Life in Madison County

Madison County was founded in 1792 and named for the Madison family to which President James Madison (1751-1836) belonged. While President Madison’s home, Montpelier, is located in nearby Orange, his family owned land along the Rapidan River in the county named for them. Yet this is not the only presidential tie to the area. President Herbert Hoover at one time owned a home in Madison known as Rapidan Camp. The town of Madison still celebrates Hoover Day annually in August to mark his formal visit to the town in 1929. With such history, it is no surprise that some of the homes on the market in Madison date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. And despite its proximity to the ever-growing metropolis of Charlottesville, homes in Madison are often pleasantly situated on at least a few acres, allowing breathing room between neighbors. In addition, due to the topography of the area, many homes have mountain views. According to the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors (CAAR), in May 2017 the median estimated home value in Madison County was $186,800 while the median list price was $262,500, making it one of the more affordable counties surrounding Charlottesville. And with the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park nearby, Madison County—just an hour and a half south of D.C.—is full of beauty and recreational opportunities.

Things To Do

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is made up of a 300-square-mile section of the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains. The park contains over 500 miles of hiking trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Stony Man and Hawksbill, the two highest elevation points, surpass 4,000 feet. The park is also the location of President Hoover’s Rapidan Camp where you can reserve a tour. 11 PastoralAndMtnViews

Rapidan Wildlife Management Area

Adjacent to Shenandoah National Park and sharing a 25-mile boundary line is Rapidan Wildlife Management Area. It consists of 10,326 acres and the crossways of three rivers: Rapidan, Conway, and South River. Abundant fishing is available, including brook trout in the Rapidan and brown trout in the Conway. Please check for area regulations before fishing.

Roaring Twenties Antique Car Museum 1445 Wolftown Hood Road | Hood, VA 22723

This unique museum, open by appointment, has rows and rows of antique cars and memorabilia from the Jazz Age.

Early Mountain Vineyards 6109 Wolftown-Hood Road | Madison, VA 22722 Early Mtn Vineyard 2
Voted the #1 tasting room in the U.S. by USA Today readers in 2016, at Early Mountain Vineyards you can taste wine made from grapes grown in Virginia soil paired with cheese and charcuterie plates. There is also a full service restaurant and an overnight guest cottage at the vineyards.

DuCard Vineyards 40 Gibson Hollow Lane | Etlan, VA 22719

Unlike other local wines, DuCard wines are not available in stores and can only be purchased at the vineyard’s tasting room. It is a purposefully small operation, with small batch wine production, to maintain quality. The vineyard is also known for its sustainability initiatives, such as its solar-powered tasting room and support of the local food movement.

 Bald Top Brewing Co. 

This family-run brewery is located at the historic Woodbourne Estate (established circa 1810). Owners Dave Fulton and Julie Haines, along with two of their grown children and their families, run the brewery, which includes “Central Virginia’s largest private hops yard,” according to their website. Want to try locally brewed beer while also enjoying a beautiful, historic setting? This is the place to go.

Madison Arts Exchange

With over 200 local artists, the Madison Arts Exchange provides a central place to appreciate and support all of the visual arts talent that resides in Madison.



The Bavarian Chef

The Bavarian Chef has served German-inspired cuisine in Madison County since 1974. On their menu you’ll find pork and veal schnitzel along with filet mignon and Virginia trout. Reservations are recommended.




The solar panel industry has yet to find a strong home in central Virginia, despite Charlottesville’s reputation as a forward-thinking, cautiously modernizing mid-size town. It’s estimated that around half a million homes are solar powered (probably with a higher concentration in west coast cities). The fact is that any avenue which diminishes a reliance on fossil fuels is an avenue worth exploring, especially in light (that pun was very much intended) of ever-changing weather patterns. Springs and summers are the best seasons for stockpiling photovoltaic energy, simply because the sun is out more. claims that a combination of PV cells and energy efficient appliances can cut your home energy costs by more than 66%! By the way, check that site out for handy applications like their Solar Calculator or Solar Power Cost.

