May 16, 2007

Hitting the Ground Running

Woke up early with a severe case of "driver's lag," the equivalent of "jet lag." Extremely tired and fuzzy around the edges. No food, no coffee (but that is packed in the car with a million other things), no response from the realtors I'd contacted before I left. Got to take a very good look at the unit I'm in and it is huge! Open floor plan, mega storage, whirlpool tub, separate shower, magnificent walk-in closet, washer/dryer. The kitchen is larger than the one I left behind and the space in the bathroom! Good grief! What does this place rent for on a regular basis? Alright, Corporate Quarters! You did good. Oh, one small complaint--it is a non-smoking unit. No problem; there's a patio.

First order of business, bring the car around to the side closest to my unit, unload the computer and the coffee. It is raining. Not an issue. I must have coffee and get connected. Everything else can wait. Set up the computer, gave thanks for the internet access, and logged on while the coffee perked.

I had researched Memphis up and down, inside and out. Newspapers, message boards, blogs, so I knew the areas where I could afford to live. The problem was that my money would only take me to neighborhoods that looked good but had issues. Areas that bloggers, etc., advised strongly against, primarily located around the airport. Now, I'm a city girl and know the problems associated with city living. Figured I could go with the flow and would be alright if I looked at the areas in daylight and came back at night. Since I didn't know anyone to tell me which streets to stay away from, it was going to take some careful looking. I'd also widened my search to include counties outside of Shelby, within a reasonable drive, that had housing within my range.

I found that Shelby County, which includes the city of Memphis, has a glut of available housing in all price ranges. A rehabber's delight--homes available for as little as $2,000 and up. Also a massive number of foreclosures. And, beautiful homes in the $80s, which would cost $200,000 or more in the DC area. And, there is pricing for housing comparable to DC prices.

I had contacted several realtors before leaving requesting appointments to see certain houses. No response before I left. Well, lo and behold, here's an email from an agent confirming our 11:00 a.m. appointment for today. It's 9:30 a.m. I won't make it by 11 a.m., let me call her and tell her I'm coming but will be late. And just where is this place? How do I get there?? An hour and a half away? What is with Tennessee? Am I in a time warp? No problem. This house is within my price range and sits on 2 acres of land. I've drooled over it, planted it, imagined how to use two acres, the whole nine yards. City girl with the opportunity to have land? After having a patch called a front yard? And something I can afford? You better bet I'm going to see this.

Downloaded directions, hauled to the shower. Food will wait and the traveling greenhouse (no time to unload the plants) hit the road. Back to I-40, hit exit 35, made the turn at the fork. And then, I'm on a two-lane country road that goes on forever. Hmmm. Got the directions, though. Just keep driving till you get to the next turn. Over a railroad track. Hmmm. Keep going. Well, looky here. Fabulous houses springing up out of nowhere. Golf course, planned development. Still a two-lane highway, fields on either side. Time to turn, more fields. What's this? Tipton County, birthplace of Isaac Hayes. Get out!

Ripley is 27 miles away. My Lord. More twists and turns. Finally get back into civilization; a major highway, Rt. 51, is supposed to take me straight into Ripley. And, I'm riding. Henning, TN, Alex Hailey's birthplace, home, and site of the Alex Hailey museum. Ripley, 6 miles. Okay, the sign says welcome to Ripley, so where is the turnoff to get to the realtor's office? Surely I've missed it. Stopped at a gas station and got directions. Hadn't gone far enough.

Pulled up in front of the office, located on town square, and had a major senior moment. What is her name? No time to look around but wow, folks come around that corner on two wheels. Hustled across the street, still drawing a blank on her name. As I approached the door, this perky woman meets me and introduces herself as Maurine Childress. Thank you! Saved from massive embarrassment. Back we go to her office for a little chit chat.

She has papers, printouts, and distressing news. My "ponderosa" received a contract while I was en route. However, it hadn't been accepted so I could submit an offer, if I chose to. Self: Has she lost her mind? I've just got into town the night before, haven't seen anything in Memphis, and I'm supposed to write on the first thing I see? Not this city girl. Off we go.

