The Alimond Show

Zach Cummings Realtor and Politician

October 03, 2023 Alimond Studio
The Alimond Show
Zach Cummings Realtor and Politician
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered about the dynamics that drive urban development? Ever grappled with the question of how to balance progress and preservation? Join us in our latest podcast as we traverse through the heart of Loudoun County, Leesburg. We delve into the nuts and bolts of fostering development while preserving rural areas. Listen in as we talk about the role traffic and parking engineers play in shaping this charming town, the transformative redevelopment projects that aim to urbanize Leesburg, and the compelling need for more walkable hotels downtown.

Loudoun County's booming real estate market is both a blessing and a curse. Hear us discuss the prickly issue of housing and traffic in Leesburg; the stark reality of the county's median income and the uphill battle of finding affordable housing and townhouses. We dive into the real estate market's struggles due to low inventory and escalating property values, and brainstorm potential solutions like redevelopment, down payment assistance, and mortgage education. We also share real estate agents’ frustrations when potential homeowners miss securing their dream homes. 

How about a dash of community involvement and local politics? Our guest shares their inspiring journey of community service and political engagement. They shed light on the value of disagreement in local politics and the need for collaboration to create a town that's an even better place to live, work, and raise a family. They encourage every listener to roll up their sleeves and get involved in their neighborhoods, homeowners associations, towns, and counties. Tune in for this enlightening discussion about the joys and challenges of building a thriving community.

Speaker 1:

The shared office space I think is a really. I mean, we've been studying a lot of, you know, after COVID I guess after during COVID we were the office space kind of conversation at the town level was really big because we are or you can have development. Folks were like we need more office space. I'm like do we really?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we have so much.

Speaker 1:

There's a lot of small. No, not at all.

Speaker 2:

I think a big problem here not just here but in a lot of areas is it's marketing. Yeah, there's lots of places but people just don't know about it. Yep, what's been like the biggest thing that you've seen at the town council? The really the county, I guess, or town, I guess, needs to improve on.

Speaker 1:

I mean I think I'll talk, I'll speak to the town. I mean I believe that we are.

Speaker 1:

Leesburg is the urban center of Loudoun County and a lot of folks don't like the word urban because of the stereotypes that go with it that aren't exactly PC or accurate, and I think a lot of our development, a lot of the activity in the town leading up until the last couple of years has been a lot more suburban redevelopment and development and I think that means a lot of parking lots, a lot of making it more drivable, which is really not what we need in Leesburg as the urban center of Loudoun. We need to be more urban development, urban redevelopment. That's why I'm excited about what's happening on Kutalkton Circle with Brian Collins Virginia Village redevelopment. I just I really feel like if we look to make Leesburg the urban center of the county, everything will kind of spring out beyond that and that will help preserve Western Loudoun because we've got great farms, wineries, breweries and if we don't have places for people to stay, people to live in an urban area, then they are gonna continue to push out into that rural area and we need to protect for.

Speaker 2:

How you guys address that though, because that is a bit concerned is like the whole parking and driving, and how do you like balance the two?

Speaker 1:

Well, it's definitely.

Speaker 1:

I mean, balance is the key word, and I think the problem we have is a lot of people base decisions and make decisions off of their feelings, rather than there's a whole industry of experts out there and traffic engineers, parking engineers that are bringing to the forefront ideas that maybe go against what your gut is telling you.

Speaker 1:

And so it's that balance of okay, I've gotta think about my gut and I've gotta listen to the constituents and the people who live here, but also we have to listen to the experts.

Speaker 1:

And so we've, at the town level, we've done a lot, like we have a hotel coming downtown, hopefully not gone wood, that we, our parking requirements were a little too high, and so we look, talk to the experts, talk to our staff, and we lowered the parking that one ensures that a lot of the precious valuable land downtown Leverg isn't gonna be used for parking lots but also allows the developer to invest in the town, and because the financing of a hotel or financing of any of these big projects you see happening, is really done at a nice edge. And so we have to make sure that we, as a partner with the investor or the developer, are helping to ensure that they're using the space wisely and I think by taking a one and a half parking spot to room for a hotel in downtown and making it a one spot to one room really is the difference maker for getting us a boutique hotel in downtown Leverg, which, if you've, if you've attended a wedding or have any family that tries to visit you here we need hotels.

Speaker 2:

So, yeah, that's all Airbnb's which are nice, yeah, I mean.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but we need some bigger, bigger hotels and hotels that you know attract the type of visitors we want and that they want to be here downtown, because right now the Hampton Inn and others are, you know, they're really not walkable to downtown. But if we have one off of Kings Creek then those folks are gonna be in our bars and restaurants and shopping at our retail shops.

