House Stalking

My friends, Steve and Lisa, had a favorite house in the neighborhood next to theirs.  It was right down the street from a friend’s house, and they drove by it often.  They already had a great family home that was fine for them, their two kids, two dogs, and cat.  But it wasn’t their dream house.  They used to joke that if the house they were stalking ever went on the market they would buy it.  And then one day they were driving to a party at their friend’s house … and their dream house was on the market.  They live there now.

My friend Hope had a yellow Victorian in East Atlanta Village (EAV) that she loved.  It was on a hill, and for years she dreamed about that house.  It finally went up for sale, and we walked over to the Open House one Sunday.  We were so curious to see what was inside, and the inside was … disappointing.  Shoot.  Not a match and house stalking turned into house headshaking.  (Ah, what could have been…)

Last week, I had a client contact me to look at a stone cottage in Decatur.  He had been house stalking it for a couple of years and it was finally for sale.  We saw it the second day it was on the market and it literally went under contract at about the time we were driving to the listing.  It really was an awesome house, but as they say, timing is everything.  (I am keeping my eye on the status, and I have to ask … is it wrong to wish for a financing hiccup?  I know it is, but fingers crossed anyway…)  So this client and I continue to look, and he’s okay with missing out on the house. Just seeing the inside seems to have satisfied his curiosity.

For me it’s a little different, I house stalk former residences.  I drive by and see what the new owners have done, and think of what my life would be like if I hadn’t moved.  It’s a mix of heartache and surprise when you drive by a former residence.  I’ve lived in 22 places in 25 years, so I have a lot of former residences, but there are a handful that really made an impression.

The first single-family home I owned was on Berne Street in Ormewood Park, and I still drive by it often.  The new owners added a garage and expanded the back.  But all my front yard landscaping still remains.  (Including the frilly Japanese Maple that cost a fortune.) I house stalk the neighbors there as well, as I still feel connected to that particular street.

One house on Berne has had my attention for several years.  It’s on the same side of the road as my former house and about a block away.  You know I love those Mid-Century Modern (MCM) houses, and take a look at this one from 1945:

931 Berne Street
931 Berne Street – Front. (I’m wild about the paint color and trim lines. And look at that mailbox and the pom pom tree. OMG Love.)


Deck Ready For Relaxing!
931 Berne Street – Rear. Isn’t it odd that you don’t often see back porch swings? Love that it’s in the shade. A great little rest spot to have a refreshing iced tea (make mine the Long Island variety).

And guess what?  It’s now for sale.  It’s listed by my friend and fellow agent, Tiffanie Jones, and I’m going to co-host the Open House there this Sunday.  (In part, so I have a reason to stalk the street without causing a call to Zone 6. “No officer, I wasn’t casing the house… I was stalking the house.”)

The Open House address is 931 Berne Street, Atlanta, GA 30316.  Click the link for more photos and come by and see us from 2 to 4pm on Sunday, June 28.

And if you’re currently house stalking a property, give me a shout. I can set you up in the FMLS system so you will get an immediate alert if it ever becomes active on the market.

I’m an agent with Red Robin REALTORS® one of Atlanta’s premier boutique real estate brokerages. Contact me at or 404-247-9981.

My Guidelines for Great Neighborhoods, and Why I’m Disappointed by What’s Developing Around the Beltline Westside Trail

I want to state upfront that this is an opinion piece.  It does not reflect the views of my brokerage.  It does reflect upon what I experienced last Saturday when I participated in the Invest Atlanta and Atlanta Beltline Westside Trail Open House Walking Tour, which showcased affordable housing options in Adair Park, Capitol View, Capitol View Manor, Pittsburgh and Sylvan Hills.  (Also known as Southwest Atlanta – aka SWATL.)  On the tour I learned that the area’s 30310 zip code was the hardest hit in the US by foreclosure and fraud during the real estate downturn, and there are currently 1,000 vacant houses available.  So 1,000+ new residents could move in without displacing any of the current residents.

I am a licensed real estate agent, but I’m also a potential homebuyer.  I will likely be purchasing a new home and moving sometime in the next 24 months, so right now I’m on a personal fact-finding mission, and I’m focusing on narrowing my search to neighborhoods that I can envision myself living in.

