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Old 11-06-2010, 08:51 AM
 
Location: Fairfax, VA
23 posts, read 44,186 times
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My husband and I will be in Asheville soon for our first visit as prospective residents (we've been several times as tourists). We have scheduled two days with our realtor to begin the house hunting process, more to get familiar with neighborhoods than with any intent to buy immediately. We are probably two years or so away from actually moving.

Does anyone have suggestions for specific things to check out while we are there? Not tourist stuff, although we are taking a candlelight tour of Biltmore House. What kinds of things are most likely to affect our happiness/satisfaction on a regular basis? I'm particularly interested in hearing from people who have moved to Asheville in the last several years, along the lines of "I wish I'd thought of . . ." but all input is of course welcome.

Thanks for any suggestions you can provide.
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Old 11-06-2010, 12:31 PM
 
Location: beautiful NC mountains!
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We moved here 3 years ago. I am not sure there's anything that I wished I'd thought of. We ended up in the right neighborhood for us. It wouldn't be for everyone. I would suggest you rent for 6 months and spend some time in the area that you think you would like to live in. If it's not right for you then you can try somewhere else.
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Old 11-07-2010, 05:33 AM
 
Location: Weaverville
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Cheryl--we moved down here from Manassas a year ago December 1 and are loving it. We made 5 annual trips to Asheville getting to know the area and its neighborhoods before moving down but 2 years is plenty if you make the most of your visits and really know what you are looking for. Although we are very happy with our selection of a place (just outside Weaverville) there are some things to be aware of. First because Buncombe only got zoning this past year there are a lot of potential things to look out for. For one thing there is a big swath of the county that is zoned as sort of a no mans land where you can do just about anything. Out there someone can come in and set up a business right next door or worse so be careful and get familiar with the zoning map and its implications.

Because there was no zoning for so long there are a lot of businesses scattered in among residential areas so make sure you're not moving close to a plant that spews nasty smelling gases that will drive you out when the wind blows the right way or truck traffic coming and going all the time. Also there is no zoning in most if not all the adjacent counties. This can be a shocker for someone coming from a county like Fairfax that is zoned to the hilt and has been for ages. Finally check with zoning to make sure that there are no permitted developments coming--we had a cement plant shove its way into a community north of Weaverville last year that had been denied by the county but won a legal challenge after the zoning ordinance had to be rewritten and another apartment complex built south of Asheville on a hillside so steep they had to put in huge retaining walls that are already cracking. A lot of crazy stuff like this was grandfathered in when the new zoning law was passed.

It would help if you gave us a little more to go on like what kind of place you are looking for and whether you want to be isolated up in the woods or close to amenities. The NC Center for Creative Retirement offers a lot and Asheville in general is a great town with decidedly different neighborhoods. Do you want an old Victorian or a new custom built McMansion?
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Old 11-08-2010, 05:56 AM
 
Location: Fairfax, VA
23 posts, read 44,186 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cofga View Post
It would help if you gave us a little more to go on like what kind of place you are looking for and whether you want to be isolated up in the woods or close to amenities. The NC Center for Creative Retirement offers a lot and Asheville in general is a great town with decidedly different neighborhoods. Do you want an old Victorian or a new custom built McMansion?
Thanks for mentioning zoning - I definitely hadn't thought of that.

I think I'd like being up in the woods, but my husband definitely wouldn't. Most of the amenities we're interested in (NCCR, JCC, Pack Library, shopping) are on the north or east side of downtown and we don't want to have to drive more than 20 minutes or so to get there. I've shared that with our real estate agent, and I know we're going to be looking at some houses in Weaverville, Fairview, and the Grove Park area. We've pretty well ruled out south Asheville (price, location, traffic) and west Asheville (the infamous pulp mill west of there).

