Who is the most important person in your renovation?

It’s not your contractor. It’s not your designer.

It’s your realtor.


Because one day you’re gonna want to sell your home. You will want all that time and money you spent on the renovation to have added value. Having a great designer and using the best contractors are wonderful things to do, but only your realtor will know if the work you’ve done added value. And let me tell you, NOTHING you do to your house will get a 100% return on your investment.

Here are some things to think about as you plan a renovation:

  1. Don’t over improve. If you live in a half million dollar neighborhood, don’t pick million dollar neighborhood materials. Yes, buyers will love the unexpected upgrade but you will be effectively giving it to them for free. Always keep the level of materials suitable to what people expect for the price range of the neighborhood.
  2. Don’t add too much square footage. I have seen some crazy additions where people end up with the biggest home in the neighborhood. That’s never a good idea. The buyers that want such a big house will probably want to be in a house surrounded by similar sized homes. The people wanting to be in your neighborhood probably aren’t going to want to pay you top dollar for the extra square footage. Also, appraisers usually give credit for square footage tiered to the price range. That means the more affordable your neighborhood is, the less an appraiser is going to value your excess square footage because they will be using recent sales from the neighborhood for comparisons.
  3. Don’t make crazy compromises. I have seen some wonderful additions but due to the existing floor plan of the house, you have to do something crazy like walk through a laundry room to get to the amazing new space. Buyers don’t like that. Yes, you’ve gotten used to it and it works for you but it will be a deal breaker to a buyer. The flow of the addition is very important.

The bottom line is that you want your house to still fit the character, size and price range of your neighborhood. Be sure to go over your plans with your realtor before committing to the job.

3 similar neighborhoods for any budget

What if you want a big lot, close in, something older, maybe Tates Creek Road area.  Well, you have three good options at 3 different price points.

All these neighborhoods are either just inside or just outside New Circle Road by Tates Creek Road.  All are close to things like The Lansdowne Shoppes, Malones, Fresh Market and The Signature Club.  One of the best things about this area is that you can get about anywhere in town easily.  UK/Downtown/Chevy Chase are close.  You are between Hamburg and all that the Fayette Mall/Nicholasville Road corridor offers…..plus, this is arguably the prettiest part of Lexington.

1.  Lansdowne

This is where you go if you have $300-700k to spend.  You’ll get one of the swankiest locations from the 1960s that use to be on the on the edge of town.  I’m taking about roads like Cahaba, Kirkland, Overbrook, etc.  Getting a half acre lot is no sweat here, some are even larger.  Overbrook Circle and Brookhill Circle are my two favorite streets since some of the houses have a view over The Lansdowne Shoppes.

Most of the houses are ranches, but there are 2 story and split foyer/split levels too.  Here is what is typical:

But sometimes you get lucky and find some real architectural gems like:

2.  Lans-Merrick

This is where you land if you want to stay in the $200s-$300s, although there are a few super nice ones that have gone for over $400k.  This neighborhood is right across Tates Creek Road from Lansdowne.   You get a great city park in the middle of the neighborhood which is right beside Julius Marks Elementary school.  Lots out here are usually in the 1/4-1/3 acre range.  Still big by Lexington standards.  Most of the houses were built in the 70s.  Lots of ranches, splits and traditional two stories.  The main roads are Pepperhill and Montavesta.  Fleetwood and Heritage are my favorite streets.


Here is what to expect:

But there are some that are like:


3.  Gainesway

This neighborhood is beside Lans-Merrick, but is just across New Circle.  It seems just as close in though, so don’t let being outside the circle mess with you.  The oldest part of Gainesway harks back to the 50s.  All the streets were named after local horse farms.  Getting a 1/4-1/2 acre lot is easy here.  Most are ranches.  The beauty of this neighborhood is that you get a similar location and lot size as the other two, but you’ll only drop $150-250k for a house.  Castleton Hill and Castleton Way are my favorite streets here.

This is what to expect:

And you might get lucky and find one like these:


So there you have it.  Whether you have $150k or well over $500k, you can enjoy an older home on a large lot in Lexington.

Neighborhoods with good design

Some people just want a house.  Some people want a house and a neighborhood.  I don’t mean location when I say neighborhood.  That has more to do with proximity to features.  Neighborhood is a vibe thing.  A feeling.  Has to do with trees, the layout of the streets, etc.  Think curvy streets and roads with landscaped medians.  Some good examples are Hartland Parkway in Hartland, or Slashes in Ashland Park.