A brief discussion on how it works. Photovoltaic cells are comprised of silicon and other semiconductor materials. Together with other elements, they stimulate the movement of electrons. There are a few different options for harnessing this energy. The prevailing image of PV technology is probably the flat solar panels, typically seen on the roofs of green buildings. In the past, the construction and design of these panels was seen as aesthetically unappealing. PV engineers and providers have started to make the panels more muted colors like black, which blend well with the look of modern roofs. There are still building permits for which you’ll have to apply, and you should definitely check with your resident Homeowner’s Association before getting started.

One of the most enduring narratives about solar energy (and solar panels in particular) is that it’s no good for property values. While it might be easy to believe that the huge, rectangular structures which dominate the roofs of solar-powered houses would repel potential buyers, this has been proven false. An interdisciplinary team comprised of universities, appraisers, and scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Sandia National Labs has discerned that there is an average premium of $15,000 for homes with a photovoltaic system. They looked at the sales of 22,000 homes (4,000 of which were solar-powered), in eight different states between the years of 1999 and 2013. The data says that homes with photovoltaic systems sell at a rate 20% faster than homes without. The homes also fetch an average price 17% higher than their coal-powered counterparts. Depending on where you live, there may also be government rebates and incentives for installing/maintaining a photovoltaic system in your home. Wouldn’t it be pretty nice to get a full or partial property tax exemption for converting sunlight into energy?

At this point you may be thinking about solar power for your Charlottesville home. There are several factors to consider, and the majority of people who decide to invest in photovoltaic technology consult some sort of outside party, known as solar installers. A little research online will bring up a list of solar energy providers and installers in your area. Here at home in Charlottesville, SolarizeCville and Dasolar appear to be prominent names, but there are likely several others, especially with major cities like Washington, D.C. and Richmond nearby. These installers will evaluate your home, needs (are you retrofitting a pre-existing house or building one from scratch?) and budget. The more research you do, the better. Think and ask your installer questions regarding the quality of the input components used by the recommended solar companies. Have a look at the claims rates; they shed much light on the experiences of other customers and are indicative of how well the hardware holds up over time.

Find out the efficiency percentage…all solar panels should have one readily available. This percentage is simply the ratio of “raw” sunlight hitting the roof to converted energy. The higher efficiency, the less surface area required to power a home. You definitely want at least 10% efficiency…aim for the 15-20% range if it’s within your means. Look up reviews from panel owners who live in climates and situations that are similar to your own. Read assessments from unbiased third-party organizations. If you’re considering a specific company, ask the manufacturers for test results from different climates, environments, and installation circumstances. Most people agree that a photovoltaic array lasts an average of 25 years, and most warranties reflect this. Read the terms of the warranty carefully and make sure you’re covered every step of the way. For example, you’re going to want efficiency minimums that reflect wear, tear, and years. Good luck on your quest…to greener pastures and lower electricity costs!  If you are looking for a green home in Charlottesville, check out our website

Buying Charlottesville Va Real Estate

Charlottesville Va Real EstateBuying a Home: The Dos and Don’ts 

Buying real estate is a unique and singular experience. You trust a house with the essential task of containing everything you hold dear…from your physical belongings to the people you love to your intangible experiences and everything in between. It’s difficult to look at your home like a material possession; it honestly has more in common with commitments like getting married or having children. And like both of these institutions, there are all kinds of implications wrapped up in buying a home. While we can’t claim to be marriage counselors or child psychologists, we do know a bit about Charlottesville Va real estate, so we’d like to present our list of dos and don’ts on the subject of buying a home.

Do scope out the neighborhood.   If you’re interested in, say a cattle or horse farm in central Virginia, chances are you’ll be sitting on a fair amount of acres…but neighbors aren’t the only consideration. Try doing your daily commute. If you’re looking at farms in Madison County and you have to be in Charlottesville a few times a week, see how far your potential property is down Rt. 29. After all, once you get the house, you’ll be making the drive regularly. Got kids? How far is the nearest school? What about things like soccer practice or piano lessons? How far is the nearest grocery store, hospital, Tastee Freeze, etc? The schools matter whether or not you have children…good schools are good for property values. Things like rankings and surrounding attractions are also worth attention. Both Charlottesville and Virginia have received accolades, contending that they are among the best places to live. So for someone looking at homes in Albemarle County or any property in the Greater Charlottesville area, this is a very good thing to know.