Speaker 2:

That's right, that's awesome.

Speaker 1:

Getting headshots? Yeah, there you go. Getting headshots yeah, you can.

Speaker 2:

So, besides the addition of hotels and like more urban area what else would you like to see?

Speaker 1:

For me. So traffic is a concern, but not in the way that I think a lot of people think of traffic. I don't think we have a lot of traffic jams. I think we have a few spots that are kind of choke points. I think of the bypass on King Street. You know if you've been there in the morning at 8.30 to 9.30 and right 4 to 5.36. Folks turning left across two lanes of traffic to get onto the bypass isn't safe.

Speaker 1:

So that's an area I really want to see us work to improve. The other thing is just really looking at our comprehensive plan and making sure we're attacking affordable housing. I think we are one of the biggest town in the Commonwealth of Virginia. People want to live here, people want to start their businesses here is what I see as a realtor. Every day I have people calling me about Leesburg and we just don't have the inventory of affordable housing. And it's not the affordable housing of the 70s and 80s. It's not the big giant complexes with a bunch of folks on Section 8 housing which we do need Section 8 buildings as well but it's folks whose average median income are $60,000 or $80,000 for a couple.

Speaker 2:

You're saying wait, not everybody makes $250,000 on average income.

Speaker 1:

Right, exactly. Yeah, the numbers that we always have thrown at us as the richest county in the country aren't true. I mean they're true, but they're not really representative of what's happening here in the county. And so, I mean, affordable housing is a huge issue. It's one of the reasons why I ran as a realtor. Like everyone thinks, oh, you just want the highest, most expensive houses out there. No, I mean, I would love to only have clients who can afford a million plus houses, but that's not the reality. I turned 40 last year and a lot of my friends are between 38 and 40 and they can't all afford a million plus houses. They want to afford the $500,000 smaller single family home to get into where the town house I don't think we really have.

Speaker 2:

I was going to say they're the town houses. Now.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, town houses. And when I started selling real estate eight years ago, I mean you could get a town house right $350,000,. You could get a small town house now. I mean $350,000 buys you maybe a condo.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, what do you see putting on your real estate hat? Where do you see our housing going in the next three to five to 10 years?

Speaker 1:

I mean the great thing about being in Northern Virginia the jobs here aren't going away, no matter what's happening with the whole economy. I see property values continuing to rise year after year, especially right now when we have interest rates that are higher for a mortgage but low inventory, so you still have people moving. I mean, I get calls all the time of people wanting to be in Loudoun County or Northern Virginia in general and it's still a steady stream of buyers.

Speaker 1:

but when you have a two and a half, two and three quarter interest rate on your home that you currently live in unless you have three kids in the forest on the way or something happens where you're ready to downsize, you're not selling that house and so with that low inventory it's just going to continue to push competition and that means prices are going to go up and unfortunately that's going to put a lot of people out of the market at this point and rents are gonna go up as well.

Speaker 2:

And so we're in a tough spot. What's the solution with that Cause? There's only so much you can build.

Speaker 1:

Right.

Speaker 2:

I mean, obviously pushing out into Western Loudoun is kind of where I see it going, but otherwise what do you see happening?

Speaker 1:

Well, I think there's two or three things. First is there's more redevelopment we can do, especially in the towns, and at the county level we're seeing this a little bit. There's some strip malls and some kind of more suburban development that the county did 10, 15 years ago. That's really has. It's not taking off from a retail excuse me perspective. So they're gonna look at redeveloping those into either mixed use or full residential so that provides some space without creeping into Western Loudoun.

Speaker 1:

The other piece that the county's working on in the town I'm pushing this as well, but just at a different level is getting involved in helping folks purchase homes. So that's down payment assistance, that's education through the housing department on how to get a mortgage, grants for down payments, just trying to work with folks who are maybe right on the edge of, okay, I can afford a home with my monthly income but I can't pull together. I don't wanna use all my savings to pull together that down payment. But if the county and the state can help offer a few thousand dollars here and there, that maybe it puts them over the edge to be able to come up with that down payment and then get into their starter home.

Speaker 1:

Because that's the key you get into a starter home, you build the equity in that home and then equity is building rapidly right now in Loudoun County especially and then you okay, time to move. We either get married, have a kid or another kid comes and there's that familial reasons of why we have to move. Or you just wanna move into something bigger and you take that next step because you've built that equity. And so that's the key is getting someone into a home and renting is great and we've all been renters. But unfortunately, when you're renting you're just building somebody else's equity, You're not building your own.

