By Keysha Drexel
First-time homebuyers are attracted to Over the Mountain neighborhoods for the same reasons as other homebuyers, according to Anna Frances Bradley, a real estate agent at LAH in Homewood.
The area’s schools, close-knit communities and proximity to business and recreation opportunities continue to make Over the Mountain communities attractive to homebuyers, Bradley said.
“I work with a lot of first-time homebuyers, and they are concerned about the same things that most homebuyers are concerned about–they want good schools, a good community and a good commute,” she said.
Bradley said she and her husband, Guy, who is also a real estate agent, love to work with people who are buying their first home.
“It’s exciting to be a part of that process. The homeowners are so excited and that gets you excited. A lot of times, these people have just gotten married or have their first real job, and you get to be a part of that time of their lives,” she said.
With the recession and downturn in the real estate market, Bradley said she’s seen fewer first-time homebuyers in the last five years than she did in the previous 10 years.
“But it’s starting to pick up again, and I think people are feeling more confident about putting down roots now,” she said.
In the Over the Mountain area, Bradley said the top five neighborhoods where first-time homebuyers are looking to put down those roots include Edgewood in Homewood, Crestwood in Birmingham, Cahaba Heights in Vestavia Hills, Bluff Park in Hoover and Oak Mountain in North Shelby.
Bradley said first-time homeowners are attracted to Edgewood’s walkability and neighborhood feel.
“The walkability of Edgewood is the number one thing for a lot of my clients. They can walk to schools, to church, to stores and restaurants,” she said. “Edgewood has super-friendly neighbors and is really charming. It also has that close proximity to downtown and to the major highways,” she said.
In Vestavia Hills, Cahaba Heights is getting a lot of attention from first-time homeowners, Bradley said.
“It kind of has that country feel, but now that it has been annexed into Vestavia Hills, you have the benefits of the Vestavia Hills schools and services, and the location is great,” she said.
Hoover’s Bluff Park neighborhood continues to be popular with her clients, Bradley said.
“It is one of those established neighborhoods that people are attracted to because it has lots of charm, great schools and they are adding to the sidewalks that are already there, and that makes it attractive to young families,” she said.
Neighborhoods in Oak Mountain are also luring homebuyers who are looking for a good deal, Bradley said.
“You can get a lot more house in those neighborhoods for the money. The schools are county schools, but they are good schools, and although it is a little bit down the road, it is still not too far of a commute for people that work downtown,” she said.
Crestwood in Birmingham is also getting renewed attention for those looking to put down roots, Bradley said.
“Most of the houses there were built between the late 1920s and the early 1960s, so they are the perfect size for starter homes. Because you’re in Birmingham, the taxes are a little lower and there, you really are in the first suburb outside downtown. It is a safe, tight-knit community,” she said.
Bradley said no matter which neighborhood they decide to buy in, she advises first-time homeowners to get the help of a real estate agent.
“If this is your first time going through the process, it can be a little overwhelming, and you really do need an agent to help guide you through it,” she said.
Bradley said buying a home, especially for first-timers, can be an emotional experience.
“And you need someone there to represent you that is not as emotionally involved and can help you be objective,” she said.
Bradley said she advises first-time homebuyers to get a home inspection and to ask a lot of questions.
Bradley said she tells all of her clients to trust their own instincts about the home that is right for them.
“You have to trust your gut. Sometimes, that’s what it comes down to–a feeling you have,” she said. “I’ve seen it on my clients’ faces when they walk into a home and instantly, they are relaxed and they feel like it’s a good fit. It’s very rewarding to see that.”
Bradley said finding the right house for first-time homeowners is all about listening to them and helping them realize that the place they buy is more than brick and mortar.
“I always tell them that there shouldn’t be any doubt. It’s like finding your mate–if there’s doubt there, it is probably not meant to be. There’s the right home out there for everyone,” she said.