Williamsburg, Virginia: Neighborhoods to Know
You want it, it’s in the Williamsburg area.
History? Got that -- the downtown area is a restored 18th century village. America’s first permanent English colony of Jamestown is nearby. So are the battlefields at Yorktown, where the British army surrendered and ended the Revolutionary War.
Water? Got that -- boat on the James, York and Chickahominy rivers, sail on the Chesapeake Bay. Drive an hour to swim in the Atlantic Ocean.
Entertainment? Got that, too -- Busch Gardens, Water Country, shopping, restaurants, dinner-movie theaters, miniature golf, even ghost tours.
Education? The College of William & Mary is among the best. Public schools are good, too.
“You have the college, you have access to transportation, you have four seasons, winters aren’t usually harsh,” says Nan Piland, president of the Williamsburg Area Association of Realtors. “You have access to major metropolitan areas such as Richmond and Norfolk. If you’re a history buff, this is the place to be.”
Williamsburg's Current Real Estate Market
Compared to Northern Virginia, the cost of living and home prices are much lower -- the average home price in 2010 was $333,500. But if you want a million-dollar, waterfront home with some land, it can be found. In James City County last year, 20 homes sold for $900,000 and above.
But affordable homes are here, too, so it’s no wonder that the area is desired by young families and retirees alike. With the Hampton Roads area home to every branch of the military, it’s inevitable for military families to live here, too.
Saying “I live in Williamsburg” doesn’t just mean you live in the city of Williamsburg, however. Under Virginia’s independent city and county system, a “Williamsburg address” might mean James City County or York County. So while about 80 homes sold in the 9-square-mile city of Williamsburg in 2010, about 750 sold in 144-square-mile James City County.
Because of the first-time homebuyers program, the housing market went in “fits and starts” in 2010, Piland says. Home prices were lower than in 2009 and spent more time on the market. Buyers generally spent under $300,000, Piland says, and a $75,000 fixer upper could be found in Williamsburg city.
The area really has tripled in size since the 1990s, Piland says. Then, there was one high school; now there are three in the Williamsburg-James City County public school system. But the area still holds a small town feel.
“It still has the quaint hometown with the colonial feel of downtown, and urban living of New Town and High Street (both newer mixed-use retail and residential developments), and also the 1940s homes,” Piland says.
Popular neighborhoods range from homes in exclusive, gated resort communities to stately brick or columned homes with a most definite Southern flair. Homes on streets leading into the city of Williamsburg are often decorated with fruit wreaths and other decorations -- the pineapple, after all, is a symbol of hospitality dating back to colonial America.
The average price of a home in the Williamsburg area in 2010 was $333,500.
About a mile up Jamestown Road from Colonial Williamsburg is Holly Hills, a neighborhood of about 150 single-family homes set among gently rolling tree-lined hills. The neighborhood is located on part of what once was the Rich Neck Plantation, which dates to 1635.
Homes here start in the $300,000-range for a three-bedroom carriage townhome, while a four-bedroom, 3,100-square-foot home can run upwards of $700,000. There are million dollar homes here as well. Stately brick homes with wrought-iron detailing are common, along with elegant, cream-colored houses with columns and oversized windows.
“This,” reads the homeowner association’s website, “is a community which cares for one another but also respects the privacy of our neighbors.”
Home prices in Holly Hills range from $300,000 to $700,000.
KINGSMILL ON THE JAMES
If you want upscale, look no further than Kingsmill, a gated resort community started by Anheuser-Busch along the banks of the James River in the 1970s. Spacious homes are spread out over 2,900 acres -- 40 percent of the community is to remain untouched and “green” -- and include detached homes, townhouses, condominiums and luxury villas. Home prices range from $215,000 to $3.2 million, with the largest at about 9,600 square feet.
Kingsmill, the resort, features a spa, sports club, restaurants, and three championship golf courses, including the River Course -- former home of an LPGA Tour event. The marina offers a striking view of the James River, including a glimpse of the Ghost Fleet, the collection of ships that have been mothballed by the Navy and Merchant Marine since after World War I. At its peak, the James River Reserve Fleet numbered 700; now there are just 23.
Home prices in Kingsmill range from $215,000 to $3.2 million.
FORD’S COLONY WILLIAMSBURG
Another in-demand, gated community is Ford’s Colony, a 3,000-acre community with three golf courses. Residents have access to swimming pools, tennis courts, a country club and miles of walking trails. Homes here range from $295,000 to $2.5 million, including custom homes along golf courses and lakes.
Ford’s Colony has won numerous awards for being a top master-planned community, and is among top communities for the retired and the semi-retired. It’s also been recognized for its efforts in protecting natural and historical resources. On the property is a 200-acre nature preserve where more than 200 species of wildlife have been sighted. In 1987, an endangered species of Small Whorled Pogonias, a type of orchid, was discovered, prompting Ford’s Colony to alter its development plan.
Home prices in Ford’s Colony range from $295,000 to $2.5 million.
New Town is a 365-acre multi-use community at the intersection of Ironbound Road and Monticello Avenue in the “new urbanism” style -- a planned, mini-town with residential and business areas clustered together. There are single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and garden and loft apartments as well as an open air main street shopping mall. Home prices range from $225,000 to $525,000.
The first buildings went up in 2003, with most construction occurring in the past five years. Today, there’s a 12-screen movie theater, outdoor concerts in a grassy square, a fitness center, an assortment of medical and dental services, salons, spas, banks, credit unions and legal services. There are more than 170 shops and restaurants, including favorites such as Barnes and Noble, Bath and Body Works, Bonefish Grill and Panera Bread. Walking and biking trails and open spaces are woven through the community -- a place to “play, work and live.”
Home prices in New Town range from $225,000 to $525,000.
GOVERNOR’S LAND AT TWO RIVERS
Governor’s Land is a 1,500-acre private country club community off Route 5 in James City County, with homes ranging from $500,000 to over $7 million. Located seven miles from Colonial Williamsburg where the James and Chickahominy Rivers meet, it features a marina with ample boating opportunities. Neighborhoods are set amid mature trees and around ponds.
The community has a golf course, swimming pools, tennis courts, walking trails and a 200-acre wildlife and beach sanctuary. There are four miles of shoreline, from which the sunsets are said to be spectacular.
Governor’s Land bills itself as a community for all ages. There are book, golf and garden clubs, potluck dinners, and art, yoga and tai chi classes. Youth activities are held throughout the year, including golf, tennis and sailing programs and seasonal parties.