Speaker 2:

What's your biggest frustration for as a real estate agent?

Speaker 1:

I mean, the biggest frustration is just the lack of inventory and having to sit with buyers after you've written three or four or six or seven or 10 or 12 offers and be like didn't get another one, and you start second guessing yourself what did I do? You know, what could I do better? And so that's really frustrating. And it's not frustrating for me personally. It's frustrating because I see the. You know the disgust or the anger or the. You know just the frustration that folks are feeling because they're like we wanna live here, we wanna buy a house, we wanna do this the right way and build our equity and build our nest egg here.

Speaker 2:

Like I want you to also, and.

Speaker 1:

I'm like I wanna help you and you know you get to. For me it's. You get to know people and so you know their kids, you know their family, you know their dogs, you know their cats, you know, and so you just wanna help them. And it's frustrating to not be able to do that, but it's also really rewarding when you do get an opportunity to help get somebody into a home and help build our community.

Speaker 2:

Now, what got you started Like, why did you even want to become number one a real estate agent? And then why did you wanna get so involved in the town council? Because I know anything politics, government, wise, serving the people. It's a lot of time and energy that you have to commit to it.

Speaker 1:

So real estate I so I started what you know, you watch all those million-dollar listing shows and everything, and so I was like that sounds interesting and for me I like Houses but I don't love. Like that's not what drives me, it's not like, oh, I get to go look at this really fancy house. For me it's the people and getting to know folks and and and Helping them in a, you know, through a really tough process. Most people buy and sell three or four houses in their lifetime. Yeah, you know I've been lucky enough to help. You know over 75 folks buy or sell or rent their, their properties and it's it truly does help establish and and continue to push along Generational wealth for folks to own a home and that's really exciting. So for me it's. It got me into.

Speaker 1:

It was the people yeah you know, having the relationships, talking to them and getting to know them and then helping them through a tough situation. And then the politics and getting involved at the town levels. My, we chose to live here, my wife and my son and I, and we love Leesburg.

Speaker 2:

But your son chose to live here.

Speaker 1:

He'd well. Yeah, yeah, he did actually. Yeah, he's an only child, so he gets a lot of a lot of say and what happens in our house? He's kind of the him and my wife are the boss. They vie for that. Yeah, they vie for who's the boss today.

Speaker 1:

But but you know, we chose to live here and and my parents growing up weren't political, they weren't involved in local government but what? But they were in community, involved and and and they always said you know, something's needs fixed, go fix it. But also my mom was really big to tell me, you know, if something is going well and you want to see it continue to go well and you have the opportunity to serve Help. And so I got involved. I met mayor Kelly Burke when we moved here, you know, eight, nine years ago, and Just kind of got involved with her, helping her out and doing it. You know, kind of seeing how she operates and seeing how the town operates. And I just said, you know I love Leesburg, I want to continue to see Leesburg move forward and I always had a passion for for communities and building communities as a real Editor and so I got, I got involved.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I was gonna say it's a really good bit. We just did mayor Kelly's headshots.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, very nice.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think it's something where, especially at such a local level because I see politics and I'm like, ah, like no, thank you. But if you want to actually see change happen or you, like you said, you want to actually see the good things stay, the best place to do that is in the super local Politics. Somebody said to me the other day they're like yeah, I think you should get involved on like the school board.

Speaker 1:

I was like, no, thank you, board man, that's you gotta, you gotta be have a thick, thick skin. You know, council, we got races next year, so you can throw your hat in the ring. No, and we're really lucky in Leesburg because our council, at least right now it operates really hand in glove. I mean, we're all. We all have different personalities, we all have different ideas, all have different kind of philosophies on government and local government, but we, we know how to Disagree without being disagreeable and I think that's incredibly important. I mean, we, we we'll make each other better by throwing out ideas or suggestions and then we kind of take a little bit of everybody and and that's Collaborate, that collaborative work. It really is, I think, making Leesburg an even better place to live, work and raise their family.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, so are there any regrets you have in your 1520 year-long when you said you're 40. So what did you start when you were 20?

Speaker 1:

No, I've been selling house for seven, just September. At the end of September, be smart starting my eighth year.

Speaker 2:

Okay, for the last eight years then. Do you have any regrets in how you went about things, or if you could change something up?