Don’t make any big financial moves when you’re looking into buying a place. Honestly, for the first six months before and after you buy your new place, we recommend keeping your assets as liquid as possible. Beforehand, you don’t want anything to interfere with your credit profile should you be obtaining a mortgage. The lenders want to see that you’re reliable, rock-steady. They want to see your paper trail. This makes it easier to get a loan. As far as after you buy the home…you never know what kind of unexpected expenses will crop up and how big a dent they’ll make in your budget. Sleeper costs are difficult to plan for; when we buy a home we tend to focus on the mortgage. But we’re talking about things like property taxes, utilities, homeowner association dues, repairs, maintenance, etc. You may eventually see the need for more permanent repairs, especially if you’re trying to get some use out of your property. Landscaping is not cheap, and once you get to know the land, you’ll better understand what it needs. Until then, try and keep your money where it is. 

Do get pre-approved for your home loan if you’re planning to obtain one. This is much more involved than simply getting pre-qualified. Pre-qualification comes after you give a bank or lender your financial information. They’ll give you a rough idea of what you can expect out of the housing market based on your assets, income, debt, etc. It’s a quick procedure, often done over the phone or online, and that should be an indication of how much (or how little) weight it carries. Getting pre-approved is far more involved. It requires an extensive application (and an application fee) and a thorough financial background check. After this, a lender can give you the specific mortgage amount for which you qualify. After pre-approval, you get a conditional commitment amount which allows you to shop for a house at or below that price point. It’s good for you and for prospective sellers; you don’t have to waste your time looking at homes beyond your means, and they don’t have to waste time waiting for you to actually obtain financial backing. It simply gives you a leg up over other potential buyers who have to go to a bank/lender after they find the house of their dreams.

Don’t try to time the market. We get it…if you’re on this website, it obviously means you’re looking at Charlottesville Va real estate, but it also means you’re are doing your homework. But even for us professionals, it’s pretty difficult to predict market flux, especially within a year’s time. But some things never change. You know what you want out of a house and you know when it feels right. If it’s in your price range, just go for it. Holding out for a better deal or more favorable market conditions may work out for you, but it could also backfire if something unexpected happens. Either way you could drive yourself crazy trying to find the perfect time to buy. A hint: the perfect time is as soon you have your ducks in a row and you’ve found a house that perfectly matches your personality, financial situation, and needs.  It just feels right.  Act now.

Do get a survey done on the land, before you buy. You want to know exactly where the property lines are, and you want to be able to point to them on a map. This is important for several reasons. If you’re looking at say, a home in Albemarle County, chances are your neighbors have been there a while. You want to stay cordial with them and make sure both parties have a good grasp of boundaries and are aware of any easements.  Also, quite often title insurance companies will require a current survey in order to insure the property lines.

Don’t become attached to a house for the wrong reasons. Don’t go for the biggest house on the block or the farmland with the most acres (unless you’re going to use ‘em!). These mega-properties only appeal to a limited number of potential buyers, and you don’t want to limit your pool of applicants come resale time. If you’ve paid one and a half million for your property, and the surrounding landowners have paid $750,000, the potential appreciation on your own property is limited. This next part may go without saying, but you want to make sure every step in your decision-making process is grounded in reason and logic. You want to think critically about everything and resist the urge to act on emotion. We’re not saying you should ignore your instincts; those are probably what put you in the enviable position of potential homeownership in the first place. Instincts are important, but if we can attempt to separate the idea of instinct from the idea of impulse, we’ll have come a long way. Don’t fall in love with a coat of paint or the way a landscaping job looks. These items are not really unique to the property, it just happens to be presented in the right way. You can apply that coat of paint to that other house you were looking at…you know, the home in Albemarle County just minutes away from the place where you go horseback riding four times a week. The one that’s a third of the price. Okay, that place doesn’t have a hanging row of begonias lining the facade, or the awesome man cave that you fell in love with. But with the money you save, it sure could.

