Sale of Westover Hills Home Helps Fund Greenhouse in Eastern Europe

It has been a crazy spring in Real Estate- at least here in Richmond.  Everyone I know who is tied to the Real Estate biz seems to be busier than they have been in years.

SOLD after 12 hrs on the market

And seriously- mortgage rates hit 3.67% a few weeks ago (they went up to 3.71 again… blast!) so people who are used to renting are finding that it’s actually a lot cheaper on your monthly budget to buy a house right now.

A few weeks ago, I helped some people sell their gem of a house on Sylvan Rd in Westover Hills (at right).


Easiest. Transaction. Ever.


Kennon & Sarah, the owners, were some of the easiest people to work with.  We struck up a fast friendship over living in strange and far off places- they having lived and worked in Nigeria for a spell and us in Indonesia.  We also happen to share the woes and wonders of living with a 3 year old boy.

Over the several years they owned the house they did all the right things to set it up to sell quickly and for a good price.

Sarah happens to have an amazing eye for interior design:


Tied Together.

One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to give a loan to someone whenever a house sells.

This house provided a loan for Emrie, a farmer in the small Eastern European country of Georgia.

click for more on Emrie’s loan

Emrie will use her loan to build a greenhouse so that she can grow vegetables through the winter and earn additional income by selling them in the market.

What’s the connection between homes in Richmond and loans for struggling entrepreneurs?  Click here.

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Compass Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.

Woodland Heights Renovation

Just over a month ago, I helped Christof and Megan buy an amazing house in Woodland Heights.  Now they are in the middle of doing what many of us dream about: a diamond in the rough foreclosure, a great neighborhood, and major renovation plans.

Click on photo to learn how this house also provided sheep for a family in Kyrgyzstan

I asked Christof about the process of going through a major renovation.  Here, he shares his answers and unveils the master plan for the house.

Christof & Megan with their incredibly cute and well-behaved daughter

MeWhat was it about this house that made you decide to buy it over all the other houses for sale in Richmond?

Christof: This house had, by far, the most character per dollar of any house we saw during our house-hunting process. Also, the curved wraparound porch, and beautiful old Sycamore were selling factors.


MeTell us about the process of re-designing so many aspects of the house… Why did you decide to add the bathroom downstairs and change the floorplan the way you did?  What were your priorities (maximize space/resale value/personal needs/historic integrity)?

Christof: The rationale for introducing a powder room in the center of the ground floor was a necessary, balancing, response to our decision to take out the old, full bath next to the kitchen. It didn’t make much sense for us to have a full bath on the first floor anyway, it needed tons of work, and we wanted space for a pantry… so we pulled it out.


Original Floor Plan

Renovation Floor Plan

Floor plans shown above are courtesy of Brian Ward, general contractor on this project and owner of Greenleaf Renovations.

Christof: Our priorities all along have fairly focused on livability. So many people view their homes through the lens of resale value. We’re not taking that approach. We knew we wanted a walk-in pantry, open kitchen, large island, and smooth flow from the living room through the dining room to the kitchen. Our secondary concern was historical integrity. We’ve purchased old pine lumber to replace any holes in the wood floor, used reclaimed wood for as much framing as possible, and decided to restore the porch to its original glory with a railing and spindles to recapture some of the romance of the original Victorian look.



Me: What have been some of the biggest challenges to this point?

Christof: Some of the biggest challenges have been getting the yard in order. The huge Sycamore and surrounding vegetation cost a lot more to handle than we thought. But, on the other hand, now that they’re all trimmed up it’s much more exciting and beautifying than we expected so it all evens out.


MeWhat part of the house are you most excited about?

Christof: The most exciting part of the house right now is the kitchen. It looks like it’s just going to be awesome.  There are three additional areas that keep our minds spinning at night. The first is the possibility of fully restoring the wraparound porch. This has the potential to add value to the home and make the home much more useable for entertaining. Secondly, we are excited about the possibility of adding a second-floor balcony off of the guest bedroom/study. This is definitely one of those “aim for the moon” concepts right now, but it’s still within the realms of possibility and so… we keep dreaming. Third thing would be the “loft” – aka attic. We would like to finish it off and are preparing the space for additional work after we move in.


Great attic space just waiting to turn into living space

New Master Bedroom closet framed out


If you are thinking of buying or selling your Woodland Heights/Westover Hills home, contact me!  I live in the neighborhood… know it, love it, and I’m excited to help you with all things Real Estate.

Keep visiting the blog for more updates on the progress of this home in the coming weeks!

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Compass Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.

From Woodland Heights with Love

Last week saw another closing.  This time in Woodland Heights- maybe my favorite Richmond neighborhood.

It was an old house.  A foreclosure.  The kind of place you dream about fixing up: a 1920’s house with a ton of space and even more character in a great location.  It was just begging for a young couple with a creative spirit to give it new life again.

Over the next 3 months or so, my friends are going to be repainting siding, refinishing floors, rebuilding the wonderful wrap-around porch, knocking down walls, creating an entirely new kitchen area, a new bath on the main floor, custom pantry and laundry room, new master bedroom with a totally new bath.  It is going to be a spectacular house in a few months.

