Relative Housing Prices and Demographic Shifts in the Valley

DebSF -- November 28th, 2008

A handful of stories in the local media this week have reported on the continuing state and regional shifts in age-related demographics, with some interesting implications for the Shenandoah Valley.

The News Virginian notes that regional shifts are occurring:

About 900,000 of Virginia’s 7.7 million residents, or 12 percent, are older than 65, with that percentage expected to increase 19 percent, to 1.8 million by 2030… In the central Shenandoah Valley region – made up of Highland, Bath, Rockingham, Augusta and Rockbridge counties, as well as the cities and incorporated towns in that region – the region’s over-65 population was expected to increase by 88.9 percent, to 68,401 people by 2030 from 2006, according to projections by the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission. Now at about 260,000 people, the region’s population as a whole is expected to grow by 31.4 percent over the same span.

The DNR also reports on the demographic changes today, noting that college towns always show disproportionate numbers of younger residents:

In Rockingham County, 11.2 percent of the population is age 55-64. But that’s 18.4 percent of the working age (18-64) population.

The figure is different in Harrisonburg. In the city, 5.6 percent of the total population, or 7.6 percent of the working age population, is in the 55-64 age group…..With a student enrollment approaching 17,000, James Madison University leaves its mark on the city’s demographic makeup. Harrisonburg has 18,185 people in the 18-24 age group, 40.9 percent of the city’s population …. In Williamsburg, where the College of William & Mary is located, 46 percent of the population is age 18-24; in Charlottesville, site of UVA, it’s 26 percent; and in Montgomery County, home to Virginia Tech, 31 percent of the population is 18-24.

BTW what’s up with the JMU “student enrollment approaching 17,000” stat?
This site says 17,918 total students and this one says 17,964.

An additional explanation for this increased retiree migration to the valley over the last decade has been the relative price of housing. Housing prices increased everywhere, but the NOVA region was especially frothy, making homes in the valley a relative bargain. Scott Rogers shows that median housing prices in Harrisonburg and Rockingham county has been relatively stable over the last 4 years, even while prices in the most bubbalicous parts of the country have fallen as much as 30% (NOVA is between 20 and 25%). So homes in this area retaining their value while NOVA falls steadily; will this slow the demographic drain from DC?  Or persuade NOVA retirees to get out faster, before housing prices drop even more?

8 Responses to “Relative Housing Prices and Demographic Shifts in the Valley”

  1. It depends. I would think that many “elderly” homeowners would have bought their home before (or at the beginning) of the big bubble. Selling now to move to the Valley might be a wash, but not a huge loss.

    Younger homeowners are in a very different position. They should either ride it out or rent it out.

  2. So homes in this area retaining their value while NOVA falls steadily; will this slow the demographic drain from DC? Or persuade NOVA retirees to get out faster, before housing prices drop even more?

    That second thought is an interesting one, but one that I think lots of homeowners have a hard time stomaching — it’s not fun to sell low. More than anything, the length of time it takes to market and sell a home in NOVA right now (as compared to a year or two ago) has slowed down the pace of those retirees migrating to the Valley.

    Here is a bit more detail on median sales price trends, showing that last year’s median sales price for Harrisonburg & Rockingham County (Jan-Oct) was $195,000. This year, the median sales price (Jan-Oct) was $197,500 — showing a 1.28% increase.

  3. JGFitzgerald says:

    A sidenote: Who’s going to tell the DNR about those extra 1,000 students?

  4. Folks at the DNR read this blog. I’m sure they’ll see it sooner or later.

    This post reminded me of something Dean Baker recently pointed out (but may not necessarily apply to this area).

    “… fewer elderly people are moving into assisted living facilities even when their health would make it desirable, because they are having trouble selling their homes… Housing is always an illiquid asset and for most people it is their major source of wealth.”

  5. Evan says:

    It is also possible that speaking in terms of general enrollment, they are referring to undergraduate enrollment, not collectively with graduate students.

  6. JGFitzgerald says:

    Actually, it’s a number from two years ago. Probably a result of someone checking an old story instead of a current database to get the number. The same thing happened when Obama came to JMU in October. By that time, the campaign had 74 offices statewide, but the reporter chose to quote a July story, when there were only 20. At least they reported “more than 20” which is one way of describing 74.

  7. Andy Perrine says:

    Sorry to be late in commenting – thanksgiving and all.

    The reason those two enrollment numbers are different is because they are for two different academic years; one is Fall 2007 total enrollment and the other is Fall 2008 on-campus enrollment. If you look on the Fall 2008 report (the second link above), you will see that the 2007 total enrollment number is 17,918 and the 2008 on-campus number is 17,964. Apples and oranges situation.

  8. Renee says:

    Andy, I don’t think the question was why the two numbers are different, but rather why the article said approaching 17000 instead of 18000 – at least, that’s how I read it.

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