstorming ideas on how to celebrate with friends or family in a time of social distancing (a term we are very familiar with and perhaps tired of). Having an outdoor gathering can be one way to still socialize with friends while minimizing the risk of exposure from COVID-19. If you decide to host a BBQ, you may realize your backyard needs a bit of TLC before you can entertain. Investing in a patio might be the answer; afterall, a “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of Realtors in 2016 found that 102% value is recovered from building a new patio and 106% is recovered from a new wood deck. Whether you are designing a new patio or deck, or are lucky enough to already have one, here are a few ways you can improve the area and make it one of your favorite places “in” the house.
Choose Versatile Furniture
Great furniture doesn’t have to be expensive to make a patio inviting. You may already have some chairs and tables that just need a quick facelift. You can easily remove rust and repaint/ spray paint metal pieces for a refreshed look. You can use benches for flexible seating or buy chairs that are ideal for both dining and lounging. A hammock is also a budget-friendly way to add a relaxing place to kick your feet up.
Create Outdoor Storage
Part of having versatile furniture is finding storage options that can help utilize the area if you have a smaller yard plus keep it looking tidy. An ottoman with an empty base can house magazines and sunscreen. A bench with built-in storage can hold cushions and pillows. Wooden crates can be painted and then treated with sealant to weather-proof them.
Add a Fire Pit
One easy way to instantly make your patio cozier plus establish a focal point in the yard is to add a fire pit. Not only do they provide heat in the cooler months, they are entertaining to watch and fairly inexpensive to install. A quick Google search will yield dozens of DIY fire pits (just be sure to stick closely to the materials list so you know you are constructing a safe fire pit) and you can always purchase a smaller, more portable one from a home improvement store or online. One of the biggest benefits of a fire pit right now is that people can easily congregate around the fire while staying six feet apart from each other.
Throw Some Shade
A backyard hangout or BBQ doesn’t have to be a sweaty, sunburnt ordeal. Incorporate shade to keep you and your guests cool. If your backyard doesn’t have many trees, you can purchase shade sails or umbrellas to cover the areas of the patio you plan to lounge in. You can also install a retractable awning or even build a pergola and add vines for a more natural feel.
Have a Pop of Color
After getting the basics set up, adding a bit of color is a great way to really make the space your own and show off your style. Quick ways to make your patio more visually appealing include laying down a big outdoor rug, planting bright flowers, using fun-shaped or colorful planters, or tossing in some weather-proof pillows with interesting designs.
Focus on the Accents
If you are looking for a way to really make your patio/ backyard stand out, there are plenty of things you can do. You can create a stone path to a bench or your favorite area of the yard. Bonus points if you cast your own stones using quick-mix concrete. A vertical succulent garden can be a great conversation piece, especially if space is an issue. Hanging up string lights or investing in a water feature are other great ways to instantly add some curb appeal to your backyard.
The Patio is Ready, Now What?
Now that your patio is ready for entertaining, what should those who are social distancing keep in mind while hosting the perfect BBQ?
Summer has officially started and downtown Harrisonburg is once again open for business, following some temporary closures due to COVID-19. An exciting new addition to the downtown Harrisonburg scene is the second location of a local coffee shop currently gaining a national reputation for high quality, ethically sourced coffees.
Merge Coffee Company was founded in 2017 by two different families who came together through a shared love of coffee. Cousins Darryl and Charles Mathews and sisters Emily and Larisa Martin started out getting together as friends who stayed up late drinking coffee. They were all impervious to the effects of caffeine, enabling them to drink coffee until midnight, and then go soundly to sleep. They began to source coffee from all over the country to sample different types. That led to the purchase of a 1 pound coffee roaster and a hobby of roasting “terrible” coffee. Gradually, the group got better at coffee roasting and their friends started to enjoy their efforts. From there, the hobby became a business.
Merge started their business as a coffee roaster that sold to established coffee shops, then expanded into a retail location in Park View at 821 A Mt. Clinton Pike, next to A Bowl of Good. Co-owner Darryl Mathews explains how direct trade sourcing is a key aspect of the business. “For us, sourcing well is very important, most of our coffee is direct trade, purchased directly from the farmers. Coffee is the third largest commodity in the world. Because of this there are a lot of middle men typically involved in the coffee supply chain, which ultimately doesn’t help on the farm end for their profits and being able to invest in infrastructure. So we eliminate those middle men, so that the farmers get a better profit margin, but also reinvest in infrastructure”.
Merge’s primary supplier is a multigenerational complex of over 10 farms, started three generations ago by a pair of brothers in Honduras. All the farms are still run by members of the Santiago family, and among the various farms grow a wide variety of different coffees. “They can serve everybody as far as their coffee tastes go, within these farms,” says Darryl. The Santiago farms produce several coffee varieties that are certified fair trade organic, but the certifications, which the farmers must pay for, apply only to certain lots on the farm. For Merge, it is more important that they and their customers know they are sourcing responsibly whether or not there is an official government certification. Darryl explains, “Fair trade organic is not as good for the farmer as it sounds, because the cost of getting and keeping that certification up could go towards other things.” Currently Merge carries seven different types of coffees from different parts of the world. Some are certified organic, and most are bought directly from the farmers.
Although a young company, Merge has already won two awards for coffees they roast from the Specialty Coffee Association. The SCA hosts an annual, national coffee roasting competition, with about 20 different categories into which coffee roasters can enter their various coffees. Merge entered two African coffees, one from Ethiopia and one from Burundi. Darryl described both coffees as being “very fruit forward”, with the Ethiopian roast having berry notes and the Burundian roast having a stone fruit flavor. Out of 1200 coffees, these two were included in the top 150 coffees chosen, winning Merge two bronze medals.
In addition to their commitment to direct trade relationships and an excellent quality product, Merge is also passionate about community building and heroic hospitality.
“We love the fact that coffee shops are a springboard for communities to flower,” says co-owner Darryl. We enjoy being the canvas for people to come in and work on that podcast, work on that book, get to know friends, debate, reflect. We love to be that canvas for neighborhoods to dream, to explore, and to grow.” After putting down roots in Park View, Merge has recently opened its second location in downtown Harrisonburg, at 425 North Main Street. The light-filled, airy interior has clean lines punctuated by vibrant green plants. Darryl describes the company’s aesthetic as fresh and modern, but still comfortable and inviting. The atmosphere feels warm and open, reflecting Merge’s vision of a coffee shop as a space for community building. Service is another important aspect of Merge’s business. “We want to serve people well with excellence, and have a great experience, we want the experience to always be consistent,” Darryl explains.
Both Merge locations are now open Monday through Saturday from 7 am until 4pm.
In addition to their coffees and classic espresso drinks, Merge is featuring some signature summer beverages. Darryl shared some highlights from the summer menu. “One thing that’s really popular right now is our coconut macaroon latte. That’s an iced latte with coconut, a little caramel and toasted coconut garnish. And for the non-coffee drinker we’ve got a rose gold lemon soda.” The soda is made in house from fresh, hand-squeezed lemons. “It’s a sparkling drink with a mineral-based glitter that goes in it as well. So it has bit of a shimmer to it.”
Merge’s new location is a welcomed addition to a vibrant, and growing downtown Harrisonburg scene. It is sure to become a hotspot for excellent quality, ethically sourced coffee and a neighborhood hangout. For more information about Merge, please visit https://www.mergecoffeeco.com/.