Speaker 1:

No, I mean, I think the biggest thing that I would change and is just Mark, I mean the marketing angle, like the, the creating a community you know, gary Vaynerchuk and all those guys always talk about yeah. I mean, I listen to. I listen to them a little bit and it's the same thing over and over, but you need to hear it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, right exactly, and it's that creating that community and and it takes I mean, as you know, it takes a lot of work, yeah, and then, once you get to a certain point, that work becomes actually investing money into it. And so I just think that the marketing, marketing and the kind of community engagement I would have maybe doubled down on, rather than, you know, just doubled down on early on, especially during COVID, when, when it was there, a lot of people were at home Starving for it. You know, it's something to do and keep them going, and so it's just trying to balance everything else in your life with continuing to do that.

Speaker 2:

How do you balance that, especially with you've got a younger son? I do you've got a wife, you've got your the town council. How do you manage that balance, or how do you not feel like You're not giving your family as much? Yeah, you know what I mean.

Speaker 1:

Yeah it's tough. I mean I just tried to and not not always, well, like just when I'm, when I'm with my son Jackson, or my wife, or were I doing a family thing, I try to try to be present. Yeah, because you only you know, I, he's 10. He'll be 11 in April. We probably got another year or two before he doesn't want to hang out with us anymore. So, right, I know, and so it's just trying to make sure that I'm, we're taking advantage of everything and just kind of Focusing on that, making that a priority, and and everything else doesn't. You know when you, when you prioritize one thing, yes, everything else has to kind of go second and third, but but you know it's only for a moment and then you just have to. You know I would. I would like to say that I'm great at time blocking and all those buzzwords that everybody talks about, but I'm not. So it's just, you know it's just Drinking out of a fire hose some days and other days it's just trying to stay focused. And then, you know, every other day, just focusing on on the family and making sure I'm there to cook dinner and Sit around the dinner table, play a, play a board game. Yeah, play a board game or something, and it's you know I'm lucky to have my wife is incredibly, incredibly willing to allow me to go do this, to do this extra curricular town council stuff.

Speaker 1:

And you know I ran for state senate unsuccessfully this past year, and that was a lot of I learned.

Speaker 1:

I learned that in politics sometimes it's all about timing and there's a lot out of your control to affect the outcome of elections and no matter how good of a candidate or you think you are or people say you are, it doesn't always matter. And and that you know you win and you lose. And the real, the real lesson is how you know Whether you get up and move on or do you stay on the mat. And you know I'm hoping to get up and keep moving on, even though Some days I I think what a waste of time it was, but it wasn't. I met a lot of people. I had a lot of great experiences. I think I, you know, showed my son that it's okay to put yourself out there and do something and lose or not win, and and it doesn't make you a loser, it just means you have Learned something and you move on and you and you use that to to better, to better what you're working today, either when, or you learn yeah right, every opportunity that you come across.

Speaker 1:

As long as you take the initiative, you're either gonna win the thing or you're gonna learn some related yeah and I met a ton of great people, issues that I'm and you know that I'm still help, trying to help, even even though they don't affect the town per se, but I still can lend my voice to them, and so I'm working with you know, building those relationships, building that community and and Loudoun County is. We've got a lot of Incredible challenges ahead of us and I want to just be part of solving them.

Speaker 2:

I love that. So, parting words, what is a piece of advice that you would give people in Loudoun County or Northern Virginia or Leesburg, which everyone's closest and dearest to your heart?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean I think you know your neighborhood, your HOA, your your town, your your county, just get involved. I mean it doesn't it don't have to run for office, you don't have to be like me and put yourself out there, because some people just don't have that. And I get it and some days I wonder why I did it. But but it's just about being involved in your community and helping your neighbor.

Speaker 1:

And I think if we, if we can all just get back to that where it doesn't matter what, what color we vote red or blue or or you know what religion we are, or anything like that and we just work, think about each other as human beings and neighbors and work to help, help better our neighborhood or even the street we live on, then everything else kind of rises. It's that, you know, the rising tide lifts all boats and I think if we can just focus on that and my hope is that we can continue to do that here in Loudoun County, because I think we have a pretty special county, pretty special community, we have our wrinkles and our warts, but but if we all just kind of work together for each other and work for each other, I think we can continue to be a great place to live and a great place to raise our families or start our businesses or whatever we. Whatever you're put here on this earth to do, you can do it here in Loudoun County.

Speaker 2:

I love that awesome. Thank you yeah.

Urban Development and Parking in Leesburg
Housing and Traffic in Leesburg
Real Estate and Local Politics Involvement
Building Community and Taking Initiative