I currently own and live on the other side of the Beltline – the Eastside Trail – and I’ve seen that stretch go from weeds and dirt, to being the hottest real estate strip in Atlanta.  But the Beltline itself is not what makes that stretch so desirable, it’s the restaurants, shops, grocery stores and green spaces that line each side, and that the Beltline connects.  It’s the ability to walk or bike from Old 4th Ward to Piedmont Park (over 2 miles) without ever crossing a street.  And on your walk you can stop for coffee or frozen yogurt or a beer.  Get lunch at a dozen different restaurants.  Or shop for unique antiques in a Parisian-inspired warehouse.  Again, this is the Eastside Trail.  Now let’s talk about what’s happening on the Westside Trail…

One of my best friends owned a house in Capitol View about 15 years ago when the neighborhood was pretty sketchy (IMO) and she would give directions to her house by cracking jokes like, “Then you take a left at the hooker on crutches, and that’s my street!”  Back then, I visited her often, but she no longer owns that house, and it’s been a few years since I’ve been that way.  Even though there was a possibility I’d be hit on by a hooker on crutches, I still liked the area, and I loved my friend’s house.  I always thought the architecture of the neighborhood was a huge asset, because the houses each had a unique charm, and most are brick (my personal preference).

At the time that my friend was living in Capitol View, I was living in Ormewood Park – the neighborhood in between Grant Park and East Atlanta.  This is the pre-grocery store incarnation of Ormewood Park, Grant Park, and East Atlanta.  I think the Kroger on Ponce was our nearest grocery store (it’s about 4 miles and 25 minutes away).  But we had the shops and bars in the village area of East Atlanta, a couple of neighborhood restaurants on Cherokee and on Memorial, and pockets of development sprouting up. It was enough to make the neighborhood interesting, but not enough to make it super-desirable, so I was able to buy a move-in ready 2/2 bungalow with a loft for $203k.  Even a dozen year ago, this was really reasonable for a 1450 square foot home.

I’m giving you this backstory to help illustrate that I seek out areas that are a little on the fringe. (After Ormewood I lived on Memorial Drive and then Old 4th Ward – and when I bought each of those places they were practically giving properties away.  No one wanted to be in either area.  Except me, it seems.)

So, back to SWATL, I had this area on my personal radar because I’m currently in a loft, and I’m ready to move back into a single-family home, and I kind of want to be a little out of the way of the hustle and bustle.  The Invest Atlanta and Atlanta Beltline Westside Trail Open House Walking Tour was a very nice event, and I enjoyed the shuttle bus tour and walking through the open houses.  The houses presented still needed work, but were mostly in the $99k to $179k range.  (I thought some were overpriced, but you gotta go out of the gate big, so I understand some agents reaching.)

Here are some photos of houses that I was wild about, (not for sale, just cute houses!) I’m telling you there are gems in this area because they haven’t been “updated”:

But that may be where the love fest ends, because when I got home I read the literature that was given to me by the rep from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a non-profit who owns a 31-acre site directly on the Westside Trail.  It’s an amazing location, south of Pittsburgh and north of Capitol View Manor.  I knew about the tract of land and that developers were currently courting the foundation with proposals, but I incorrectly assumed they would build something INTERESTING there because of the high-profile, walkable, bike-friendly location.  And by interesting I mean something that will catch the neighbors’ attention, and the attention of other developers, like a grocery store to service the insane food desert that surrounds that area, maybe with a coffee shop next door, or mixed use for restaurants and retail, and general services for this under-served area.  But nope, that’s not what they’re putting there.  This is directly lifted from the handouts I received:

The Foundation plans to select a master developer to create a plan for the site that incorporates one or a combination of potential uses identified through the market study. Some possibilities include:

  • a distribution hub and sorting facility
  • an integrated service center that includes supply warehouses, laundry, storage and other offsite functions for regional hospitals and medical centers
  • facilities for activities such as for payroll and billing, packaging and record keeping
  • industrial, commercial or electronic equipment repair
  • incubator space, workshops and labs
  • consulting for design and manufacturing


With a lack of stores in the surrounding area, residents have expressed interest in seeing retail on the site, and the market indicates this is economically feasible, though not recommended as a primary use. The Foundation hopes new workers and customers connected with the site’s commercial development will generate enough demand to encourage retail development in the surrounding neighborhoods.

