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The Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors: Shaping a More Equitable Real Estate Landscape in Central Virginia

by Staff Writer

For nearly a century, the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors (CAAR) has been a pillar of the Central Virginia real estate market. However, its impact extends far beyond statistics and transactions. S. Lisa Herndon, the first African American president in CAAR’s history, spearheaded a movement towards inclusivity and empowering diverse communities through homeownership. Herndon’s leadership serves as a powerful example of CAAR’s evolving mission.

See CAAR 2023-Q4 Home Sales Report

A Call to Action: Representation and Service
Herndon’s journey to leading CAAR began with a simple observation: a lack of diversity within the organization. “Sitting in a meeting…around 2013,” she recalls, “I saw the passing of the gavel, and I didn’t see any person of color.” This realization sparked a personal goal: to become president and use that platform to enact change. “One of the things that I’ve always wanted to do is to remove barriers and allow information to flow easily in all communities,” Herndon emphasizes.

S. Lisa Herndon – CAAR Immediate Past President | Keller Williams Alliance – Charlottesville

Herndon recognizes the transformative power of homeownership, particularly for communities of color. “Homeownership changes lives,” she asserts. Statistics reveal a concerning reality: homeownership rates have regressed to levels seen in the 1960s. Herndon is determined to bridge this gap by empowering communities with knowledge. “If I can help bring the knowledge of homeownership to communities that look like me, then I want to be a part of that,” she declares.

During her presidency, S.Lisa Herndon championed initiatives designed to create lasting impact. “Everything that I have done is about service and giving back,” she states. This service-oriented approach translated into concrete actions. Herndon assembled a dedicated team and spearheaded initiatives that would make a tangible difference in the lives of community members.

While Herndon’s presidency marks a significant milestone, she emphasizes the importance of sustained efforts. “I hope that they continue in that same direction,” she says, referring to CAAR’s leadership. Her focus remains on action: “I’m not about a lot of words. I’m about action. Our testimony will be in our actions. How are they doing after I’m gone? How are they doing now and what plans and strategies are going to be put in place to continue the work that was started?”

Shaping the Landscape: Professionalism, Advocacy, and Beyond
Beyond its commitment to inclusivity, CAAR fosters a professional environment by providing educational programs and resources to ensure its members stay up to date on legal and ethical standards. The association also advocates for fair regulations and policies affecting homeowners and real estate professionals. Recognizing the importance of technological advancements, CAAR equips its members with cutting-edge tools and software to streamline the buying and selling process for clients. The spirit of service is strong within CAAR, with members actively participating in charitable endeavors that enrich the communities they serve.

Anne Burroughs – CAAR President | Nest Realty Group

Sharing Market Updates Through Diverse Channels
“I think it’s exactly the kind of thing that we’ve been looking for to kind of, you know, share news about the real estate market in more than the traditional media,” says Anne Burroughs, CAAR President and broker at Nest Realty Group. “We do all of those things,” she continues, referring to traditional media outlets, “but we’ve been very intentional about reaching out to other media in the community to try and share information.” This focus on alternative media channels ensures a wider reach and caters to various information preferences within the community.

Addressing Historical Biases in Housing
CAAR also recognizes the history of discrimination in housing. “CAAR has been very intentional about taking a hard look at the history of,  discrimination in housing in our community,” Burroughs states. She acknowledges the past role of realtors and emphasizes the association’s proactive approach. “We’ve been very proactive about kind of saying, hey, look, we did not do a good job in the past, like realtors were part of the problem, not part of the solution. And so we’ve been very intentional about trying to find ways to reach out to the community to send a different message and kind of say that, you know, we acknowledge what happened in the past and we acknowledge that it was absolutely, 100% wrong, and, we are here to do better.”

The Enduring Value of Homeownership
Both Burroughs and Josh White, CAAR President-Elect with Story House Real Estate, highlight the significant benefits of homeownership. “I would love to,” White says enthusiastically. “I mean, I think for me the coolest thing about home ownership is like legacy and, and building a legacy for you…” Owning a home allows for wealth creation and offers a sense of stability that can be passed on to future generations.”

Burroughs echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the financial advantages. “I agree, I think home ownership is the single best thing you can do for yourself in terms of building wealth. There is no better way. There’s no faster way.” She cites the consistent appreciation of real estate as a key advantage over other investment options.

While acknowledging the historical perception of a high down payment being a prerequisite for buying a home, Burroughs assures potential buyers that there are options. “There has been a tremendous amount of changes in the accessibility of financing for first time homeowners,” she explains. “There are a ton of programs. There are lots and lots of different associations, different non-profits, but also banks who are doing programs with 0% down.”

Challenges and Considerations
The current market, however, presents some challenges. Burroughs identifies affordability as a key concern. “This is what happens, and this is what you’re going through,” she says, acknowledging the buying process can involve hurdles. “The median home price in the Charlottesville area is $435,000 for a home,” she highlights, “That’s a hurdle. That’s a barrier.” Exploring options in surrounding areas with lower median prices, such as Fluvanna County, can be a strategy for some buyers.

Burroughs emphasizes the importance of entering the market with clear expectations. “I think it helps people set expectations,” she explains. By staying informed about current inventory levels and pricing trends, buyers can be more prepared for the realities of the market. “There used to be that many homes on the market and right now there’s this many homes on the market, and this is the median price,” she says, referencing how market conditions can impact the buying experience.

Josh White – CAAR President-Elect | Story House Real Estate

According to White, a qualified realtor plays a crucial role in navigating the complexities of the home buying process. “Communication and problem solving on the part of the realtor is really important,” he states. A realtor acts as a resource and advocate, ensuring their clients have access to the information and support they need.

“Knowing what programs are out there,” White emphasizes, is a valuable skill for realtors. These professionals can assist buyers in finding suitable financing options, including programs that offer closing cost assistance or grants.

By acknowledging the challenges and opportunities within the local market, CAAR empowers both buyers and sellers to make informed decisions. Their commitment to fair housing practices and their focus on client success make them a valuable resource for anyone considering buying or selling a home in the Charlottesville area.

A Valuable Resource
CAAR’s focus on professionalism, advocacy, inclusivity, and market transparency positions it as a valuable resource for anyone seeking to navigate the journey of homeownership in Central Virginia.

See CAAR 2023-Q4 Home Sales Report

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