Quaint little town. Not necessarily picturesque but everything of importance is grouped around the square. The courthouse sits plop in the middle. Ms. Childress is pointing out things as we ride. Within 5 minutes, we're pulling up at the "ponderosa." To my surprise, it is in town, not out in country (a subjective word) as I had expected. Sitting right there on a street with houses on either side and across the street. In walking distance of the "square." The land extended to the rear. Not bad; some work to be done but nothing major. In move-in condition, a major condition since I only have a lease on the apartment for a month. Still, it is under contract. I'm not buying anything before I have a look at what Memphis has to offer.

Made a circuit of the other houses I had requested to see. My plan was to buy something for me to live in and a rental property. Staying within a certain price range would allow that. However, everything she showed me was in major need of repair and not in move-in condition. Only the "ponderosa" fit that bill and it still needed work. The others fell into the rehab and rent category. So, just what makes you think you can rehab a property? Gresham Place, thank you very much.

Back to the office. I'm still focused on what I've seen and giving scant attention to what she is saying and even less attention to where we're going; we're in the vicinity of the office, I know that. Ms. Childress has stopped and I'm concentrating now on the fact that library is brand new, there is a Baptist church on the corner, yada yada. And then she directs my attention to this house that she is putting on the market that day. Would I like to go in? The sign wasn't even in the yard. Why not? It's more than I can afford but what the hey?

Around the block she goes. Aren't we going in? Well, of course, silly. The driveway is on the other street! The property stretches from one block to another? What? This is what I saw as we pulled into the driveway:

And, this is just a portion of the back. There was also a garage. Big enough for two Abbys.

She indicated that the house had been closed for 14 years because the owner, 98-years old, lived in another city and hoped to return to her home. Because of that, it was grimy, in need of updating, minor repairs, and being sold "as is." And, then we stepped inside.

I was lost right then and there. Huge rooms, fabulous wood, super-high ceilings, enclosed porches, brick patio, tremendous lot with magnolias, and on and on. Still, the house is more than I wanted to pay. I have a game plan. Buy a primary and buy a rental. If I consider this, there is no money for rental. Hmmm. Back to the office. Asked for more direct directions back to I-40. All those twists and turns were too much for the kid. "Well, if you don't mind going out of your way, there is a more direct route back to I-40." Mind, do I mind? Just get me back to Cordova, where I'm staying, without getting lost.

It has stopped raining; the sun is shining brightly. Off I go. Rt 19 takes you through Nutbush, TN, along Tina Turner Highway. Hot damn! Did I connect with my cultural roots today or what? Made it back to I-40 with no incident, found the apartment complex with no problems, thinking all the way. Do you really want to live that far away from a large city? After all, in choosing this area, it met the requirement of being urban, the opportunity for employment ('cause we all know I must work), cultural opportunities, relatively warm weather and little snow. Ripley is 60 miles away and country roads are the only way to get from here to there. Jackson, populatin 59,000 is about 40 miles from Ripley; a town with a population of 7,000. Surely, you can't be seriously considering this place?

Stopped for food at the Kroger's. My small supply of fresh food had inadvertently gone to storage. Oh, is that ever going to be rank! Fixed a meal and downloaded the photos from all the properties I'd seen. And listened to the news.

Scandal, corruption, and crime are major down here. Home invasions, shootings, rapes, robberies, you name it. Bodies being found in ditches in residential areas by kids going to school. Excuse Me?? And we talk about crime in DC? And, you guessed it, most of the stuff is happening in the areas where I'm trying to buy.

Picked up several realtor mags and checked for messages from the other realtors. Nothing. That's cool. What made me think I could drive virtually non-stop from DC to TN, and hit the ground running the next morning? I can use Thursday to rest and locate other houses to see. Time to chill.


Pat Bruce said...

You go girl! I am so proud of you for venturing out into the unknown. More than i could ever do. Just be careful of where you purchase and your surroundings.

Keep in touch.

Your friend,

Anonymous said...

You definitely hit the ground running. I love that house!