McMansions are definitely out (as are gated communities). What we really want is everything, or almost everything, on one level. The age of the house isn't necessarily an issue. We live in a remodeled 1950s rambler now and love it, especially for its solid construction. If we could pick it up and plunk it down in Asheville, that would be perfect. But a newer home would be fine, too. We have a long list of "would like to haves" that are somewhat negotiable - natural gas, hardwood floors, a backyard that's fenced or could be, a nice view, broadband Internet access (well, that one isn't really negotiable), big kitchen with a gas cooktop and double ovens, etc. Our price range is probably $300K - $500K, although naturally we'd rather stay toward the lower end of that if we can.
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Old 11-08-2010, 04:42 PM
 
Location: Weaverville
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OK, that's a little more to go on. My wife and I had a similar conundrum--I was interested in getting away from the world a little and she wanted convenience. So we settled for a location a little south of Weaverville and north of Woodfin. We can be at UNC in about 5 min and downtown at Pack Square in 10 min. One thing you'll have to get used to here is you can get almost anywhere around Asheville in 20 min--it can take that long to get across Fairfax City! Antoher advantage of being in the county is your taxes are half what they would be int he city!

That said once you get out in the country getting into town in a reasonable amount of time can get dicey, especially in winter. We have friends who live up Reems Creek Road and they are now regretting it. They have 17 acres and it takes all their free time just to try and maintain it. They also are thinking of selling and moving in closer to town since it takes so long to get downtown that they end up not going out much.

Don't know your age and health status but living on one level is great. We had a raised ranch in Manassas and I must have gone up and down those stairs a dozen or more times every day for 25 years. We plan to stay in this house as long as we can so we went for a ranch style with everything on one level and its great. We do have a full basement with a garage down there too--this is the common arrangement around here since so many are on hillsides. Speaking of basements, buy a dehumidifier if you get one. We set one up in June and it has been running nonstop since then (started stopping once in a while since the heat came on this week).

Our house was built in 1965 and has all hardwood--half original and half we added. Natural gas is the way to go as propane can get expensive. We replaced our old heat pump this year with a hi-effieciency heat pump/gas furnace hybrid system. I think that the gas lines go as far north as Weaverville and all along the I26 corridor there. Our gas lngs saved us last winter when we were without power for 3 days. For hi-speed internet Charter Cable is pretty much it. There are some DSL lines but they are much slower--we get about 13 Mbps on the standard plan and Charter just came up with a speed upgrade that can go to 60 Mbps. Charter's lines run pretty far out into the burbs here. For TV there also is DishTV and DitrecTV.

You'll love the climate here--at least we do. Even at its worst last winter we only got 2" when Fairfax was digging out of 36". Spring was great--lasted from April 1 until June 15. Summer arrived in mid-June and lasted 2 months with temps maxing out in the 80's and high humidity. We ran the AC about 10 hours each day for 2 months and then in mid-August someone threw the switch and the temps and humidity dropped and the AC went off. We just had a cold spell but temps are back in the 60s and 70s this week.

Last edited by Cofga; 11-08-2010 at 04:55 PM..
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Old 11-13-2010, 08:08 AM
 
Location: Weaverville
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Another thing--water. Municipal water is available all around Asheville and along the main roads but get away from them and you're looking at well water. Some of that is good and some bad. I have seen houses that needed a complete water treatment plant in the basement to clean up their well water and others that are pretty good--it can be a crap shoot depending on which water bearing strata you hit. We have one friend in Leicester whose water tastes OK but has to regularly empty sand out of his toilet tank. Another couple has to buy bottled spring water for drinking. At least if you buy an exsisting house you can get the water tested and by all means give it a taste and smell test. Also look in the toilet tank for issues such as sediment and iron stains.

One way to do a quick check is take a plastic water bottle with you and fill it. Shake it and give it a sniff test--you can easily detect small amounts of sulfide and iron in the bottle. Also if you let it sit overnight any large amounts of dissolved iron will oxidize and settle out forming an orange sludge on the bottom. This is what causes the orange stains in toilets, tubs, sinks, dishwashers. Of course you can have a water treatment system installed to removed iron, soften the water, and filter it but that will be an ongoing cost. We had to have a water softener in Manassas for a few years when Prince William county was on well water and it was a PITA.

