Down Town Rehabbing


We are rehabbers. My Dad taught us about real estate and helped me buy my first property… a triplex at auction purchased for $13,000. We rehabbed it, rented it, my mom help manage it and we later sold it for $30,000.

Liza’s favorite rehab was an old victorian in a somewhat questionable neighborhood that was our residence for 18 months. That turn-of-the-century, friendly spirit inhabited, cottage netted us enough profit to make our big relocation to Key West where even in the late 80’s it was difficult to find any kind of little cottage in the historic district for less than $100,000. But after 2 years of looking, we found one and purchased it for $95,000. Three thousand of our own money and a second of $17,000 held by the desparate sellers. Within two years we were able to refinance at better rates and pay off the seller. Fifteen years later we sold this property for over 6 times what we paid for it.  Dad, you were right. The harder you work the luckier you get!

Because property had gotten so expensive in Key West, we went on the week-ends to Ft. Lauderdale (where we have dear friends) and purchased another triplex, fixed it up, rented it, and sold it less than 2 years later for a significant profit. I love real estate. 

Now we are back to my hometown. For several years we have been watching our downtown area deteriorate as the mall, strip shopping centers and the suburbs developed. But as many small towns across America, our little town’s city center is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance. The wonderful old historic buildings are catching the eye of young investors, the train station is being renovated, local musicians play in open air gathering spots and new shops are opening.

When we decided to come back to East Tennessee (at least part-time), we decided we wanted to be a part of the refurbishing of our downtown. So we purchased the commercial building pictured above. It was built in 1905. Local historians report that it was first utilized as doctors offices.

In the fifties, a group of attorney’s occupied the upper floor while various retail businesses occupied the two small storefronts downstairs. When we first saw the upstairs with the huge skylights, and a room with 60 bookshelves built-in (law library) we knew we had found a new project and home. 

In the eighties, the upstairs was rented by a local radio station. Evidence of this still exists as one bedroom door is labled “studio A, Control room”. We purchased this building last year and have renovated the building with new heating/cooling systems, new wiring, new wood floors, new paint, and new plumbing. We made “studio B, Production” into a roomy and modern kitchen.

We like our downtown loft even with the 25 step walk-up and the parking challenges. We miss a yard and a garage, but are proud of our work and our contribution to preserving something historic and worthy. With the interior almost complete we are now working on the exterior… well, actually, Dave the painter guy is. In Liza’s photo above, Dave is pressure washing in preparation for paint.

Love the idea of taking something old or somewhat forgotten and giving it new life cycle. Our building will be starting over. Starting over as our new home in the city.

Warm wishes.

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7 Responses to Down Town Rehabbing

  1. ybonesy says:

    I love old places, too. So much more to them than the new Tuscany-inspired homes so many people are into these days. Would love to see interior photos of your latest home/project. Sounds fabulous. Any plans for using some of the space in any particular way?

    We just moved into a great mid-century Arts & Crafts style home. Not as old as yours (ours was built in 1958-60), but nothing changed from the original. We just refinished the oak plank floors. They’re gorgeous. The old intercom works. Central vacuum in the walls. It’s so Brady Bunch. I love it!

  2. anitamorrell says:

    Will get Liza busy on interior photos. Our apt. is up with 2 little storefronts down. One of the shops continues to be occupied by the “Beauty Garden”, a hair salon in this same location for over 25 years (largely violet hair styling). The other space we are continuing to renovate. It seems to be making itself into an art gallery… do we dare?

  3. ybonesy says:

    How about an artists’ cooperative? That way you dare yet share the risk of daring.

  4. anitamorrell says:

    Will certainly need to network on this. Liza and I are both STILL dealing with unpleasant estate matters, but will be starting to try to find and connect with artist community here soon. Good idea!

  5. grardengirl says:

    Can I come and live with you? I’ll be needing my own large room w hardwood floors, of course, and a high ceiling with lots of light.

  6. anitamorrell says:

    GG you are SO funny. Can you cook?

  7. QuoinMonkey says:

    I enjoyed this post and reading about your history with rehabbing buildings. I admire anyone who tackles big projects like that. Good for you. I like the history of Studio B. I’m still waiting to hear if gardengirl can cook. 8)

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