So residents want one thing, but it sounds like the Foundation is giving them something else – more industrial and warehouse space – in an area littered with abandoned industrial and warehouse space.  I understand the desire to create jobs (the Foundation is focused on economic development for the site) but wouldn’t a large grocery store create jobs?  The Beltline is there to promote walkable and bikeable communities, but does anyone really want to bike to a “distribution hub and sorting facility”?  In short: No.

On the positive side, the Beltline anticipates that stretch being paved and fully developed within 5 to 8 years.  But will anyone use the Westside Trail if all it does is connect green spaces?  I mean, it’s nice for a walk, but in addition to exercise, the Eastside Trail is used for commutes, and for entertainment.

And there’s also the debacle (IMO) of handing nearby Fort McPherson to Tyler Perry for use as a movie studio, but that’s a whole other post.  For now, I’m left saddened and shaking my head at the missed opportunities for the area.  So, I’ve still got SWATL on my personal radar, but it’s been moved down the list a bit.

I’m an agent with Red Robin REALTORS® one of Atlanta’s premier boutique real estate brokerages. Contact me at or 404-247-9981.

You Never Know What’s Behind the Door

I had a serious, “Am I going to fall through the floor?!” panic attack last week.  Yep, you never know what’s behind the door when you open that lockbox.  Here’s how it went down…

I’m working with a client who is an architect, actor, and creative mind in search of his next address.  He’s been living in a mid-century modern (MCM) condo on Peachtree Street for well over a decade, and he was actually pretty content there.  But a developer buyout is forcing him to make a change.

Personally, I’ve lived in all kinds of properties.  And by “all kinds” I mean different architectural styles, layouts, density, zoning, etc.  I’ve owned brick ranches, an arts and crafts bungalow, modern and historic condos, etc. Anyway, I mention that because I get it when a client doesn’t yet have a clear picture of “what’s next” – because what’s next can be anything you can imagine.  And this guy has imagination.

At the condo he’s living in now, he fashioned many features that were custom designed (by him, of course) and built to fit the space.  And he wants to also do that with his new home.  So last Friday was an exploratory mission.  I pulled 5 properties covering the 3 categories that interest him:

  1. Modern condo
  2. Historical home
  3. Mid-century modern (MCM) ranch

He specifically asked to see Oakland Park, which is a modern condominium I lived in for many years (and I’m still a property owner there).  The two units we looked at had characteristics of his current condo (like concrete ceilings), and the price point is reasonable, so he felt he could make design changes and still be invested in the property for an affordable amount.  The showing outcome was a “strong maybe.”

Just a few blocks away from Oakland Park was a 1st day on the market listing for a 1920 Victorian on a hilltop corner lot 1 block from Grant Park. The remarks indicated it needed “restoration/renovation” but the listing didn’t prepare me for what we saw when I opened the door. Someone forgot to mention that half the house was missing.

Since my client is an architect and he has a curious nature, we walked through all the rooms on both floors, even though he knew it was more construction than he was interested in.  This was one of those “dream” properties because you are buying into what it can become.  A nice corner lot, a block from Grant Park, on a hill, with instant curb appeal.  But it’s a full renovation.  (If you’re still interested and don’t mind going on a “step with caution” showing, contact me and we’ll take a look together.)

Next up were a couple of MCM ranch homes off LaVista.  Probably not a fit because of the floorplans, but I personally loved the period details including a working, original-to-the-house stove and boomerang-patterned kitchen countertops.

For next steps we’re organizing some fact-finding on ownership of another historic property and I’m doing a little sleuthing into some condo units that are still builder-owned.  As you can see, I’ll do more than open the door for you (as long as it’s legal!).  This client wanted to look at an empty property that’s not on the market and I had to remind him that’s called “trespassing” 😉 Thus my need to dig into tax records, so we don’t end up in handcuffs.

I’m an agent with Red Robin REALTORS® one of Atlanta’s premier boutique real estate brokerages. Contact me at or 404-247-9981.