Brian Ward, at Greenleaf Renovations, will be in charge of the renovation.  Old homes are his thing; he doesn’t build new ones (though I know enough about contracting to know that that would probably be a lot easier.)

“Given the existing housing stock, we think it is much more sustainable to take care of what we have and renovate it to suit our current and future needs.”

I can get behind that.

The other wonderful thing about this house is something that you will never be able to see by driving by: it’s tied to the dreams of a grandmother in Kyrgyzstan.

Click to learn more about this Kiva loan

Whenever clients of mine close on a house, I give a loan to somebody in the developing world.  You can learn why on the about page.  But the bottom line is what I think is a simple but powerful idea: what if, when you achieved your dream of home ownership, you made sure somebody else’s dream came along with it.

A sort of buddy system for dreams.

This house in Woodland Heights will be a source of financial stability over the coming years for a young family here in Richmond.

And in Kyrgyzstan, Mrs. Kanymetova, 63, (pictured in center) has requested the loan to purchase more sheep, which will breed and increase her flock size, which will be a source of financial stability for her and her family.

From Woodland Heights to Kyrgyzstan, I think the average person has the same dream: the opportunity for our hard work to provide our families with financial stability.

Freedom from worry.

And now, thanks to Kiva, another home in Richmond is tied to the dreams of another hard-working family in the developing world.


At the moment, Mrs. Kanymetova’s loan is still not fully funded.  Want to help her get her sheep?  Click on her picture to learn more about her loan and about how lending your money through Kiva works.

Click to join the RealRVA Lending Team.  We are simply a group of people who want to help struggling entrepreneurs in developing countries to succeed.


Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.

RVA Neighborhoods: Westover Hills (Plus taZa & Chocolates By Kelly GIVEAWAY)

GIVEAWAY!! $15 taza Coffee 'n Cream PLUS... $15 Chocolates by Kelly

I moved to Westover Hills by accident.  Kristen and I had been living in Indonesia, and we were moving back to the States.  We were weary world travelers and we had an 8 month old in tow and another one in the oven (if you ask me what the heck we were thinking, all I can tell you is that I wasn’t thinking with my head ). We had a couple of cities that we were thinking of moving to- Richmond was one.  One long weekend we took a whirlwind tour, found a house (it happened to be in Westover Hills) and decided to lay down some roots.  We didn’t know a thing about the neighborhood- we just liked the house.  A couple years later, it turns out there’s no other neighborhood I love more.  I think that’s the definition of serendipity.

Here are some of the sights of Westover Hills:

One of Kristen's favorite parts of living in W.H. is crossing the River daily. Mine is biking on the Buttermilk


There are all different kinds of houses with a huge range of prices in the neighborhood.  There are tons of great capes to find, little ranches, Dutch colonials, bungalows, colonials, and some modern designs too.

You can buy a house in Westover Hills for around $200k all the way up to over a million, and everything in between.  As of this morning, there are 14 houses for sale in the neighborhood and of those, the average list price is $293k.



If you are a lover of fresh, local foods and veggies, Westover Hills is a dream.  Our new Saturday family tradition is to head to the South of the James Farmers Market.  It is insane in the best way.  Every Saturday from 8am til noon, Victory Farms, Ault’s Family Farm,  Amy’s Garden, Blanchard’s Coffee, Nate’s Taco truck, live music, and nearly 100 other great vendors fill up the Forest Hill Park with sights, sounds, and smells that my family loves.

Then on Wednesdays from 3 to 7:30, the South(er) of the James Market meets on Forest Hill Ave in a lot next to the Westover Hills Elementary School.  It is smaller than the Saturday market, but you can still find fruits and veggies from local farms, tasty food trucks, and a fun atmosphere.


Finally, there’s taZa Coffee ‘n Cream.  I remember in college thinking that if I could find some great, back door sort of coffee shop to become a regular at, it would bring me a huge step closer to being the cool, artsy, beatnik that I was hoping to be.  I’ve found that shop in taZa.  The survey is still out on whether or not it has made me a cooler, artsier, beatnik type of person… I just asked my magic 8 ball and it said all indicators point to no.

Here’s the thing about taZa- they only have the best stuff.  Blanchard’s Coffee roasts beans on location… really- if you come at the right time, you can see them using the big red roaster in the picture above.  It does not get more fresh than that.

Chocolates By Kelly is downstairs as well, and then served by taZa.  Some of Kelly’s amazing creations: cherry pomegranate truffles, chocolate covered caramel topped with sea salt, peanut butter cups,  vodka cranberry cordials, and and white chocolate covered pretzels.  The first time I had one of her chocolate covered s’mores made with homemade marshmallows, I knew Kelly was serious about dessert.

Now I know that store bought marshmallow are not the same as homemade.

Giveaway Prizes:

-1 person will win a $15 gift card to taZa Coffee ‘n Cream.  1 person will win a $15 gift card to Chocolates by Kelly.


-To enter, leave a comment (only one!) answering What is your favorite thing about your neighborhood?

-Due to the local nature of the giveaway, contestants should have a Richmond mailing address (we will contact you via email if you win, so make sure it’s valid!).

-Contest ends Sunday, July 17 at midnight.


Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.

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