Downtown Living

Some of you may know, my family and I moved downtown after thirteen years on Lookout Mountain.  Two of our three boys had moved out of the house, and after putting over 200,000 miles on my car, I was honestly tired of all the driving. 

Lookout Mountain is an absolutely wonderful community!  There are times when I miss it dearly, but downtown has proven to be more enjoyable than I originally thought it would be.  Of course I miss the quiet bucolic nights in our Hinkle home.  Sometimes the sounds of 2:00 am sirens can drive me a little batty.  But the trade off has been worth it. 

“Aren’t you concerned about safety?” is a question I get a lot.  The short answer is “no”.  I know my neighbors well.  I live just a few dozen feet from people I now consider great friends.  We now must lock our doors and cars up at night, but it’s nothing I even think twice about anymore.   We walk our neighborhood most nights, and often see our friends and neighbors out and about.  While there are sometimes unsavory strangers walking past my home from time to time, I have grown to be less guarded than I was on Lookout Mountain.  Our neighborhood is populated with rich, poor, black, white, brown, devoted religious folks, UTC faculty, Air BnBs, business professionals, students and even a few fraternities.  This potpourri of characters has honestly enriched my life and I think it has broadened my perspective of who exactly makes up our incredible city.

Okay, let’s talk about our incredible city!  There doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by lately without the announcement of some new restaurant, bar, business or must-see music show coming through town.  Just in the past year or so we’ve seen the Edwin and Moxy Hotel open, the incredibly refurbished Read House & Bridgeman’s Chophouse, the Gillman Grille, the State of Confusion, Robar, the Citron Tequila Bar, Mad Priest Coffee & Cocktails….and many more!  Art Garfunkel, Chris Robinson, Graham Nash, Bob Dylan, Jason Isabell, Leo Kotke, Donald Fagan….what?! I would’ve never thought this sort of talent would all be within walking distance to my house. 

A walk to Nightfall or Riverfront Nights via the Riverwalk with our dogs is a great way to spend a summer evening.  If we prefer to grab a pint, we can always let the dogs play with the neighborhood riff raff at Play, Wash, Pint, where a bar literally sits over a dog playpen complete with tennis balls and swimming pools! 

Open mics, poetry slams, independent movies, paddle boarding, ice skating, soccer games, farmers markets….activity really just abounds downtown.  This ain’t the downtown Chattanooga I grew up in!

Downtown.jpg

Needless to say real estate downtown is HOT.  I am finding young professionals, even young families want to walk or ride to work. They also want to be near the ACTION.  Everywhere we might walk at night is less than a $5.00 Uber ride home.  Everywhere. The tradeoff is, of course, space.  There may be little to no yard, more than a three bedroom home or apartment is hard to find and, of course, there is the occasional 2:00 am fire truck that may roll by your house! 

I loved my 13 years on Lookout Mountain.  But I feel like I am just where I am meant to be: among all the craziness, creativity and curiosity of living in a thriving downtown.

See you out in the Market!

Sell a House That You Would Want to Buy

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on the many unspoken expectations of buying and selling a home.

There is a lot of gray area when negotiating a home sale; there are things that are not necessarily covered in a standard real estate contract.  Perhaps this happens in all businesses.  There may be a lot that you can “get away with”.  You might think that you can save time or money if you cut a few corners here or there.  Remember, the average American buys or sells at least five homes in their lifetime -- one really ought to treat prospective clients in the way you would want to be treated when buying (or selling) your next home.  It sounds obvious, but it is often forgotten.

Homes come with a lot of emotional baggage. There is usually a lot of stress and stress can be contagious!  You might think “it’s no big deal” that the disposal doesn’t work or a door swings open too far and leaves a mark on the wall (for example).  Most homes have areas that are blemished, scratched or damaged.  I tell my clients to always think about how it might feel to find something in your new home that you didn’t expect to find.  It happens all the time.  My advice is: always expect to offer some compensation for needed repairs when negotiating a close on your house, even if you think it’s no big deal! It is an immediate stress reducer when a seller tells a buyer “we want to make this right for you!”  

