Big bang for buck in new homes

Big bang for buck in new homes

March 25th, 2012 by Carey O'Neil in Chattanooganow2012

Brian and Amy Hager stand in front of their newly finished home Saturday afternoon on Hearthstone Circle in the Overlook subdivision. The Hagers moved into the home this past June.

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

HOMEOWNER FYI

• 87,802 Number of owner-occupied homes in Hamilton County, housing 65.5 percent of all county residents.

• 2.5 Average number of residents per owner-occupied house in Hamilton County.

• $147,200 Median value of owner-occupied homes in Hamilton County.

• $121,700 Median value of homes sold by Chattanooga Realtors in the fourth quarter of 2011, down 2.3 percent from the same period a year ago. Chattanooga home prices were 25.6 percent less than the U.S. median home price of $163,500 in the same period.

• $1,182 Median monthly mortgage for home buyers in Hamilton County.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Census, National Association of Realtors

Some Chattanooga developers are finding spots of growth in a housing market still recovering from the recession.

"Interest rates are down low, people are confident in the economy and keeping their jobs, so people are building homes," said Tina Frizzell, vice president of Pratt Home Builders.

Like in so many other communities, home sales stagnated in Chattanooga around 2008, leaving many new homes empty.

"There really has not been a lot built," civil engineer Mike Price said of Chattanooga. "You're probably not going to get a lot of new subdivisions built until the end of next year or the year after that."

But as surplus homes have slowly filled, more future homeowners are starting to look toward building on their own.

Amy Hager and her husband had looked for a home in Chattanooga for years, but couldn't find anything to fit their needs. Hager had lived in North Georgia for almost four years and was getting tired of the long commute to her Tennessee Valley Authority job. When mortgage interest rates hit all-time lows, she decided to stop searching for the perfect house and build it herself in The Overlook off Hixson Pike.

"We feel like we got a lot of house for the money and a lot of customizations that really made the house ours," she said. "It really became what we wanted, in terms of our dream house."

The key to realizing that dream was a good real estate agent, Hager said. When she was looking to buy and later looking to build, having that go-to person who knew the ins and outs of Chattanooga housing made all the difference, she said.

With that help, Hager was able to find builders who could give her the home and the location she wanted.

The Hagers both grew up in Chattanooga and knew they wanted to live with mountain biking, hiking and trail running opportunities within a few minutes' drive of their house.

"All of our friends who come to visit Chattanooga have fallen in love with it," she said. "Chattanooga's great."