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Housing sticker shock continues to be rampant in the Fredericksburg area.
By RICHARD AMRHINE
So if you're wondering where all the $250,000 houses went, they're still there. You just have to pay a $150,000 premium to buy one.
Real-estate agents also point out that escalating prices prevent existing homeowners from moving up, so they stay put and the houses they're in don't become available. There's no "trickle up."
Aside from the daunting price tags their younger loved ones are looking at, homeowners are hard-pressed to lament the feeling of increasing wealth.
But they know, too, that the appearance of housing equity is just that. While the value of your property has no doubt increased in recent years--perhaps markedly in just one year of ownership--it's not as though you enjoy an improved living standard because of it. The substantial gain you are realizing on your investment exists only on paper. If you sold your house today thinking you could buy a bigger one with the profit you'd realize, you'd be mistaken. Within this market, you'd probably break even at best. It would probably cost you more to buy back your own house tomorrow than what you sold it for today.
You can't tap the equity without having to pay it back, so you don't really even own your own equity.
Clearly, the Fredericksburg area isn't providing the quality, high-wage jobs that are necessary to pay for such expensive housing. The pressure for expensive housing continues to come from those willing to make the commute to Northern Virginia or Washington while providing their families with the quality of life we still enjoy here.
The service jobs spawned by the rapid commercial development in this area, or even the starting salary for a schoolteacher or police officer, might augment a household's income but would hardly allow a sole breadwinner to afford much of a house.
Apartment-hunters will find that the high cost of housing translates into high rents, making efforts to save for a house while renting problematic as well.
The new, expensive houses that are being built create housing inflation ripples across the market, allowing owners of older, less spacious homes to fetch an inflated asking price.
Though the influx of new residents is causing the region's quality of life, as some long-term residents see it, to evaporate, the area remains attractive to those accustomed to a busier pace in a more crowded place.