If you are not prepared to fix the things that need to be fixed (even if you feel they don’t need to be fixed), you should always stipulate that the home is being sold “as is”.  Too often we think our homes are perfect, or that the buyers are just being nitpicky and trying to snatch a few bucks off the table.  Mostly, people just don’t want to be surprised with an expensive and unforeseen repair in their new home!

If you remember to keep in mind that “you want to leave your old home in the way that you expect to find your new home” that transaction ethic will pay dividends!

See you out in the market!

Little Things to Remember

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are purchasing a new home.

  1. Make sure you have all the keys — not only to the front door, but also side doors, screens, cabinets, sheds and more! You would be surprised at how often people forget to leave keys. It can be a small thing, but it’s a major hassle when you can’t access all of the areas of your new home!

  2. Make sure to get the names and contact information of handy men, contractors or landscaping companies that have worked on the house before. They know the particular quirks of your new home - this can be really helpful. It is a small favor to request of the former owners, but often they are happy to pass along the business to former employees (that often times have become their friends!)

  3. While you’re at it, you can ask the former owners the names and contact information of your new neighbors! Not only is this going to help you in getting to know your new neighborhood, but you never know when you will need to ask a neighbor a question about garbage or mail service, convenient bus stops, nearby markets and more! Also, since you are new to the neighborhood, you may need to know about strangers, odd sounds at night or any number of things that will be new to you. Having a neighbor’s number is a huge convenience!

  4. If possible, ask the previous owners for documentation on any of the appliances in the house. Often major name brands will pass along warranties to new owners if they are still within the warranty period. Knowing when and where refrigerators, washers, dryers, HVAC units — even windows and roofs! — were purchased will facilitate any maintenance that may be necessary three, six, twelve months after you’ve purchased the house. It might even save you money! Make sure they don’t throw all that information out in the move-out rush!

  5. Know how to find the previous owner before they leave! You will undoubtedly have a question or two (or 3 or 4!) about how particular systems work. Being able to reach them by e mail or text will save hours of troubleshooting! Also, you will probably get mail delivered to the previous owner and you will need to know where to send it.

Keep these few things in mind when you are nearing the close on your new home. They seem like simple things, but in the rush of the final days of closing on a home, sometimes these small items get overlooked, and they will make a huge difference in the first few months of your new home!

Michelle

North Chattanooga Neighborhood

 

North Chattanooga is a fantastic place to live!  I’ve lived in a number of homes in North Chattanooga over the years; I love the area.

Once known as Hill City, North Chattanooga is really a collection of cozy neighborhoods.  North Chattanooga is generally a triangular shaped area bordered by Frazier Avenue on the south side, Barton Avenue/Hixson Pike on the East Side and N Market/Dallas Road on the West side.  Hixson Pike and Dallas Road/Fernway Road join right after the entrance to Bright School.  You can walk or bike to most of the area’s amenities.  

North Chattanooga was really the first downtown neighborhood to see a revitalization in the mid 1990s.  Young professionals began moving in to the area and fixing up old bungalow style houses that were built in the early part of the 20thcentury.  Having grown up in Chattanooga, you would not believe what an improvement the neighborhood has made since the 1970s & 1980s! 

The refurbishment of the historical Walnut Street Bridge in 1990 may have been one of the catalysts for North Chattanooga’s revival.  Since then Frazier Avenue has led the way in North Chattanooga’s commercial revitalization.  Today there are dozens of locally owned restaurants and shops along Frazier Avenue.  On the other side of Frazier Avenue, along River Street, is Coolidge and Renaissance Parks.  There are dozens of walking and biking paths and even a boat ramp for easy access to the Tennessee River for paddle boarding or kayaking.  There’s also a restored historic carousel, fountain and some incredible local art!

My favorite restaurants in the area are the Tremont Tavern – voted the best burger in Chattanooga! Il Primo, an excellent bistro with a great bar and social scene and the newly opened Sidetrack Restaurant.  

North Chattanooga has some of the best schools in in the area, among them: Normal Park Elementary & Upper School Museum Magnet SchoolChattanooga School of Creative ArtsGirls Preparatory School and Bright School.  I attended Bright School as did two of my boys.  

These incredible assets all make for a great neighborhood!  And real estate there is RED HOT.  Price per foot varies from $150/PSF and up.  There are still deals out there but houses generally don’t stay on the market long!  

Call me, let me show you around!

