By Natalie Martinez
If you live in East Atlanta Village, you have probably noticed the newly renovated home. It was abandoned and left unoccupied for over five years and is now a bungalow-inspired renovation.
It was impossible for me not to notice this derelict property because I have been living across the street from it since I moved to East Atlanta in 2006, a time in the real estate market when flipping homes was popular.
The transformation indicates an improvement to the East Atlanta housing market and residents have one contractor to thank for it. Parclife Homes is a small residential contractor that has worked exclusively in East Atlanta over the past two years. Their recent home renovations are a bright spot in the neighborhood and may indicate a warming trend in the real estate market.
Neighborhood Realtor Melissa Wakamo of Red Robin Group has noticed an improvement in home sales in the first quarter of 2012. She says, “This spring has been an exciting time for real estate. There is a shortage of inventory all over intown neighborhoods because many homeowners unfortunately have found themselves upside down on their mortgages and can’t sell their homes. Investors are able to take advantage of foreclosures and other distressed properties to buy houses cheaply and then renovate and sell them quickly. Well-renovated homes are quick to sell, especially three bedroom-two bath homes. Buyer demand, coupled with low inventory, means that houses aren’t staying on the market for very long. Some owners are getting multiple offers, and homes are selling quickly, some in as fast as one week.”
It was only a few months ago that the house was far from the bright spot that it is now. The property was one of East Atlanta’s worst homes, abandoned after elderly homeowners had passed away. The house was caving in, with a hole in the roof and portions of the exterior wall beginning to buckle. Mounds of clothes were piled on the floor and decorative keepsakes told of a past when someone used to live there. Over the last five years, the home fell into further disrepair. The front door was kicked in and then boarded up. I watched as a city worker stapled a condemned notice to the plywood door and the yard became so wildly overgrown that whenever Realtors had properties listed near the house, they hired someone to mow the lawn to make the corner slightly more hospitable to potential buyers. More recently, a man was found squatting in the house. Finally, after all this time, the city had the property slated for demolition.
Meanwhile, Parclife Homes was renovating a property just one block north. Their Ormewood home was taking longer to sell than they had hoped. As a small start-up contractor, they could only afford to renovate their next home after the sale of their current project. Caught in a holding pattern while they waited for a buyer for their Ormewood house, an East Atlanta neighbor told them about an abandoned property at the corner of Gresham and Ormewood Avenues. After much effort, Parclife Homes purchased the property from another investor who had just obtained the property after engaging in a two-year long endeavor to obtain a clear title after having to contact and come to an agreement with the family of the deceased owners.
Because of the house’s condition, the City of Atlanta required Parclife to make immediate improvements. They had to secure the home by making the exterior walls structurally sound, repairing and replacing the roof, and installing a water-resistant barrier. If Parclife did not make these improvements within thirty days of the closing, the city would follow through with demolition and place a lien on the property. The home was quickly repaired and brought up to code compliance.
The renovation was a three-month long process. Every day a different neighbor has stopped by to talk with them and comment on their progress. Older neighbors stopped by and reminisced about the original homeowners. The “I love Bishop” imprinted into the concrete driveway references a previous owner. Other neighbors complimented their decision to keep certain elements of the home, like the original front steps, covered entryway, and side porch. It would have been easier and cheaper to fully demolish the home, but as Williams says, “it was a more challenging and rewarding process because of its condition. We were able to bring it back to life.”
Kevin Gibbo and Robby Williams started Parclife Homes as a side business to their sales jobs in the commercial construction industry. Friends for over twenty years, they carefully planned for this new venture as residential contractors. They named the company Parclife because of the lifestyle they hope is attached to their name. All of their renovated homes are located near neighborhood parks. Each of their East Atlanta properties have been situated within walking distance to the Village, Brownwood Park, and the Ormewood Square shops.
This may attract a buyer, but it doesn’t necessarily affect the appraisal value. As Melissa Wakamo explains, “Realtors call lifestyle amenities like these emotional factors. These kinds of amenities appeal to buyers, but are not necessarily reflected in an appraisal price.” Realtors put more value on emotional factors, including proximity to parks to the Village and parks and outdoor rooms because buyers are willing to pay for them. These factors, along with a thoughtful renovation, is what Parclife are hoping will set their homes apart when they are on the market.
Talking with them, it’s obvious that they are passionate about their homes. “We try to keep as much of the home’s character by the time it’s finished” says Williams. “We preserved little details like the original wood floors, entry stoop, and porch. When we replaced the exterior, we used new siding that mimicked the original horizontal clapboard siding.” They like the challenge of keeping a piece of the history of the house, but modernizing it with new finishes and amenities such as pre-wiring for security and sound system components.
Parclife Home’s design philosophy is that a house should blend in with the neighborhood and honor the history of the home. With this project, they preserved the footprint of the circa 1940 house, and removed the interior walls. They maintained the same roof pitch ad scale of exterior elements like the side porch while keeping the original interior elements like the wood floors. Gibbo says, “Intown homes are smaller and more compact. We have to take advantage of every square inch of space and make it feel open and bigger than it actually is.” The home features a dramatic vaulted ceiling in the living room, a recessed ceiling in the master bedroom, and custom kitchen and office cabinets. The shiny refinished floors, windows, and interior elements make it feel bigger than 1,400 square feet.
So maybe there is no better time to buy and build in East Atlanta than right now. It’s spring, homes are being renovated, and the real estate market is warming. As a neighbor, I certainly like the way things are looking from my front porch.
To learn more about Parclife Homes, visit www.parclifehomes.com.
Parclife Homes Renovates homes in EAV, Improving the Neighborhood One House at a Time
By Natalie Martinez