The municipal water rates around here are pretty high. Weaverville's are lower than either Asheville or the Woodfin Water District. All the local systems get water from reservoirs high up in the mountains that have been in place for about 100 years. Consequently the water is very high quality. The other good thing about being on municipal water is that when the power goes out you can still flush a toilet. Some folks out in the county resort to storing jugs of water just so they can fill their toilets when nature calls. Also, don't be influenced by folks who argue that well water and a septic tank are free--drilling a new well is expensive (a friend just had to have theirs drilled deeper and their water still stinks), as are replacing well screens and pumps. Septic tanks need to be pumped every few years and drain fields can clog and need to be replaced (friend in Leicester just had to have that done).

Oh, when the county extension office has its annual water barrel sale each spring make sure you buy a couple. It gets expensive watering new plants (ask em how I know this). Have a nice visit when you come.
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Old 11-13-2010, 02:04 PM
 
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You may want to check out Happy Valley in Haw Creek for housing options. Meets most/all of your "would like to have" criteria...within 10 minutes or so to downtown, east side, hardwoods, plaster walls, mostly ranchers over garages w/maybe a family room downstairs & many lots have a view. They put natural gas through some years back & most houses converted. Prices currently ranging around $275-$350, depending. Solid neighborhood, good mix of ages, can't beat it for convenience. And New Haw Creek Road gets plowed well in winter, so if getting out is important to you in any kind of weather, you can do so.
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Old 11-15-2010, 02:14 PM
 
Location: Fairfax, VA
23 posts, read 44,186 times
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Thanks to all of you for your input. We've looked at more than 20 houses in the last few days, and it's been quite an education. At least my husband and I agree on the top 3 (one in Weaverville in the Reems Creek Country Club development, one in Oak Hollow off Riceville Road, and a condo(!) at a place called The Timbers). Our agent knows we aren't ready to buy just yet - it will probably be about 18 months before we are. There were so many that seemed like possibilities until we identified the deal breaker - gorgeous remodel but located in a flood plain; awesome gardens but master bedroom too small for a king size bed. Our agent was great at listening to us, but also showing us things just so we'd understand the market better. We were really skeptical about looking at that condo, but it ended up being one of our top three choices. Go figure.
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Old 11-15-2010, 11:20 PM
 
Location: Manhattan Island
1,981 posts, read 3,541,074 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cofga View Post
You'll love the climate here--at least we do. Even at its worst last winter we only got 2" when Fairfax was digging out of 36". Spring was great--lasted from April 1 until June 15. Summer arrived in mid-June and lasted 2 months with temps maxing out in the 80's and high humidity. We ran the AC about 10 hours each day for 2 months and then in mid-August someone threw the switch and the temps and humidity dropped and the AC went off. We just had a cold spell but temps are back in the 60s and 70s this week.
2 inches last winter?! We had two major snowstorms last year that were at least a foot each, and lots of other smaller snowfalls. It was snowy up here last winter! Personally, I'm hoping it's similar this year; I can't get enough snow and cold weather! I also disagree about the summer; I was running my AC in September. Maybe I'm a wimp, but if it's 80 or above outside, my AC is on. I keep it on 74, so whenever it drops below that outside, I cut the AC off, and set the heat to 66. This year, that didn't happen until late September to early October. At least that was my experience in Oakley. Do you live at a higher elevation or something up in Weaverville?
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Old 11-16-2010, 07:55 AM
 
Location: Weaverville
765 posts, read 2,449,282 times
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Up here near Weaverville we live in the Dry Ridge area and that name goes for snow as well as rain. We got the 12" snow on Dec 18 last year but the rest of them were just dustings. With the big blizzard that dumped 3-4' of snow in the NE we only got 2" here but I think that SE of Asheville they got up to 12". In the mountains storms can break up into smaller cells that dump on one community and bypass another one.

I used to live in NOVA (for over 50 years) near Cheryl so I know very well the weather up there and I wouldn't go back for anything. Summers up there are brutal with humidity and heat that drains the energy out of you. From what I have read and heard the 2 month hot and humid spell we had last June-August was unusual. The temps were rarely more than the mid to upper 80s but the humidity along with it made it very uncomfortable. Temps dropped back into the low to mid 80s in mid-August and more importantly the humidity dropped back into a comfortable range.

My AC hasn't been on since mid-August. We also found that most nights you can open up the house about 11PM and the night air will cool the house off nicely. Then if you shut the house up in mid-morning it will stay cool until after noon when the AC comes on
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