What makes a location good?

Ever wonder what all goes into making a good location?

It’s usually a combination of many things.  The more of these you have, the more appealing it is:

  1.  Proximity to amenities like shopping/entertainment/dining.
  2.  Easy access to work (Think New Circle, Interstate, airport, etc.)
  3.   Good school district.  Even for people who don’t have kids in school, this is important because realtors have convinced everybody it is good for “Resale Value.”
  4.  An absence of major negative things like road noise, smoke stacks, crime, or something smelly like a landfill.

Very few neighborhoods have all of these.  The ones that do have always sold quickly and for top dollar.  They appreciate the fastest in a hot market and depreciate the least in a bad market.

Want to know a few like this?

  1.  Chilesburg-It’s got the top rated schools in the area, two of which are within walking distance.  You can get to two interstate exits easily.  If you want to go to Hamburg, its an easy drive down Todds Road.  If you don’t want Hamburg, go out the Richmond Road side.
  2. Willow Bend-This area has really shot up in value this year.  It’s got some of the best schools on the south end of town, is close to Fayette Mall, Brannon Crossing and The Summit.  Shillito Park is close and it is right off of Man O War.
  3. Beaumont Enclave-This neighborhood has always been popular, mainly because it is the cheapest way to get into the Rosa Parks Elementary/Beaumont Middle/Dumbar High district.  It is a $200-300k neighborhood surrounded by $500k and up houses.  That helps too.  Besides one of the most desirable school districts in town, you have everything Beaumont has too offer, plus a city park and a library.  It is right between New Circle and Man O War, making it easy to get in or out.  It is also a short drive to the airport for traveling executives.

I normally encourage my buyers to pick a neighborhood with as many of these location features as possible since we don’t know what the market will be like when they need to sell.  The first rule in real estate is ALWAYS have an exit plan.

I improved a neighborhood BEFORE it was a neighborhood

10,000 trees.  That is how many I planted in what is now known as The Enclave at Chilesburg.

It was the mid 90s.  Back then Andover Hills was a fairly new neighborhood.  There was a 32 acre parcel that was outside the urban service area.  The developers, Bob Miller and Lynwood Wiseman, decided they would build their own houses on it.

Bob Miller went first.  He had Jose Oubrerie design his house while he was in town serving as Dean of UK’s College of Architecture.  Oubrerie learned a thing or two about architecture from his time with a more recognizable name in architecture, Le Corbusier.

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Ok, that is the history of the place before my time planting trees.

Bob Miller was a lawyer.  My dad was a lawyer.  All lawyers know each other because half of them have been partners at one time or another.  Anyway, my dad was good friends with one of his partners and that is how I found out about the job to plant 10,000 trees.

I had seen Bob Miller’s house only from the road.  This was long before Hays Blvd existed.  There was just the little country road over there and it was called Walnut Hill-Chilesburg or something like that.  In the fall and winter, you could see the house from that road.  I had always wondered what it was since it is unlike anything else in Lexington.

Bob gave me the address, which was then on Maple Ridge Road in Andover Hills.  I remember wondering how I was going to plant that many trees on a neighborhood lot-this was before google earth.  I pulled up to a driveway between two houses at the end of the cul de sac and there was a gate.  It opened and I followed the road to the house I had previously only seen from a distance.

I was speechless as I approached the house.  It was a piece of art to me, surrounded by 32 beautiful acres as it’s frame.  There was a pond in front of the house….well, it was really the back of the house but you saw it first as you came down the driveway.

Bob liked trees.  He had made a walking trail all the way around the place, which is now part of the neighborhood.  He wanted to make a forest in the middle.  So, I spent a few weeks randomly planting about 8 different types of saplings all over the field across from his house.

One late afternoon, I took a break and gazed across the land that is now Chilesburg.  I remember thinking that one day, I would bring my kids to see these trees when they were huge.  The trees when they were huge, not my kids.

Another time I was out planting, Lynwood Wiseman came out in his Nissan Pathfinder and gave me a hard time about planting where he was going to build his own house one day.  He drove over most of the freshly planted trees on his way in and out.  I told him I was only doing as I was told and he would need to talk to Bob about it.  Few people disliked Lynwood.  Everybody else hated him.  Lynwood would eventually build his house on the opposite side of the pond from Bob Miller.  It is still there, right in the middle of the neighborhood.  The pond is long gone, filled in to make lots for new houses.

I was in an architectural program at LLC at the time.  I told several students and a few teachers about Bob’s house.  Word got over to the College of Architecture.  Turns out that Bob had involved many students in the designing and building of the house, allowed it to be photographed for various architecture books and magazines…..and then closed the gate once it was all over.  I was the only person those architecture loving people knew who had seen it in person.  I asked Bob if I could take some pictures and make a video of the place.  I did not realize at that time how private he was about the house.  I have always appreciated his kindness to me for that.  The video I made ended up in the UK College of Architecture’s library.  It was a VHS tape.  I sure hope somebody converted it to a DVD.