Yet Another Reason to Move to Charlottesville

sidewalk-cafe-53318_1280Charlottesville is on the list of countless “Best Small Towns in America” lists due its beautiful landscape, university community, and cultural scene. Why not add yet another great reason to the list?  This summer, Charlottesville joined the elite group of US Gigabit Cities. Now what in the world does that mean?

“Gigabit Internet service refers to data uploads and downloads of up to a gigabit (or 1,000 megabits) per second. For those without an engineering degree, that is very, very fast. It puts Charlottesville on par with other pioneering US cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee and Lafayette, Louisiana, along with world-leading cities like Seoul, Stockholm and Tokyo. It creates a huge competitive advantage for Charlottesville businesses. It allows every member of a Charlottesville household to be streaming, gaming, video conferencing and browsing at the same time. It facilitates healthcare and fosters education.”

The service is provided by Ting, a  subsidiary of Tucows Inc. If you live in the Charlottesville area, you can enter your address on Ting’s local website to see if your neighborhood or street has received service.

This map posted in September 2015 shows the current areas and future roll-out plans for the city:

Map from
Map from

Ting anticipates to have coverage for the entire city of Charlottesville by the end of 2016.

What excites us most at Gayle Harvey Real Estate is the link between Gigabit service and home values.  Having homes (and an entire city with the infastructure) installed with the fastest internet available in the world is sure to increase property values!

The installation fee is approximately $400 but sure to be an upgrade to your property with a high ROI.

We are excited to see how quickly the service expands to service the neighboring counties.

House Payment with an Adjustable Rate Comparison

If you have a high house payment, that doesn’t mean your home is more valuable, it may indicate that your mortgage rate is higher than it has to be.

Although fixed rates are currently low, you might consider looking into an adjustable rate mortgage.  Depending on how long you plan to own your home, an ARM may provide the lowest cost of ownership. 

There are different types of ARMs. One type, an FHA ARM, features a maximum rate change of 1% during one period and the maximum lifetime cap of 5% over the initial rate.

The chart below shows an example of a 30 year mortgage with a five year fixed rate that can adjust every one year after that, based on independent indexes.  The payment on the adjustable is $153.48 lower for the first five years/60 payments.  The lower interest rate loans amortize faster than higher interest rate loans.  The ARM in the example below has a lower unpaid balance of $4,239 at the end of the first five years.

At the end of the first period, the total savings on the ARM is $13,477.  The breakeven point for this loan would be 8.5 years. If the borrow felt they would sell the home prior to this point, the housing cost for this ARM would be lower, even if the mortgage rate increased to the maximum level at each adjustment period.

Always consult with a trusted mortgage professional to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of varying programs.  You can also contact one of our agents to help guide you as well. 

For more information, visit:

Are you ready to buy a home?

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Don’t think twice! Are you thinking about buying a home, but keep delaying your decision?  You may want to reconsider based on the conditions of today’s market and the potential for the future market.

Today’s rental market has seen an increase to the point where it’s significantly less expensive to own than to rent.  The monthly cost of housing can be lower, even after repairs are factored into the comparison, as interest rates are low, principal accumulation due to amortization, as well as appreciation and tax savings from owning your home.

The Federal Reserve recently announced that they intend to start increasing the rates.  Experts are agreeing that an increase in interest rates is an inevitable conclusion. With that said, a $300,000 home today could be considerably more a year from now.   If you have a down payment of 20%, prices increase by 3%, interest rates increase by .5%, the principal and interest payment at 3.625% would be $1,094.52 for 30 years compared to $1,198.05 at 4.125%.

Here’s something to ponder when thinking about postponing a long term decision to buy a home.  If you wait too long and the rates go up, can you afford that increased amount in a monthly payment because you weren’t ready to make a decision?  Do you want to continue paying rent when you could put that money towards the equity of your own home? 


The Empty Nest

It’s just too big for us now!  At one time, the large home was perfect, but lifestyles change, kids grow up and move out on their own.  The house doesn’t seem to fit the family needs anymore.  So maybe downsizing to a smaller home will meet this new empty nest lifestyle.

