First Time Homebuyer Savings Account

HB 331 – Establishing First Time Homeowners Savings Plans

Virginia just passed a new law allowing people hoping to be first time homeowners to create a saving account that is free from state income tax to use towards a down payment. The law will go into effect July 1, 2014. Keep an eye out for more info. See link above for legislative detail.

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Open House

Open House
Sunday, April 13, 2014
413 10 1/2 Street NW
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Stop by Sunday afternoon to check out our most recent project, which is For Sale. If you have any questions, please contact Joey at 434-806-7871.

Directions: Go west on Preston Avenue, then merge onto Grady Avenue after light in front of Martin Hardware. Take first left from Grady onto 10 1/2 Street NW. 2nd house on right across from community garden. Park in driveway or on street right in front of house.

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Abode February 2014: From Start to Finnish

Check out this month’s Abode for coverage on a modern white kitchen we built last year in Belmont on Druid Avenue. On stands now, or read here: Abobe February 2014 From Start to Finnish

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If You Can Remember Labor Day, You Weren’t There

We”ve been a little tardy in chronicling our last adventure day, but we thought being in the midst of a cold snap is a good time to remember warmer days….

Like a Hannibal”s army of misfits, Latitude 38 poured into Scottsville Labor Day for a float on the James River. The day began with cold ones in the outfitter”s gravel

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lot, as the teenage staff loaded our innertubes into the jalopy bus that would soon carry us upstream.

Into this Okeechobee-esque scene roared the NewsTeam29 stringer car, with Charlottesville”s favorite newswoman behind the wheel. From the passenger side emerged a cameraman in obligatory scuffed white sneakers. These two were hell-bent on an innoccous holiday piece and apparently, we were it. Issac was soon caught on camera massaging sunscreen into Dan”s back; while Tom came across as a lobotomized cajun after being forcibly miked and ordered to “Just say anything.”

“Today we gunnin” to see some fish and pass a good time, generally.”

Then Ben-with little to offer besides the final

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beer of his morning six-pack- propositioned Ms. Six O”Clock to join us for a day of scantily clad fun on the river.

Not suprisingly, she replied “No” without missing a beat.

Soon we were miles distant, belly-up and strugling like overturned turtles as the James dragged our tubes over the hectares of submerged boulders now between us and Scottsville. The outfitter had recommended bringing plenty of water, snacks and extra sunscreen. Unfortunately we had only brought beer, two cigarettes and Ben”s brother Gabe.

The riverbank scenery passing with frightening slowness and all of us quickly desiccating under the August sun, there was little to

do but circle the wagons, gossip, and watch as the growing halos of washed-off sunscreen and empty cans surrounding each of our tubes gradually merged into a single irredescent slick.

Fronting this foul ameboid was Jeff, who-always a glutton for efficiency-had decided to get his midlife crisis out of the way before the resumption of the workweek. Now outside of a near-fatal dose of Bud Light, he staggered golem-like downriver, pushing his amassed empties before him in his vacated tube like a homeless person with a After all, in a high-card win battle with little decision-making, how can the gain a big edge, right? Well, pretty easily. shopping cart, while screaming such epiphanies as:



and, most frequently,


Luckily, the game warden had taken the day off.

Our observances concluded at Amici”s Pizza, hitherto a quiet haunt of the local geriatric set. With Chris changing out of his swim trunks in the ladies room, Jeff slumped against the menu board out front and breathing heavily through his mouth and the rest of us bringing an unwelcome Bourbon Street air to the main dining room, the exorbinant tip we left in drunken elation was, in retrospect, probably not enough.

But what had we expected? This was tubing, after all. As someone mused on the way home, “I”ve never been on a tubing trip that wasn”t like this.”


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Abode November 2013: Would you ever use basketball court flooring in your home?

Check out this month’s Abode for coverage on the reclaimed flooring from a north Philadelphia high school gym we put in at Palatine Avenue, as well as in our own house on 6th Street. Source: Provenance

Abode November 2013: Basketball flooring


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Appraisal Institute Enters Into Agreement with Resnet

One of the hurdles of making energy efficient features cost effective for builders is that they are rarely are incorporated accurately into the sales prices of homes, at least not consistently across a market. One of the key players in this equation is the appraisers, who use available one year comps in the immediate locality to determine if a sales price is “fair market value,” or justified for a bank to make a loan. If a buyer values paying more for an energy efficient home with the expectation that their long term operating costs will be lower than a comparably built home (in size and location, without such efficiency features), but the appraiser cannot show why that additional value is justified, then the buyer may not get the appraisal they need. If builders cannot find buyers with cash to pay for the the additional features, they may have difficulty selling, and then less likely to incorporate said efficiency features in future homes. This is not the fault of the appraisers individually, but more of the whole multiple listing system and appraisal standards, which have not developed simple ways to compare homes based on energy efficiency.

