Alan and I have put our house where our mouth is!
On Monday we sold our home on Cherokee Boulevard in Sequoyah Hills and became full-time residents of downtown Knoxville. This was the culmination of a process that included a number of serendipitous events along with a daily growing passion for the downtown lifestyle.
Here’s the deal.
Twelve years ago, we bought our “dream house” on Cherokee Boulevard from our good friends Ron and Wanda McMahan. We ADORED living there. The house — 3,900 square feet with only two bedrooms — was perfect for us. We don’t have children (just a cat) and we love to entertain. It was so much closer to our office downtown than was Farragut, where we lived before. We were in heaven for about 10 years.
All the while, downtown was starting its resurgence — and we were a part of it. Our office was on Gay Street and several of our clients through the ’90s were very involved in downtown renovation. We helped with fund-raising and publicity for the restoration of the Tennessee Theatre and we helped KUB and the city celebrate the renovation of the historic Miller’s Building. Another client, ImagePoint, moved from Powell to the Miller’s Building, and we helped “sell” the virtues of downtown to that company’s employees. And we were falling more and more in love with downtown ourselves.
Then, in pretty rapid succession, these unrelated events occurred:
- We needed a new roof on the house and I had been wanting a new kitchen and bathrooms for several years. I was shopping at Kroger one day when I saw the book, “Change Your Home; Change Your Life,” by our Sequoyah Hills neighbor Moll Anderson. I bought it. Its main theme was, “What are you waiting for?” I asked myself that question and Alan and I decided it was time to take the plunge and remodel the house.
Several friends who had lived through big remodeling jobs warned us about how stressful it is to live in a house under construction. “If you don’t want to get a divorce, you’d better move out during the remodel,” several said. We certainly didn’t want to get a divorce, so we decided to purchase a tiny little condo (745 square feet) in Cherokee Lofts on Church Avenue downtown. The contractor said the job would take six months. Of course, it took substantially longer. But we LOVED living downtown. We walked everywhere — to work, to the movies, to restaurants and concerts. We saved a ton on gas.
- When it was time to move back into the house, we were very pleased with the results. The kitchen was fantastic. It had a six-burner gas stove (when our kitchen used to be total electric) and, best of all, a warming drawer. It was a beautiful re-do throughout, actually, and we had all new furniture and window treatments. But there was just one downside: it wasn’t downtown.
- Because we do so much entertaining, a lot of people saw the house. But one person in particular fell in love with it: our friend Jeff Lee, the general manager of WBIR-TV. “If you ever want to sell this house, call me first!” he said. We didn’t really take him seriously. But he kept saying it almost every time we saw him.
- Sometimes over the next two years we’d kid around about taking Jeff’s statement to heart. But we liked the house and were happy there and we knew that it certainly wasn’t the right time in the real estate market to sell. But still, we’d spend nights downtown every chance we got. It was confusing figuring out what clothes to leave where and we always had to worry about where Rexie, our cat, was. She did not like going back and forth between the two residences. We knew a lot of people with two houses — like a beach house or a mountian house. But we started to feel kind of silly having two homes less than 10 miles apart!
- Then two conversations happened that had a huge effect on me. I had lunch with CPA Renda Burkhart. She’s not my CPA, just a friendly acquaintance. Over lunch I mentioned the situation with the house and our love of downtown but how it was not a very good time to sell a house. “Cynthia, life is short,” she said seriously. “Don’t let a few dollars stand in the way of you living where you will be really happy. Real estate will take years to get back like it was before — if it ever does. If you and Alan are passionate about it, you need to do it. Don’t wait out the market.” I shared that with Alan and he agreed. But it just killed us that we had spent so much on the house and now were thinking of moving. You can never recover your investment in furniture and such.
- The second conversation was with our new friend Robert Loest, who has since passed away. He was a nationally known financial adviser and fund manager and a downtown resident and enthusiast with whom we had Sunday brunch almost every week. He reacquainted us with the concept of “sunk costs” — which I had chosen to forget about since my economics courses in college!
- Alan and I talked and talked. We took the opportunity to purchase the condo next to our original condo and we hired a contractor to combine the two units. Then, in August, we saw Jeff Lee and his wife, Christie, at a party we had at Regas to thank people who had been on this blog the most. “When are you going to sell me that house?” Jeff joked, as had become his habit. “We are going to sell it to you now!” I said. Stunned, Jeff rushed off to find Christie. We closed on the sale this past Monday and, after all the signing, we toasted the deal at the title company’s conference room table with Veuve Clicquot, Christie’s favorite champagne.
Monday night, Alan and I celebrated by walking to one of our favorite downtown restaurants — Bistro at the Bijou — and then taking in a movie at Regal Riviera, downtown’s movie theater. Of course we ran into folks we knew — that’s what makes downtown more like a neighborhood than almost any other neighborhood in town. Tuesday we walked to work (we now also have offices in the historic Miller’s Building, ourselves). I walked to a morning meeting at the Emporium, to lunch at the Bistro, and took a client for drinks at Chesapeake’s. Later Alan walked to the City Council meeting and then we met some friends for dinner at Calhoun’s on the River. When we went to bed for the night, our cars had never left the garage.
And we can’t get these smiles off our faces.We know we have made the right decision for us and we can’t wait to celebrate the holidays in our new space.
So thanks to the Lees. We hope you are as happy as we were in that fabulous house. And thanks to everyone — Moll, Renda, Robert and our other downtown brunch buddies and friends — who knowingly or unknowingly nudged us in the right direction. Thanks to Gay and Bill Lyons, another couple with a similar story, who offered us valuable advice along the way. A special thanks to Jim Nichols and Judy Collins, two Realtor friends who helped us and the Lees with technical details as we closed on the deal. And to our friend Susan Brown who helped us with the move.
We look forward to sharing many good times with all of you in this magical place that is downtown Knoxville.