It is no surprise that neighborhoods with a good vibe are more desirable than neighborhoods that don’t.  That is one reason the exact same house is worth more in a neighborhood like Chilesburg than it is in Willow Bend or Masterson.

I am more of vibe person.  I really like neighborhoods that have some pretty features to see as you walk or drive through them.  An element of design.  So, here are a few that I can think of off the top of my head and why I like them:

  1.  Hartland is probably the best thought out neighborhood in Lexington since Chevy Chase and Ashland Park.  It has a landscaped median running through the whole neighborhood.  All of the cul-de-sacs have landscaped islands in the middle.
  2. Chilesburg-Since it has so many creeks running into the reservoirs in Jacobson Park, the developer didn’t have much of a choice but to work around them.  There are several ponds in the neighborhood, a walking trail with plank farm fencing around it, and some wooded greenspace areas such as the best one on Willman Way.
  3. Greenbrier-There is just something about seeing so much green as you drive through it.  Then you pass the clubhouse and see the golf course.
  4. The Woods-I really like the elevation changes and meandering road that runs through the whole neighborhood.  It is now old enough to have some amazing trees.  You feel like you have left the heart of the city and are in a secret, private place.  Lakewood is a lot like that too because Lakewood use to be on the edge of town.
  5. Chevy Chase and Ashland Park-no explanation needed.

Those are my favorites.  I don’t think we will see anything like these neighborhoods in Lexington again.  There just isn’t the space left.  Other than a few areas in town, we are down to infill projects.  Those often don’t have the space to do much more than clear the land and lay out the neighborhood in a way that maximizes the number of lots.

Want to know what LEXington buyers are doing??

The real estate scene in Lexington sure is changing.  Guess it always has, but this years it seems to be doing it quicker.

What’s hot and what’s not has been pretty static around here for a long time.  Other than Kenwick getting trendy and all the flopped new downtown condo projects, this town has always been about the middle of the road, safe and predictable neighborhoods in decent school districts.  People who wanted older houses wanted in 40502 or the older neighborhoods on the south end of town that were inside New Circle.  People who wanted newer homes looked around Man O War.  There was always plenty of new construction going on all over town.

Now it seems that new construction has slowed down.  You’d think since we are running out of room inside of Fayette County, that new construction would be on fire right now.  Especially after all the slow years of the bad market.  It did bounce back strong in 2013, but has slowed since.  All the national news I read about it indicates the same is happening everywhere.

I am seeing more and more people wanting older houses.  They are rejecting the cookie cutter neighborhoods.  Many are considering neighborhoods on the north end of town.

All this is pretty interesting to me, both professionally and personally.  I have to keep up with it so I can give my clients the good advice they deserve.  I also like to think about why we are seeing this shift?

I think a lot of this has to do with shows like Property Brothers and sites like Houzz.com.  People want a house with character more than ever now.  After several years of a bad economy, people now feel safe to renovate their houses.   I think people are spending more time at home due to being so connected online.  It only makes sense that people want to create their own oasis to be in while they spend all their time connecting with the world through their phones.

I once had an out of town client tell me that the Lexington market is very broad but not deep.  We tend to have the same 10 floor plans build by the same builder throughout all of Lexington.  It is almost like 3 easy step:  1)  Pick your floor plan.  2)  Pick which part of town you want to be in.  3)  Pick if you want that house to have been build in the 90s or 2000s.   I had another client from New York tell me he wanted a contemporary or modern house.  He didn’t get one because we have so few.  People today are just not excited about living in a modern day Levittown.  (Google that if you don’t know what I mean.)

Lexington doesn’t have the sprawl like a real city does.  We keep adding people but we don’t expand the geographic boundaries of the town.  That means more density, which means more traffic.  People are wanting more than ever to be closer to amenities they frequently use.  That is one reason the older neighborhoods are doing so well right now.

As prices have returned to 2005 levels but wages have not, you don’t get as much for your money.  That is why we are seeing some people look on the north end of town.  You get more for your money there.  This is especially true for many first time buyers.  An older house on the north end of town is a real bargain today.   Also, the north end of Lexington is a great spot for younger buyers who want to be close to all the new spots along North Limestone.

Well, I’m over 600 words now.  I could go on and on.  Bottom line is that buyer tastes are shifting in this town and it is kind of exciting to me.