My hubby and I love the city. We are drawn to big and little downtown areas. We love density & diversity. We adore walkability. We’d rather move our family of 6 into a 900 square foot apartment in the city than a sprawling 3,000 square foot suburban house any day! So yes, location is a top priority for us.
But affording the city location is a whole other issue altogether. We spent every Sunday afternoon for a year driving around Atlanta, exploring new neighborhoods, popping into open houses, talking to the locals, trying new restaurants & researching public school options. Several areas rose to the top but we quickly realized that we would have to buy a home that needed some TLC in order to live where we wanted to live.
If you can believe it, in 2014 we purchased a 96-year old house in midtown Atlanta for $285,000 with a construction loan. The house was listed as a 3/2 but the layout was horrible, and some rooms were crumbling.
The foundation fixes (which the mention of the word seems to scare people off) only cost us around $6000. The bigger issue was the weight of non-permitted additions that were literally pulling the roof joists apart. So we had to demo the back 1/3 of the house. Ouch! But from the ashes we were able to re-imagine the kitchen and backyard and even decided mid-stream to dig out a basement under the new side of the house!
This house had me at hello. The location, original pocket doors, door hardware, built-ins, are the reason I fell for this place. The new open kitchen /living room, master en suite, and backyard are filled with light and exactly built to my tastes. In my opinion, buying a fixer upper is the best of both worlds; Honoring the stories that have come before me and laying new foundations for the future. Anytime I walk a client into a home that needs TLC, I will almost always see potential. It’s not as scary as you think!
Q&A with Carmen
1. Why did you pick the Midtown neighborhood to move into?
We picked Midtown because of walk-ability & schools. We hardly ever drive to a date night. There are so many restaurants, coffee shops, a movie theater, parks, frozen yogurt places we walk to on a daily basis. Plus I LOVE being around lots of old, historical homes with character.
2. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone taking on a "Fixer upper"?
My advice to anyone considering taking on a fixer upper is to not live there during construction if at all possible. We stayed in a 1 bedroom apartment with a loft for 9 months while our house was in chaos. It was tight but totally worth it.
3. Was this this first renovation project you and your husband have taken on?
This was definitely the biggest project we had ever done, but previously we had gutted a kitchen & bathroom using a contractor. (Who over charged us & we naively paid but we learned lessons that better prepared us for this time around.) Live & learn, right?
4. How did going through this project help you as a real estate agent?
If I am showing clients a house that is under priced for its location, I see potential. If there is room to make improvements and not price yourself out of the neighborhood, it's a wise investment. It's hard but totally worth it!