You may ask, why do I want to downsize and what are the benefits to a smaller home?  Here is a list to consider:  

  • It’s easier to maintain both inside and out so there’s not as much to house clean or lawn to mow
  • Convenience of a single level  for simple living
  • Lower utilities, property taxes, and  insurance
  • Possibly more energy efficient  and lower maintenance

How about the financial benefits from the equity in your larger home?  Here is a list of possible ways to utilize the money:

  • Invest for your retirement income
  • Buy that second home
  • Travel to those places you’ve longed to visit
  • Invest in an education for your children or yourself
  • Set aside a nest egg to cover unexpected expenses
  • Tax-free money? Your profit, in most cases, will be tax-free up to the exclusion limits set by the IRS.

The empty nest lifestyle is a big life change, and there will be expenses associated with selling your home and buying a new one.  Make sure you take the time to review the potential benefits and outcomes of downsizing to a smaller home.  If you have questions, contact Gayle Harvey Real Estate to find out what your current home is worth. We will also help you find the right home for the next stage of your life. 

The Most Popular Trends in Kitchen and Bathroom Design

If you’re thinking about updating your home, kitchens and bathrooms still top the list as the most popular construction renovations.  According to Residential Architect, they have identified some of the latest trends in kitchen and bathroom design.

It’s not just about cooking! Kitchens are becoming the central hub of the family home.  Yes, kitchens are where you store and prepare food, but kitchens are also being used for family gathering, entertaining family and friends, and for everyday living.  How many of you have a computer, phone chargers, or some type of technology in your kitchen?  You need to have easy accessibility to that recipe you saw on-line, or that “honey, please stop by the store and pick up…” for those missing ingredients.

For 2014, Residential Architect found LED lighting to be the most popular feature in a kitchen.  This feature is followed by computer areas with recharging stations, large pantry spaces, upper-end appliances, double islands, adaptability/universal design, and drinking water filtration systems.

When it comes to bathroom designs, Residential Architect found the most popular features to be LED lighting, door less showers, as well as adaptability/universal design.

So if you’re contemplating a renovation to your home, consider the current trends in both kitchen and bathroom designs.

8 Luxury Home Modifications That May Reduce The Value Of Your Home

According to CNN Money, “When it comes to adding value to a high-end home, an amenity with a large price tag doesn’t guarantee a return on investment. Sometimes, a customized modification can actually reduce a home’s value”.

Here are some examples of over-the-top customizations that might not be worth the money:

Ornate Landscaping – Fancy shaped bushes, shrubs and trees can create an overwhelming appearance for a buyer.  Instead, a clean cut yard with neat and simple landscaping and less fuss will be more attractive to a buyer.

Elaborate Outdoor Pools – Elaborate features in and around the pool may look appealing, however, the cost to maintain the pool area can be a deterrent or a safety factor for many buyers.

Huge tubs in the bathroom – The days of the large multi-person Jacuzzi tub are gone. Buyers desire a normal-sized tub, large shower, and most importantly, a walled off toilet area .

High-end materials – Imported high-end materials, such as marble and granite, are often too ornate. Buyers are looking for a more minimalist and natural finish in a home.

Unique Paint Color –Homes using a variety of colors throughout the cabinets, tiles, and floors will make it difficult for buyers to envision their own personalization of the home.  Keep it simple with a neutral color palate.

Too much automation and security – Having the ability to control your home remotely is nice, but the automation still needs to be manageable for the homeowner. Buyers want one touch control versus a complicated system they have to decipher. An overabundance of security cameras can instill a sense of fear or insecurity of the home or area.

Oversized rooms – Creating a larger room for extra family space or a wine cellar by taking away a bedroom will possibly reduce a home’s value. A buyer’s initial detail is the number of bedrooms. When thinking about converting a garage into living space, think twice because buyers of high-end homes want a place to store their many toys.

The man cave – The emphasis on a special man room is losing interest and being disregarded and changed by buyers

Screening/media room – With large screen technology now present in most homes, media rooms are failing to offer true value to buyers.