Back when I started writing this column, in the early '90s, buying a historic home in Knoxville was a difficult undertaking. And the first challenge was finding one. The Internet had yet to become the omnipresent information source it is today and few realtors, particularly with the major firms, bothered with listings in the center city. And, if they did, the houses were mostly marketed to potential landlords (advertised under headlines like "Attention Investors" and "Cash Flow").
Many realtors tried—and, to an extent, still do—to steer clients away from the center city. The concept of a middle-income professional living there was a fairly alien concept in Knoxville at the time. And, if a client did say they were shopping for an older or historic home, the response was often incomprehension. Knoxville, the realtor might say, "didn't have anything like that." Or, as one couple recalled when they tired of looking at ranchers in West Hills and asked whether their realtor might show them some older neighborhoods, closer to downtown, the response could be a dire warning that "you don't want to live there."
Things have changed in portions of the center city, to a certain extent. Sure, large tracts of the center city remain terra incognito as far as the mainstream real estate market is concerned, but numerous neighborhoods in the city's core now constitute a viable alternative to the relentlessly marketed world of west Knoxville real estate. Perhaps more importantly, there's a growing cadre of realtors specializing in the core market. Most work with major real estate companies or, in the case of Kimberly Dixon Hamilton and Downtown Realty, have created their own boutique company to better cater to their specialized niche.
It's inevitable, I suppose. Back in the early '90s, there were barely enough listings to justify the specialization. And, considering I wrote about the first home in Fourth and Gill to list for over $100,000, the commissions weren't much, either. That, too, has changed. Go to your favorite real estate search engine, punch in 37917, and the first page will be filled with historic center-city homes priced over $200,000.
Two of those homes, I'm pleased to report, are in my old 'hood of Parkridge. One's a George Barber designed Victorian I wrote up a couple of weeks ago, the other this fabulously restored foursquare just around the corner. Loaded with original features like fireplaces, built-ins, and a beautifully refinished staircase, it's also been updated with a total of three full baths and a custom kitchen chock full of stainless steel. Yet, even at $229,900, it's still considerably less than $100 per square foot.
Check it out at the open house scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 17 from 5-7 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 18 from 12-2 p.m.