If you have picked out one or a few houses to consider, make sure you complete a cost/benefit analysis. A cost/benefit analysis needs to include more than just monetary items when looking at transitional neighborhoods. This analysis doesn’t have to be formal, or even written out, but it does need to be discussed. For example, my husband and I considered three different houses in three separate neighborhoods, and we debated the pros and cons of every detail of which we could think. Make sure you take into account what you can handle when you debate these items. Don’t lie to yourself (or your partner) about your own issues of political correctness: everything counts when it’s to be your home. All three of the houses were listed within $20k of each other. We drove through, and walked the neighborhoods, and surrounding areas, at all times of day and night. Here is an example of items we considered (in late 2007):
House #1: A rowhouse in Churchill, above the gentrified line, but not above Q Street.
Pros: Neighborhood was more stable than others, area had proactive neighborhood associations, house was already renovated and move-in ready, house would go up in value more quickly if market wasn’t already on way down (buyer’s market by that time), immediate street was fairly quiet, property had tax abatement.
Cons: House was too small and there was no space to build onto structure, most expensive house, only one closet in house, renovation was tacky, the house was within two blocks of an area that was beyond rough, and the property crime was high in area.
House #2: A bungalow in Montrose Heights.
Pros: Immediate neighborhood was the most quiet of all, the neighborhood itself was clean and already far into the revitalization stage, house was brand new build (to look like old bungalow) which meant easy maintenance, best value house for the dollar, proactive neighbors.
Cons: Montrose Heights is an island in the middle of other rougher areas. It immediately borders a project and Fulton on one side. It borders Henrico (where Montrose Heights turns into Montrose) where there is, literally, an invisible line where houses become decrepit on the other side of the street. There is no nearby highway access (one of us is a commuter). Property taxes for this house would be high. The house would only look cute, but not have any of the cool old house vibe.
House #3: A foursquare in Battery Park neighborhood (also known as Northern Barton Heights).
Pros: Biggest and cheapest house, partially renovated (all of hard stuff done – electric, plumbing, roof, etc.), neighborhood was below Ginter Park and North Central (also a transitional neighborhood), Battery Park was being redone by city after flood, property crime was low (lots of porch furniture and decor not tied down), obviously a transitional neighborhood, proactive civic association.
Cons: House was only partially renovated and looked ugly inside (still needed lots of money and effort to fix), no tax abatements as we weren’t doing any programs (e.g. A.C.O.R.N.), immediate street not quiet as one drug dealer house obvious on next block, within walking distance to Gilpin Court and rough parts of Highland Park, and near some rough main streets.
If you have done this, or something similar, please feel free to share. Tell why and how you picked your house.