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It’s that time…that time when you’ve become obsessed with buying your own home, to the point of boring everyone you know with details about real estate. Or perhaps it’s time to downsize into a home closer in to Chattanooga’s most vibrant neighborhoods.
The residential real estate market in Chattanooga’s downtown, Southside and North Shore has changed significantly in the past few years, thanks to the construction of many new single-family homes and multi-family housing developments. But what is the home-buying experience like for those looking in those markets? And how are they going about searching for the perfect home? To find out, The Pulse interviewed pharmaceutical sales representative Desiree Frigo and sales professional Jon Kinsworthy about their experiences home-shopping.
Both Kinsworthy and Frigo started by enlisting the assistance of realtors. “I am using Ryan King. He is sending me emails of new listings,” said Kinsworthy. “If something interests me, I go check it out. Once I home in on my top four or five, I will get input from other people.”
Frigo, who is working with realtor Grace Frank, did a lot of research on Zillow and through the MLS to understand the local real estate market before talking with her realtor. Frigo is also receiving assistance from her mother, who happens to be a realtor. “My mom has been helping me with the search,” she said. “I grew up in real estate. It’s fun.”
Chicago native Frigo currently rents on the Southside and wants to “get out of apartment life.” The motivation to change from apartment living to home ownership involves her need for more space and a desire for more convenient accessibility. “Instead of three flights of stairs, [I will] just walk in the front door,” she said. Frigo also has an eye towards building equity and taking advantage of a good buyers’ market. Kinsworthy, who has rented for ten years, echoed the need to abandon apartment life. “Every year, I have moved and have rented,” he said. He likes his job and would like to anchor himself to Chattanooga with a home.
Downtown Chattanooga’s vibrancy is influencing both fledgling homebuyers’ decisions. Downtown is full of life, said Frigo, referencing the many festivals held there. The Southside’s resemblance to her hometown, Chicago, is another draw for her, as are being close to major highways and being able to walk to the grocery store. Frigo commented that the Southside is unique and up-and-coming, noting that it provides the opportunity to purchase a home and watch the area develop.
Downtown proximity spurred Kinsworthy, a Ringgold resident, to look for a single-family home on the Southside. Kinsworthy wants to be close to his place of employment, which is downtown. He noted that he works long hours and wants the ability to get home easily. Beyond convenience, he wants to be close to downtown’s “exciting buzz” and the new development happening there.
Engagement with the city’s center drives these potential homebuyers, but it’s interaction with friends and family that influences their consideration of specific properties. Both Frigo and Kinsworthy cited an entertainment area as the most-desired home amenity.
Kinsworthy and Frigo look forward to meeting their neighbors. Frigo noted building community is important to her and that mutual respect between neighbors is very important. “It’s great to meet neighbors from a safety perspective,” she said.
“I would like a friendly neighborhood,” said Kinsworthy, who would prefer a neighborhood with block parties.
Other considerations include proximity to the free trolley, the attractiveness of the property, the condition of neighboring homes, the structural soundness of the home, and the installation of new equipment.
Schools, too, influence Frigo and Kinsworthy’s decisions. “I don’t have any children,” said Frigo, “but I looked a lot at the elementary schools.” She wants to be comfortable with the schools in her district in case she stays in her new home for an extended period of time. Kinsworthy noted the schools in his district are not a big factor to him, but acknowledged that they could be a major factor for families purchasing his home.
Parks influence these homebuyers’ decisions as well. “That’s an important piece; I like that the downtown area has parks,” said Frigo, adding that parks are important due to the area’s homes generally small yards. Kinsworthy commented, “I’m a runner, and I run through parks. I would like a nice place to unwind or go for a walk or run.”
Although both homebuyers are satisfied by the Southside and downtown as areas, Frigo seemed less enthused by the area’s housing selection. While Kinsworthy expressed his happiness with the properties available, Frigo noted the challenge of finding a home on the Southside due to a lack of selections. She also expressed concerns about the common walls that separate townhouses from one another. “I try to keep an open mind about townhouses. Will I be comfortable sharing a wall with a townhouse?” she asked.
Frigo expressed other concerns, such as properties’ structural soundness. “Some of the homes that need structural help are definitely not for me,” she said. Kinsworthy’s worries concern maintenance. “Something that is older would be a scary thing. I’m looking for low upkeep,” he said. wHe added that a fixer-upper or a house with a pool or big yard is a property he would avoid. Other concerns listed by Frigo and Kinsworthy include poor school districts, low resale values, bad community and crime.
Still, both potential homebuyers are enjoying their searches for homes. “It’s been fun—a lot of fun,” said Frigo, acknowledging however “the home buying process is a lot of work.”
David Barlew, Jr. is a registered architect with the firm David R. Barlew Architects, Inc. He currently works with the local nonprofit Glass House Collective to revitalize Glass Street in East Chattanooga.