Thinking of moving to Asheville. Scouting soon.
April 26, 2013 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Do you have suggestions? Should we do it? Where? In town? Farther out? Way out in the country? Neighborhoods to check and things to look out for?

We'd be moving from Florida and we know, from having lived in coastal NC a few years ago, that we'd face a different financial picture. State income taxes but lower property taxes, higher home prices, etc.

Our needs are modest. So are our resources.

I'm a semi-retired writer, she's an artist still working part-time day jobs. We'd be looking for a house with grace and style, quiet surroundings (no barking dogs, screaming children, thumping boomboxes, roaring Harleys, churches with bad rock bands). The more trees the better. A hill would be nice. With a creek, even nicer.

It would be nice to walk downtown for coffee. But it would also be nice to live in the country, have a workshop and studio in the old barn, and raise chickens and goats. We don't know which would be nicer. (At our age you'd think we would, but we don't.) (Gives you an idea of our stage in the decision process.)

Not a new house, not a new neighborhood.

To give you a further idea of the range of our tastes, we might be happy with any of these:

An arts and crafts bungalow in a serene old neighborhood with oak-shaded streets.

A smallish cabin on a hill on a dirt road, with a mountain view and space to add a big kitchen (we cook) and a creek. Usable outbuildings.

An abandoned old motel on a disused road, with a creek in back--the kind of place that had six or eight little clapboard cabins that I could move around the lot and re-purpose as separate rooms: one a kitchen, one a bedroom, a couple of studios, two combined as a living room, etc. Perfection would include a nifty 1940s neon sign out front ("Bates Motel"?). (One can dream.)

We probably can't afford our ideas, but who can? So of course we'll compromise.

Any ideas on how to think about this?

Areas to look into?

Recommend a sophisticated, ethical buyers' agent?

Beyond this, I'll leave it open-ended and be grateful for any help you can offer. You've provided smart advice before and maybe you can do that again. Seems to be a lot of Asheville knowledge on the green.

Thanks a lot!
posted by fivesavagepalms to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I spent all of half a day in Asheville a few years ago, having driven in from a nearby school where I'd been offered a job. My impression was that the town was really neat -- attractive, liberal, artsy, with a functioning economy. But coming into that from the surrounding countryside was a bit of a shock, because there's a fair bit of poverty and a lot of fire-and-brimstone, bible-belt conservatism around there. That might help you narrow things down, depending on your cultural preferences.
posted by jon1270 at 8:30 AM on April 26, 2013

How much money do you have to spend on a house? Your budget will dictate what you can afford. Asheville is more expensive than other parts of the state, and those adorable, quaint neighborhoods....they're the priciest.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:10 AM on April 26, 2013

City-data's Asheville forum is a good place to start. I love Asheville but it's pretty pricey and self-conscious about being Asheville. For what it's worth, the other city on the Blue Ridge Parkway is worth a look. Much of the same charm & a nice arts community (the young hipstery artsy types and the established arts community blend quite nicely) & music scene, and because of the lay of the land (hello Appalachian Trail), moving from urban to rural is easy with very little suburbia in between. I walk to my co-op & indie movie theater, my next-door neighbors have chickens in the backyard, and there's a music festival and open studio tour this weekend.
posted by headnsouth at 9:29 AM on April 26, 2013

Downtown is great and thriving, but it's as geared to tourists as to locals. You might be just as happy living in West Asheville, in walking distance to pubs and cafes that are more local-oriented. There's still some beautiful old rehab-worthy housing walkable to downtown on the south side, but the public housing projects around there scare some people away. Out of town is really variable. There are lots of people moving down for hobby farms, some modern working farms, and still mountain people doing things the old ways. Altitude can make a big difference in terms of climate. Asheville proper is about 2000 feet. Go up a couple more thousand feet and you're always 10-20 degrees cooler. Which is nice in summer, but can get you stranded by icy roads in the winter.

There are enough people buying real estate again that good deals get snapped up fast, so you may need to wait a while for something to come along, and be ready to jump when it does. Good luck, and feel free to me-mail me if you have specific questions.
posted by rikschell at 10:15 AM on April 26, 2013

There are previouslies on this that talk about the housing market alongside the job market and the general cost of living.

Asheville is more expensive than other parts of the state, and those adorable, quaint neighborhoods....they're the priciest.