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Those were happy memories for me.  Then there were some unhappy memories of that place.  Bob Miller passed away.  His wife Penny, who was the inspiration for Penny Lane in Andover Hills, sold it to a developer.  That developer went belly up.  The house was vandalized many times.  While it finally did get an owner who appreciates it, it just isn’t the same for me when I see it now.

I did take my kids to see the trees when Ball Homes began to develop the land.  About half of them are gone (the trees, not my kids).  They are about 30 feet tall I guess.  I think of all the people who picked their lot because it backed to the wooded area that I helped create.  I think of how nice it felt the day they were planted, when I was out in a beautiful field, the only sound being the wind passing through trees, and Bob’s house in the corner of my eye.  I also think about the day when somebody backing to my trees calls me up to list their house, and I get to tell them everything you just read.

Neighborhoods that benefited the most from school district changes

I get a lot of questions about school districts and property values.  Most of the time there is nothing to worry about unless your neighborhood goes from having average/above average schools to getting ones that are worse.    A lateral move doesn’t really matter.  The best situation is when you have poorer performing schools and get better ones….which is the topic of today’s blog post.

Here are the top 3 winners in my opinion.  The biggest changes in the district boundaries were in the Hamburg/40509 area, so these are all out that way:

3.  The Home Place/Gleneagles.  The cat got out of the bag early on this one.  The school district bought land in this area and everybody knew that these 2 neighborhoods would go to the new school.  Suddenly it became a more desirable place to buy and prices went up.

2.  Greenbrier.  Several years ago I would get the same feedback from my buyers after showing houses in this neighborhood.  They would say “I love the neighborhood and all the space out here, but I don’t have $100k to renovate this house AND pay for private school.”  So, they wouldn’t buy it.  Now that “The Brier” is getting the new elementary and new high school, houses are selling and being renovated.

1.  Chilesburg.  Use to be only the first phase of that neighborhood went to Athens-Chilesburg Elementary (A.C.E.).  It never really made any sense since the school was right in the middle of the neighborhood.  The neighborhood got the school and prices have really gone up.  Use to be if you were in the mid $200k range and wanted that school, Andover Hills was your only option.  There use to be a big gap between similar sized houses in these two neighborhoods.  Not any more.  Chilesburg can pull the same money per sqaure foot as Andover Hills can now.  A 2500 square foot 4 bedroom house in Chilesburg use to be about $190-225k several years ago.  Practically the same floor plan in Andover Hills was getting $225-245k.  Now both are in the $245-255k range.

LEXpert’s top picks for around $250k

Okay.  You want a 4 bedroom house in Lexington.  Nothing too old.  Maybe you have kids.  Maybe you don’t.  Either way you realize a house in this price range and size should be in a good performing school district to keep the resale potential up.

Here are a few neighborhoods I always suggest and why:

Andover Hills-I know, I know.  I am always talking about Andover Hills.  I lived there for several years and it has been my absolute favorite place I’ve ever lived.  You are close to Hamburg, but since you are on the southeast side of it, you do not have to pass through Hamburg EVERY time you go any place else in town.  Since I now live on the northeast side of Hamburg and must get past Hamburg to get anywhere, I am always aware of this.  Andover Hills has a nice vibe.  Upscale without being pretentious.  $250k is the low end for this neighborhood.  An added plus is having Andover Golf and Country Club so close for golfing and the pool if you wanted to join.  There are a lot of businesses that you use regularly that are very close too.

Chilesburg-This neighborhood would not have been on my list many years ago.  It has always been nice, but the school district change finally put all of Chilesburg in the elementary school that sits in the middle of it.  It is just a few minutes past Andover Hills, so it shares many of the same perks.  One cool thing Chilesburg has is a bunch of walking trails through the neighborhood.

Willow Oak-This is one neighborhood few people know exists.  It is tucked away behind Millpond Shopping Center on Boston Road.  If you’ve been out there and seen a park with a pool and a big pond, that belongs to this neighborhood.  There is only one way in and out, and it is across a picturesque bridge.  Anything you want in South Lexington is close, and you could walk to Starbucks.  The streets are lined with huge pin oaks.  This neighborhood has one of my highest “Good vibes per dollar” ratings ever.  You could spend twice as much elsewhere and not get as much neighborhood character.

Copperfield-This is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in this price range.  It is upscale in a classic sense like Andover Hills and has all the character that you find in Willow Oak.  It is also on the edge of the Dunbar High School district, which is one reason it is so popular.  The neighborhood has it’s own pool and clubhouse too.