Ask Real Estate

Q:        What’s my home worth? 

 

A:         What someone is willing to pay for it!  In all seriousness, buyers are much savvier today than ever.  They go into the market knowing – generally -- what neighborhood prices are. 

 

I always ask my clients what is more important: time or money?  Of course, in many ways, time equals money.  If you want to sell your house, you should price it competitively with the market.  If on the other hand you prefer to ‘go fishing’, you should expect to have your house sit longer on the market.  You never know, someone could absolutely adore your home and offer a premium price.  But this happens less than you’d expect.

 

Having your home linger on the market runs two risks in my opinion.  1.  The house can get a stale reputation; if it’s for sale too long buyers may think something is wrong with it.  The other risk is that you may lose an opportunity to buy the house you want!  It is really a balancing act. 

 

I run a comparative market analysis for all my clients.  I’m fortunate to have access to some really informative real estate resources. This process involves finding sold homes within the last 3 to 6 months.  The most accurate comps are the ones sold nearby, in the same neighborhood, and has the same # of bedrooms, and bathrooms.  Once I find several comps, I average the sold price and use that figure as a comparative baseline to determine how best to price your home.   

 

I also size up the competition!  If your neighbor’s house is listed at $300,000 and you want to list at $400,000 – you need to be able to explain why your home is worth more.  Great kitchens and bathrooms are often a determining factor in a side by side, quality analysis. Age of critical systems like the roof, HVAC, electric and plumbing are also important factors for determining value outside the “average”.  Of course, from time to time, there is that one “wow” feature that just may make the difference: an incredible view, awesome landscaping or natural feature that is unique to the house.

 

Over the years, I have found that people generally love their houses more than prospective buyers! It’s a natural!  You’ve invested years of fond memories and designed it just the way you like it!  Don’t let your affection for your home cloud your good business judgement!  Most people buy and sell a half a dozen homes in their life – most people will transact on their home at some point in time.  My goal is to make the process as enjoyable an experience as possible

 

Let’s have fun with this!

Do it Right! Hire a professional home stager.

Over the years, I have been in a lot of houses -- I've also seen a ton of houses on line. It’s what I do!

I also have several friends who are professional interior decorators.  I thought I knew what it takes decorate a house to sell.  But I must admit, my eyes were opened a bit this week when I met a professional stager at one of my listings.  

First a little perspective: I listed a beautiful home several months ago that I thought would sell in just a couple of weeks.  This house has an amazing kitchen that opens to a dining and den area.  It has a gorgeous view of Signal Mountain off the back deck of the house.  It has a spa-like master bedroom!  ‘So many other amenities; I could go on and on.  I’ve shown this house to a bunch of clients, but as of yet, no offers.  So, I enlisted some help from a professional stager.

Her advice was very interesting.  Even though the interior had a fairly new coat of paint, she suggested repainting with a cooler color.  Her most recommended paint color is Aloof Grey by Sherwin Williams.   Grey is popular and a favorite with would-be buyers.  Desirable neutral colors often help future buyers envision themselves living in the space. Painting the main interior would cost approximately $1,000.00.  

She also recommended making the home more feminine.  Women – not men -- tend to make the final decision on which houses to buy!  She suggested bringing in more throw pillows and newer, brighter lamps.  

There were also areas in the home that didn't have a specific purpose.  She recommended a dining room table with chairs.  She also suggested installing sitting-room furniture for another spot that seemed lost.  The total estimated cost of staging: $1,500!  

What a great deal! A $1,500 investment in staging and painting the home will go much farther than a comparable drop in price.

Staging a home was once considered only for the very high end of the market.  But you’d be surprised!  You might seriously consider staging your next house for sale before you put it on market.  It's about making a good first impression.  Having a totally objective “eye” look at the home and offer recommendations takes the emotion out of it!   Home buyers usually don't give properties a second chance!  If the home isn't good enough for them to remember, they will move on to the next one.  A well staged home will create a long-lasting impression.  

* Faster Sales Time

* Suddenly every room has a purpose

* Staging helps buyers see themselves in the house

* Most home sellers cannot see their home objectively

* You will make money - the average staging is 1% of the homes asking price, which generates a return of 8% to 10%.

* You will get the best sales price