Various parties have been at work nationally to bring the appraisal process up to speed with the growth in the number of energy efficient features that can significantly change the value of a home more than just its age, square footage and location. Just this week the Appraisal Institute entered into an agreement with Resnet, which developed the HERS index, one of the leading green building rating system, to produce their Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum. This is a good step towards making energy efficient features more of an integral part of any appraisal. We are still pretty far from that uniformity, but each step is appreciated. Here is more info if you are interested:

Appraisal Institute Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum

RESNET News about partnership

In practice, we have not chosen to cut back on energy efficiency features, although we are not sure if we are getting the appropriate value they deserve when looked at life cycle value. We have always had appraisals come within about $3000 of the sales price (always over), which leads me to question how the appraisal process works, as I have trouble believing that our pricing is so exactly in line with other new construction. However, I would say that we do keep fairly close to the general market, as we do not want to overbuild for a particular neighborhood, which is very possible building on infill lots in older neighborhoods.



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Open House this Monday: 4 to 6pm!

Come see Latitude 38′s newest completed home at 310 Palatine Avenue! We are turning it over to the new homeowners on May 1, so please help us welcome them into their new home.

Open House
Monday, April 29, 4-6pm
310 Palatine Avenue (next to Quarry Park, off of Rt 20 South on the way out of town to PVCC)

Low key, light refreshments (beer and juice), and information on our next project.

Parking: Try to park in the gravel lot between the house and the baseball field. There is a fair amount of parking, but no marked spaces, so please just try to not block anyone in.

For building aficionados, you can check out a few things we have never done before (open tread stairs, European large tilt and turn windows, passive air inlets as part of our thoughtfully and efficiently designed hvac system, reclaimed basketball flooring from a Philadelphia high school, reclaimed barn siding from an Ivy barn.)

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Adventure day wouldn’t be the saga that is has grown to be without apocalyptic weather phenomena, spectacular car crashes, banquets of fried pig, and the fall of the entirety of Europe to Iceland. Our well-conceived plan, as all good intentioned meticulously configured Latitude 38 plans go, began to fall apart when the East Coast woke to find themselves buried in hundreds of millimeters of frozen hell. The switch boards lit up as, soon to be action hero, Jeff Erkelens phoned to confirm that he would be picking me up any minute. I attempted to persuade him, but the allure of trying out his new four wheel drive won the day.

After some time had passed and I was beginning to feel certain I would have to hitch my crew of snow dogs and set out in search. However, to my surprise, Jeff made it with only a few less horses in his windshield wiper motor. After the opening credits, we began our journey across Middle Earth. At the bottom of Whippoorwill Hollow, I commented to Jeff that, “this is where everyone gets stuck.” This statement is apparently the toggle switch on the universe for at the exact moment we began sliding sideways into a powdery ditch. Our attempts to rescue the car were thwarted as any attempt to escape were met with freezing, fluffy quicksand. On the bright side, Jeff managed to scrape clean enough road with his snow shovel to safely land a 747.

Eventually we both made it into town. The rest of the crew was already elbow deep in bacon and eggs supplied by Master Chef Joey. Breakfast bliss was broken with news that an entire redwood tree had fallen in the middle of the street and the Super Friends 38 would be required to clean it up. Jack and I took a stroll down the street in time to move a few twigs off the road, watch Jack fall in a snow puddle, and help save a car from an unscheduled trip to the IGA on its roof. Good deed for the day done, Eagle scouts returned to Latitude headquarters.

At that point, a heated discussion of the strategic disadvantages of Kamchatka began to take hold. Risk began, most of the crew left, having never rolled higher than a 2 in their lives. Tom stayed until he remembered he needed to wash his hair. Jack was next, after his triple front war fizzled in Great Britain. DeBellis surrendered as he was in a complete daze the whole game. He later reported that he had been smacked in the face by one of his “friends,” and ruptured his eardrum. This was not a Latitude 38 friend, we solve our differences with hugs. Game given to Jeff and I, we called a cease fire. The mere action of ending our war had the effect of parting the clouds and bringing warmth back to the Earth. The snow melted and Adventure day ended.

- Devin

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Reclaimed Floors and Accent Walls

We recently went with the reclaimed look in a major way at the house we are building on Palatine Avenue. Through Devin’s father-in-law, we were able to get a bunch of old barn siding from out in Free Union that we installed as accent walls in each of the bedrooms.

Playing off that are the hardwood floors for the entire upstairs: maple strip basketball flooring that came out of a demolished high school in North Philly. It was a beast to install and created an extremely uneven surface, so we decided to sand off most of the finish and get back to a smooth floor. This created a really nice light colored floor with some pretty variation that wasn’t visible with the previous orange stain. As a gesture to its prior history, we left a “rug” of it in the upstairs hallway. Now if we could only reclaim a non aching back after all that…


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under roof…

It wasn’t quite an old fashioned barn raising with the compressor drowning out any neighborly conversations and the hydraulic lift dangling 150 pound roof trusses over our heads. With a crane operator who casually planned out his next adventure on the phone while simultaneously steering the crane with the unearthliness of Vishnu playing x box, we got the roof assembled with minimal stereotypical “construction workers standing around doing nothing” moments. The following day, we lofted the roof sheathing into place employing only the brute strength of some exceptionally exceptional builders. We rolled out the ice and water shield as if rolling out the red carpet for the rapidly setting sun. At the base of the scaffolding, we were met by the owners and a thank you loaf of pizza bread and Eight Point lager.


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