What's the going rate for non-dilapidated 900 sq fts in West Asheville now: $200k at the bottom end? Montford's pretty much gentrified, and the RAD is on its way there. Fairview's cheaper than it was on the rural side of things, but again, that's down from a peak. New build seems to be clustered around Enka-Candler and South Asheville.
posted by holgate at 10:55 AM on April 26, 2013

If you're planning on buying right away...well...the market is crazy here now, especially in the low(er) end. There's a lot if million dollar places but the 200k ones are scarce. My boyfriend just bought a house by putting an offer in the first day it was on the market- and there was already an offer on it and the next day there were 3 more. People are buying smaller houses with cash- literally just writing a check- in the desirable neighborhoods. There are ads on the radio for "flip your house' seminars.
There is still stuff further out in the country, but just be prepared for an extremely competitive market.
posted by genmonster at 11:13 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

For grins here is a listing of hotel/motels for sale in Buncombe County.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:43 PM on April 26, 2013

My sister lives in Hendersonville. I haven't seen much of it but what I have seen is very new construction - her place was built pretty recently though on the plus side, it's really affordable (IMO - I live in a place where real estate is out of control so my perspective is skewed). The good news is that they have the things that interest me generally - shopping, movie theater, restaurants. The bad news is that the shopping is largely of the big box store variety, the movie theater is a Regal, and the restaurants are Cracker Barrel and Carabbas.

From what little I know of Asheville proper, I agree that West Asheville is probably the place where you would like to be. I think that if you don't want to spend a lot of money, it's more likely that you will find a place a little further away where you can have your chickens than a place in the thick of it where your fair trade organic gourmet coffee shop is steps from your door. I will also say, FWIW, that you could probably find some type of studio share set-up in Asheville if you find a place you love otherwise that is just missing that component.
posted by kat518 at 1:03 PM on April 26, 2013

What about someplace in the area like Black Mountain?
posted by slkinsey at 2:30 PM on April 26, 2013

Asheville is essentially organized into directions: North, South, West & East. You might want to check out North or East Asheville rather than West Asheville. Disclosure: I live in West Asheville & have for years; it's extremely trendy now and rapidly being way overbuilt; the old bungalow on a quiet tree covered street is becoming a thing of the past, I'm afraid. West Asheville skews toward 30something families with small kids and many hipsters and dogs and yes, chickens in the backyard. North Asheville is old money, old houses, kind of expensive but very nice. East Asheville feels almost rural, you can get much more house for your money. South Asheville all the way to Hendersonville is mostly chain restaurants, new housing developments, sprawl, etc.

None of Asheville is particularly walkable unless you find something right downtown in Montford or Five Points, both of which are awesome but $$. If you decide to go the rural route, I would advise looking north towards Madison, Mitchell, Yancey county rather than south towards Hendersonville, Flat Rock, Lake Lure, all of which tend to be more conservative and more serious retiree than artsy/hippie. Black Mountain is great and more affordable than Asheville but of course much quieter.

My friend runs this website about West Asheville, which builds off a facebook page called West Asheville Watch; if you are facebook people and seriously considering moving to this neighborhood I would strongly advise joining it. Reddit also has an Asheville page now, they seem like a nice group although I haven't spent a whole lot of time there.

There are no jobs here - really, no jobs - and what jobs there are pay much, much less than pretty much anywhere else. We boast the highest cost of living and the lowest wages in NC. So take that into account. Living wage for Asheville is calculated at $14 an hour; most day jobs will pay you $10 or less. On the other hand there are many, many retirees and semi retirees, many from Florida so you will probably find like minded people quite quickly.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:14 AM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't go so far as to say there are no jobs in Asheville- my husband works at a local college and loves it; before that he worked at a private school in town. I work doing writing, communications and administrative type stuff (I have clients from all over the country and make a decent income but I'm based here so it works out). I know lots of people doing OK as teachers, small business owners, artists, social workers, admin assistants, food industry and restaurant owners, landscapers, hair stylists and salon operators, healthcare workers, consultants, freelancers, etc. My father ran a very successful construction company here for years before he retired — so take the no job thing with a grain of salt. Yes, there are challenges to making a good living here, but I've known a lot people that started off as poor, underemployed 20-somethings 8-10 years ago that are now buying houses and have steady jobs and careers here in their 30's. It can be a challenge but it is do-able to build a life here.

There are good suggestions above about neighborhoods to check out. I live in Fairview and it's a short 15-20 minute drive to town — but I do have a lot of days I wished that I lived more central. Then again, it's gorgeous out here, quiet, lots of space for chickens and the whole country- hipster thing.
posted by Rocket26 at 7:33 PM on April 27, 2013

We considered Asheville as well and took a trip there in February to check it out. Great town with a hip, young vibe and plenty of stuff you want to do and see in downtown. But you see the whole town in about half a day and then there is the country side. We both loved hiking and and enjoyed the waterfalls and nature but the hick, red-neck side of the country paired with the deep poverty was a shock and quite depressing. Literally 15 minutes from downtown Asheville there are trailer parks and shacks with old cars littered all over the yard.. not for us.
The area we liked is already gone as far as prices are concerned and our friends who live there said it is quite hard to make a decent living.
We are now looking at Durham.
posted by privatechef at 1:59 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

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