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Friday, June 15, 2012

Reader responses — Not everyone's struggling to renovate in SW Atlanta

Last week, we ran a cover article about unofficial Beltline ambassador and all-around nice guy Angel Poventud, who's had a helluva hard time fixing up the formerly abandoned bungalow he recently bought in Adair Park in Southwest Atlanta. Between stringent Urban Design Commission guidelines (Adair Park is a historic district, so certain pricey building standards exist), visits from a renewed Code Compliance department, and a bank that's been reluctant to loan money for a renovation in the mortgage fraud-fraught 30310 zip code, Poventud's project has essentially come to a stand-still.

The story wasn't a cautionary tale meant to discourage people from buying homes in Southwest Atlanta. Nor was it intended to reflect the experiences of all people who've recently purchased and renovated homes in the area. Just a story about one guy's mostly negative experience navigating a variety of bureaucratic stumbling blocks. (And, yes, the assumption is other people have run into similar problems.)

All the same, Westview resident Patrick Berry wanted to ensure readers understand that being a homeowner in Southwest Atlanta isn't "all vacant houses, and struggles with code enforcement and investors."

He wrote, "There are a lot of young energetic people moving into SW Atlanta because of the amazing home prices. This has had a tremendous impact on the stabilization of the neighborhoods. As an example, my street was over 50% vacant when we bought our home, but now it is close to being 100% occupied."

After an eight-month search that sent them all around the city, Berry and his wife decided to buy a home in Westview in 2006. They received a loan from the bank for extensive renovations, a process they recorded on their blog westviewbungalow.com. But unlike Poventud, the Berrys bought and received loan dollars when the market was still good. That probably made the process easier, but the dramatic decline in property values post-housing-crisis have left them upside down. Still, Berry calls the real estate crisis "a blessing in disguise" for Southwest Atlanta.

"Lots of people who just got out of college are buying homes here. It's been nice, and obviously investors are seeing the opportunity to buy houses as cheap as possible and fix them up. There's been quite a great transformation," he says, pointing in particular to a rejuvenated retail strip and a new charter school.

Fellow Westview resident Ashley Kirby bought her home late last year — well after the crisis struck — and was able to perform necessary renovations with the help of a 203(k) loan, a HUD subsidized program for the restoration of single family homes. She says certain aspects of the process were frustrating — for instance, the program required her to make a variety of upgrades that she would have preferred to spread out over a couple years for financial reasons — but "could have been worse."

So, there is money out there and people are hard at work fixing up homes in Southwest Atlanta. Just be prepared to persevere.

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