With a booming real estate market and its resultant high prices, people who want to live in the area are starting to think outside the box during their house hunting. In this issue, and future ones, The Leader will take a look at some of the neighborhoods that are benefiting from the area’s growth.
Caroline Schlemmer with Greenwood King Properties said that the Brooke Smith neighborhood on the eastern edge of the Heights is seeing big growth due to both its location between North Main and 1-45 as well as rising home prices in the Heights.
“It is moving,” said Schlemmer, who noted that the renaissance got its start before the economic downturn but has really picked up as financing capability for investors has improved. “There’s a lot more development going on.”
The prices are going up too. Jena Turner with Habitation Realty who sells there said that not too long ago, there was more inventory in the $250,000-$350,000 range for first time home owners. “It was a good alternative to people who were priced out of the Heights,” she said.
Kay Harnden, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway, is one Brooke Smith homeowner who got in early. As someone with “a soft spot for Victorians” she came across a 1-bedroom house on Archer Street in 2003 on a property tour, which she got for $100,000 less than she would have paid for it in the Heights. It was a double lot, and once she married, Harnden and her husband sold the Victorian and relocated a Craftsman style house from Woodland Heights to the other side of the lot.
While it might be families with babies now, the neighborhood had its fair share of drug and prostitution activity back then. “I’ve always been a bit of a pioneer,” said Harnden, who with her husband has bought and renovated some other houses on the street.
Now that developers with deeper pockets are moving in, the renovated houses are selling for $500,000 and up. “If you had asked me five or six years ago, I wouldn’t have predicted it would change so quickly,” said Turner.
Schlemmer notes that the appeal of Brooke Smith is partly due to the way that investors and homeowners are embracing the period of the homes. “There are a lot of renovations versus new construction,” she said. Harnden adds: “Townhomes didn’t sell here. People want single family homes.”
Another neighborhood that is getting more attention, albeit growing more slowly than Brooke Smith, is the Lindale Park area east of Norhill and Woodland Heights. Its boundaries are Interstate 610 on the north, Moody Street on the south, Robertson Street on the east, and Fulton Street on the west.
“People are interested in the area because of the easy access to the new rail line,” said Schlemmer. “A lot happening there, but it’s really in its infancy.”
One resident who has been there since the 1980s is State Senator Sylvia Garcia. “I bought my house because I loved the trees,” she said, noting that even as the area is changing demographically and generationally, it has maintained its small town charm. Garcia said that the establishment of light rail is contributing to the beautification of Fulton Street, with derelict buildings being demolished and replaced with new businesses.
Turner said that in her experience it’s an area that appeals to a buyer who is a little more of a risk-taker, who may not have found anything anywhere else in their price range. “There are builders who are working there but they are not as established as those in Brook Smith,” said Turner. “There are a lot of first time investors.”
Harnden notes she put an offer on a home in Lindale Park for a client a few weeks ago and that they were one of 22 offers. “We went in at $20,000 over the $219,900 list price and still got beat out,” she said. “Lindale Park is definitely on the upswing after stagnating for a few years.”
Schlemmer sees a little new construction and notes that the neighborhoods are banding together to put in some restrictions with regard to lot size and high density development to preserve the integrity of the area.
Senator Garcia is one of those people: “We like it the way it is.”
Shepherd Park Terrace
The third neighborhood Shepherd Park Terrace, is one that is firmly established, but seems to be entering a renaissance of late. Established in the 1960s at the same time as nearby Shepherd Park Plaza, the neighborhood has traditionally been a close knit African-American community with an active neighborhood association and a Christmas light display that once drew tourists on buses.
Realtor Pat Walker is a big fan of the area and notes that the neighborhood’s price per square foot ($76) compares very favorably with Shepherd Park Plaza ($156) and Candlelight Plaza ($150). Homes regularly sell for under $200,000.
“There’s a great opportunity to buy a home for a reasonable price and renovate it,” said Jena Turner. “However, the developers are moving in too.”
Themetta Turner and husband Oscar have lived in Shepherd Park Terrace for the past 18 years and raised their daughter there. They enjoy the friendliness of their neighbors, and the proximity to downtown as well as the White Oak hike/bike trail. They don’t plan on selling anytime soon, but Turner has seen quite a change come to her neighborhood, as older residents have passed away.
“We’re becoming more diverse. There are Caucasian families moving in, Hispanic families moving in. A lot of people are having kids too.”
Like the Turner’s neighbor Jacob Honey who grew up in the area and went to St. Pius. He moved to Shepherd Park Terrace in 2004 after he gave his realtor leeway look as far north as Spring Branch. He and his wife have a two and eight year old daughter who affectionately call Turner their “best neighbor.”
But like most best kept secrets, once the word gets out, it’s out. Themetta Turner said she recommended that a friend look at a nearby house to buy. The house in question turned out to be $340,000, a steep increase as compared to other recent sales.
“These neighborhoods are the next logical step,” said Schlemmer. “They have close proximity to strong areas. The Heights, Garden Oaks, Oak Forest are all so expensive. People want more cost effective alternatives.”