From Livable to Luxurious

The growth of upscale apartments in Coastal Virginia

by CoVaBizMag

By Kristen De Deyn Kirk
Cover Image by Lori Golding Zontini

The sleek lounge chairs, stylish colors and expansive windows at The Constitution evoke an exclusive, faraway resort where the rich and famous unwind—yet the luxury is local and so are the people. They’re Coastal Virginia’s renters-by-choice, swooping in to claim top-of-the-line-apartments. The Constitution, one of the newest, rises in Virginia Beach’s Town Center, where its 219 apartments leased up in four months.

“The market had lagged some in the demand (compared to other regions),” Daniel Heatwole, senior vice president of Ripley Heatwole Company, owners of The Constitution, says. “About 10 years ago, we started to see a shift.”

Coastal Virginians wanted more—whether it was more amenities, more upscale finishes or more room. Partnering with the City of Virginia, Ripley Heatwole worked on the Pembroke Strategic Growth Plan, which designated the area as a central business district.

“The City wanted to see a change from the traditional, suburban, garden-style, walk-up apartment with a surface parking lot to more of a downtown type of feel,” Heatwole notes.

Mission accomplished with The Constitution. It features resort-style pools; common areas with fire pits, outdoor TVs and bocce ball; three club rooms with pool tables, kitchens, and lounge-seating fireplaces; top-of-the-line gym equipment in two gyms; rooftop views with a cabana bar; and a massage studio ready for those looking to schedule a local vendor.

“The residents could afford to purchase homes,” James McCune, Ripley Heatwole vice president of acquisitions and development, says. “However, they choose to rent in these communities that provide them with a sense of arrival when they get home. It gives the residents a point of pride when they’re having guests over.”

One of the first luxury apartments in Coastal Virginia was South Beach Apartments, just off 264 and Birdneck Road. Leaders at The Franklin Johnston Group, then part of another development group, saw the upscale, conveniently located apartments fill in a flash when built in the early 2000s. Since then, The Franklin Johnston Group has built three more luxury apartment complexes.

“There are 90 luxury communities in Hampton Roads,” Angie Lombardi, The Franklin Johnston Group vice president of marketing, shares, “with another seven under construction.”

Coastal 61, near Virginia Wesleyan University, Norfolk Premium Outlets and 64, is the Group’s most recent. Stop by and you’ll ooh and ahh at granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, double vanities in the main bedrooms, USB ports in each room, pre-wired cable for TVs, large doors leading to patios and balconies, Peloton bikes, a resort-style pool, a second-floor indoor/outdoor lounge, grilling stations, fire pits, a large dog park and more.

Want to call Coastal 61 home? It’s $1,425 to $1,475 for a one-bedroom, $1,675 to $1,775 for two and $1,950 for three. You’ll need to wait for an opening, though: Every apartment is full.

That’s the case at nearly every local luxury apartment. They have waiting lists—or don’t bother to keep one, knowing if a tenant leaves, someone will walk in the door to take their place.

Why? Plenty of people want to live with upscale amenities, with none of the work that comes with homeownership. Coastal Virginia’s luxury apartments provide the opportunity to live in desirable, convenient neighborhoods without a major purchase—something younger generations are more open to than past ones. They’re not necessarily in a rush to buy and be tied down.

Yet, the luxury is also appealing to empty nesters. Some move in briefly while planning their next step in life. Others know from the get-go that the beautiful, no-upkeep-required-of-them surroundings are ideal for their new lifestyle. All meaning: The Franklin Johnston Group’s other luxury complexes—Southern Pine Apartment Homes and Meadowood Apartments stay full, too, and they have a fourth—Boulevard 45—near 264 and the popular park and event venue Mount Trashmore—under construction.

Ripley Heatwole Company has broken ground on another luxury apartment as well and has two more in the works, with other projects in the early stages of development. Look for more in the future from them and other builders, especially in key areas such as downtown Norfolk, the Oceanfront, Town Center and the Harbour View area of Suffolk.

“There really is just a huge, pent-up demand,” Senior Vice President Heatwole says. “You’re going to see a lot more in this area and continued raising of the bar when it comes to the quality of these buildings.”

Bye-Bye Buying Boom?

The frenzy may be over. Anyone who hesitated to buy a house in Coastal Virginia in the last two years could be thankful—or not, when they consider homebuying data and statistics.

Laurie DaPrano, Realtor

Prices of the average Coastal Virginia home has increased about 12.5% in the last year, which, for some, could signify an ongoing buying boom, explains Realtor Laurie DaPrano with Garrett Realty Partners. However, those huge jumps might soon even out.

Housing affordability and rising interest rates will impact buying power, she notes. The National Association of Realtors calculates that purchasing a home—with all factors considered—is 55% more expensive than a year ago. DaPrano shares concerns that some buyers will be priced out of the market. However, she believes there’s no need to panic.

“The housing market will slow, but I don’t feel that Coastal Virginia will be impacted as strongly as other markets,” DaPrano says. “Homes will continue to appreciate, and we will see steady house buying over the next five years.”

While varying by buyer, the Realtor has seen 15-year loans just over 4%, and on 30-year ones, closer to 5.5%. Compared to a year ago, it’s a 40% increase.

“Buyers are slightly more nervous,” DaPrano says, “but most know that historically, these are still good rates.”

She sees additional factors indicating stability, including the shift to more people working from home and choosing a higher quality of work-life balance, companies moving to the area and an increasing cost of renting.

Good news was also noted in a recent 24/7 Wall St. report: Hampton Roads was named one of “America’s 20 Cheapest Cities Where Everyone Wants to Live Right Now.”

Steady versus skyrocketing growth is what we could see. Predictions for 2023?

“Home prices will continue to see an upward trend,” DaPrano says. “Combined with higher mortgage payments, due to increased interest rates, more buyers will back off. When this happens, the market will begin to normalize.”

By the Numbers

Prices of the average Coastal Virginia home have increased about 12.5% in the last year.

At press time, 15-year loans averaged just over 4% interest. Thirty-year loans were close to 5.5%.

Compared to a year ago, home mortgage interest rates have increased 40%.

 Happy House Hunting

Realtor Laurie DaPrano offers tips for those buying and selling houses and the experts guiding them:

For Buyers and Sellers:

  • Work with a Realtor to save time and money and gather the insider information you need to land the home you want.
  • Ask about Realtors’ background, experience and accomplishments.
  • If you plan to sell, utilize a comparative marketing analysis to price your home property, attract the highest offer and avoid pricing adjustments.
  • If you’re buying, have your finances in order, be prepared to act quickly and be patient.

For Realtors:

  • Prepare your clients upfront on what to expect.
  • If representing a buyer, pay close attention to what the listing agent has indicated the seller is looking for, and write a clean, error-free offer.

Treat the other agent as your teammate. You never know when you will work with them again.

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