Find Your Niche in Old North Knoxville

Exploring your options at

1401 Grainger Avenue.

2,238 sq. ft., 4 bdrm, 1.5 bath | $242,000 | Contact: Jessica Rodocker, Horizon Realty | 865-523-9550 |

Center-city living, when I started writing this column way back in the mid-'90s, was very much a niche market. And, even as the center-city market has moved increasingly mainstream, selling the real estate remains a matter of reaching the still relatively small segment of the market that's receptive to the idea of living in and around downtown. That's why I pitched this column to Metro Pulse in the first place. An alternative weekly seemed like the best vehicle to reach folks interested in an unconventional living arrangement.

Then came the Internet. A niche-marketer's dream, the Internet made it easy to connect with a very specific audience and changed the way we shop for almost everything—including real estate. Nowadays, after browsing listings and photos online, a potential homebuyer has most likely settled on a short list of options long before placing their first call to a realtor.

Settling on a new neighborhood can be a little harder. And that's particularly true in a new city, maybe even one you've only been to once for a job interview. No wonder so many folks end up in some interchangeable exurban subdivision. Committing to the urban core takes a little more effort; a little research to uncover all the quirks and nuance that makes a place unique.

Savvy cities, however, are trying to help. Baltimore and Rochester, for instance, each have detailed websites aimed at attracting homebuyers. Both offer info on everything from different neighborhoods to financing options and incentives., a partnership between the local preservation non-profit and the city's board of realtors, even offers comprehensive listings drawn directly from MLS data; is an independent non-profit partly funded by the city of Baltimore., Knoxville's new entry in the category of websites touting center-city living, isn't exactly non-profit, but it's certainly a labor of love. Set up by Jessica Rodocker, one of a handful of Knoxville realtors specializing in the center city, it contains a wealth of information about downtown and the ring of neighborhoods around it. There's history, home styles, links, even up to date sales data and more to come, according to Jessica.

The site also spotlights her listings, allowing browsers to sample some of the homes the city has to offer—everything from downtown condos and bungalows to grand homes like this foursquare on Grainger in Old North Knoxville. Backing up to the First Creek Greenway and featuring a lushly landscaped quarter-acre lot, it offers a surprising amount of outdoor room for a city home. Inside, the immaculately restored home offers hardwood floors, period lighting, a magnificent staircase, and an updated kitchen with slate tile floor.